Area of north London
(postcode NW3 to be exact), both extremely wealthy and famed for its artistic
life. Very nice Georgian
architecture as long as you avoid the horrible
shops and estate agent
s and Cajun
(or whatever's hot this month) restaurant
s. Historically many many famous
people have lived in Hampstead.
In Fenton House, which has the smallest garden of any National Trust property, there is a harpsichord and spinet collection and a lot of old porcelain and snuff boxes. On Hampstead Heath there is Kenwood, which has a superb little art collection, including Vermeer's Guitar Player and a Rembrandt self-portrait that has been voted the country's best painting. Also lots of Gainsborough, Reynolds, Morland, etc etc.
People outside Hampstead are very inverted snobbish about this area, but it really is one of the finest in London. High up on a hill, it boasts solid old houses, greenery and queer old lampposts. It's been described as almost like a ship: and the steep stairways give a kind of fishing village feel to it at times, if the fog's up. Odd but true, though it's nearly the highest point in London.
The good pubs are all away from the High Street: the Holly Bush (best interior, gas lighting brackets, former stables of the painter George Romney); the Duke of Hamilton (sports themed but very quiet, with consistently excellent beer); Ye Olde White Bear; and the Flask.
And all around it is Hampstead Heath, a fine area for walking around or lying on the grass or looking at paintings in Kenwood or (in a few parts) cottaging for sex.
Nearby, to the east, is the almost equally interesting village of Highgate, and between is the famous Spaniards Inn, haunt of Dick Turpin. The parliamentary constituency of Hampstead and Highgate is represented by Glenda Jackson, and the local newspaper is called the Ham and High.