A leafy, village-like neighbourhood bordering the rolling grasslands of Hampstead Heath and the neighbourhoods of Muswell Hill and Archway, Highgate is a fantastic little pocket of North London. With plenty of green space and gorgeous 18th Century architecture, it’s easy to forget you’re in the capital here – though you can’t always when you capture those panoramic views wandering through the picturesque streets. From the legendary cemetery to familial boozers and gastropubs, there’s loads to see and do here – no wonder all the celebs and film stars love it. So, without further ado, here’s our rundown of the best things to do in Highgate.
1. Take a wander through that famous cemetery
Victorian extravagance has made Highgate Cemetery a seriously impressive place, and no wonder given that it’s a part of London’s ‘Magnificent Seven’ – a series of large, private cemeteries established back in the the 19th century to alleviate overcrowding in existing parish burial grounds.
It’s truly a spellbinding spot (no seriously) to wander around, and the graves and mausoleums – which are draped in plentiful foliage – are where funeral architects really let their imagination run wild. In the West Cemetery, Victorian fascination with the Egyptians resulted in the stunning Egyptian Avenue, as well as numerous impressive tombs. Meanwhile, the equally impressive Lebanon Circle has appeared in many a ‘gram over the years. Less beautiful, but a lot more spooky, are the subterranean Terrace Catacombs; enter if you dare. Plus, you might also stumble across some celebrity graves, the most famous of which is none other than Karl Marx.
📍You’ll find Highgate Cemetery at Swain’s Lane, London, N6 6PJ.
2. Try and tackle the pub quiz at The Boogaloo
The quiz at The Boogaloo, ‘Who Killed Bambi?’ is proud to be the longest running musical pub quiz in the whole of London Town. There’s a league and a rolling jackpot so people take it verrrrrry seriously at this boozer. It happens at 8pm every Tuesday and they also offer a comedy club every Wednesday, DJs at the weekend, live music and drag bingo to boot too. What more could you ask for, hey?!
If you’re feeling like you want more of a traditional pub, then we’d recommend The Flask, which dates all the way back to 1663. As you might expect from its history, it’s also considered one of London’s most haunted spots – so who knows, you may be joined by a resident spook while you’re sipping on a bevvie out in the garden! It’s also full of nooks and crannies and has a roaring fire – a nice spot to pull up a pew for a cold winter’s evening.
📍You’ll find The Boogaloo at The Boogaloo, 312 Archway Road, London, N6 5AT and The Flask at 77 Highgate West Hill, London, N6 6BU.
3. Go for a dip in the namesake ponds
Ah yes – we couldn’t do a roundup of the best things to do in Highgate without mentioning this one now could we? There are over 30 ponds dotted about the vast swathes of Hampstead Heath, but three have been specially designated for swimming – one just for men (Highgate Men’s Pond), another for women (Kenwood Ladies’ Pond), and one that’s shared by both (Hampstead Mixed Pond).
The two former are based just within the park right by Highgate, and they’re a great spot to cool down when the weather is playing ball. Facilities are provided and a plunge into the chilly (but clean!) water will cost you £4.50 at both. There’s also a lovely pond for doggos here to plunge into – so all of you can be happy here!
📍You’ll find the ponds at Parliament Hill Fields, Hampstead Heath, Highgate Road, London, NW5 1QR.
4. Spot some wildlife on an amble through Highgate Woods
Set between Highgate and East Finchley hides this gorgeous 28-hectare London forest—an ancient woodland which dates back to Mediaeval times – nestled right into the background of suburbia. Supporting a wide variety of wildlife habitats, you’ll see plenty of nature and little critters playfully contrasting the usual fast-paced life of a Londoner.
Keep your eyes peeled for all the usual suspects like foxes and squirrels as well as rarer species including great spotted woodpeckers, pipistrelle bats and even tawny owls. But don’t worry if you don’t spot any – you’ll certainly come across plenty of pooches! You also shouldn’t miss out on a visit to the Queen’s Wood Café – a cosy little cabin café and community garden tucked away in a corner of the woods.
📍You’ll find Highgate Wood at Muswell Hill Road, London, N10 3JN.
5. See how many blue plaques you can spot
As previously mentioned, Highgate is home to many a celeb and A-lister, but there are also plenty of historical and influential figures who used to reside here too. There are many to be found adorning the walls of all the bougie houses here, and it’s a great way to kill a few hours wandering around and seeing whose you can find.
There are too many to name here, but some of the famous residents of Highgate include the poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Sir John Betjemen, the esteemed novelist Charles Dickens and the traveller and ethnologist Mary Kingsley. See who you can discover!
6. See what’s on at Upstairs at the Gatehouse
The Gatehouse is a roomy independent gastropub that whips up some bloody great grub – ideal for a Sunday afternoon – but it’s also known for its award-winning Fringe theatre based upstairs. There’s room for 122 punters in the Victorian auditorium, and they’ve shown a whole host of different productions over the years, from Legally Blonde and Singin’ in the Rain to Kiss Me Kate and Crazy For You.
📍You’ll find Upstairs at the Gatehouse at 1 North Road, Highgate Village, London, N6 4BD.
7. Explore the magnificent stately home Kenwood House
Located on the rolling northern fringes of Hampstead Heath, Kenwood House is said to have been built around 1616, and it’s gone through many different owners since its construction, including six Earls of Mansfield and businessman Edward Guinness. It’s now owned by the London County Council and offers an extensive art collection of paintings by prestigious and influential artists like Vermeer, Rembrandt, Gainsborough and Turner.
But it’s not just about the exhibitions here, there are also landscaped gardens (which featured in none other than Notting Hill), 112 acres of rolling parkland, a secondhand bookshop, amazing architecture and the Brew House Café. They’ve also got their yearly Christmas light trail as well as occasional candlelight concerts. Phew!
📍You’ll find Kenwood House at Hampstead Lane, London, NW3 7JR.
8. Pay a visit to Lux in Waterlow Park
Another one of the best things to do in Highgate here, Waterlow Park is a lovely little garden oasis with ponds, tennis courts and Lauderdale House – a charming historic house which is now run as an arts and education centre.
It’s also home to Lux – an international arts agency which is home to the UK’s largest collection of films and videos. It’s a fascinating place to visit and is open on Thursdays to Sundays from 12pm to 5pm.
📍You’ll find LUX at LUX, Waterlow Park Centre, Dartmouth Park Hill, London, N19 5JF.
9. Stroll down the scenic Parkland Walk
This lovely walk follows the course of an old railway that once ran between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace – graffitied tunnels and all. It provides four and a half miles of tranquillity, and a chance to enjoy a green and pleasant environment right in the very heart of the city.
London’s longest local nature reserve is covered with over two hundred species of wild flower, and supports a remarkable range of other wildlife too. Oh, and if you keep your eyes peeled around the Crouch End stretch of the walk not far from Highgate, you’ll catch sight of a strange figure seeming to emerge from the brickwork. It’s actually a sculpture of a Cornish sprite, known as a Spriggan, and was the only statue to be commissioned when plans were briefly made to turn Parkland Walk into a sculpture trail.
10. Soak up the views from Parliament Hill
Rounding off this list of the best things to do in Highgate is one that we really couldn’t miss off now could we? One of the highest points in the city (98 metres above sea level), Parliament Hill is a great spot to watch the sunset over the cityscape below, and there are also loads or benches here – perfect for taking a pew while you have a bev or two.
A legend even states that this was the site from where Guy Fawkes and Robert Catesby, of the Gunpowder Plot fame, planned to watch the destruction of Parliament. So there’s plenty of history here too!
📍You’ll find Parliament Hill at Heath Lodge, London, NW5 1QR.
So there you have it – a roundup of the best things to do in Highgate. From scenic walks though graffiti-covered tunnels to catching the latest theatre show at Upstairs at the Gatehouse, there’s plenty to see in this neck of the woods, so get yourself up there!