West Hampstead | A Local's Neighbourhood Guide
Living as an expat blogger, you kinda know the others who are in the same life situation as you! Casey is no exception to this- she’s been over here, living life, starting a family and navigating how to create a home in a place she isn’t originally from... just like me. I get her, I like her and I trust her taste! So when she waxed poetic about West Hampstead, I can only trust that she really is living in a great part of London.
1. TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD.
West Hampstead is ideal if you want to live in a residential London neighbourhood, but still be in central London in less than 10 minutes. It has less short-term expats than the more obvious *go-to* neighbourhoods (i.e. Notting Hill, South Kensington, Chelsea, and St. John's Wood), so it has more of a local community feel to it.
2. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW CONNECTED WOULD YOU SAY WHERE YOU LIVE IS? WHAT ARE THE MAJOR LINES THAT RUN TO/FROM YOU?
10 - VERY well connected. There's the Jubilee Line, which is one of the fastest and most frequent Tube lines in London, plus the Metropolitan line from Finchley Road (the southern edge of West Hampstead), which take you express to Baker Street in 4 minutes. In addition, there's the Overground Train (30 minutes to Richmond, three minutes to Hampstead) and the Thameslink Train (one hour to Gatwick Airport and 30 minutes to Luton Airport). Frankly, it's hard to imagine a better-connected area.
3. IN A DREAM WORLD, WHAT WOULD BE THE PERFECT STREET OR AREA TO LIVE IN WITHIN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD? WHY?
Canfield Gardens or Compayne Gardens. These are both in "South" West Hampstead, which is a designated conservation area of gorgeous Victorian and Edwardian homes. Think imposing red brick, signature coloured doors, stained glass panels, secret communal gardens, and come spring, blooming wisteria and every flower imaginable crawling up the front of the houses. It's hard not to want to Instagram every.single.house.
4. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW WOULD YOU SAY THE VALUE FOR SQUARE FOOTAGE IS? DO YOU PAY A PREMIUM FOR WHERE YOU LIVE OR WOULD YOU SAY IT IS A BETTER VALUE THAN OTHER AREAS IN LONDON?
7 - it's good, not great. Compared to our previous two London neighbourhoods (Notting Hill and Marylebone), it's an exceptionally better value, but it's on par with other Zone 2 spots (although, it's better connected than other Zone 2 'hoods). We've been here for two years and have seen prices steadily increase. Perhaps the secret is out?!
5. WHAT IS THE GENERAL VIBE OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD? GIVE US THREE TYPES OF PEOPLE WE MEET SEE ON YOUR HIGH STREET
Professionals and families, with a 4:1 ratio of Brits to expats (i.e. feels more "local" than our previous neighbourhoods). You might find late 20s professional meeting friends for sundowners, an early 30s mom pushing her napping newborn and dog, or an elegant couple who have graced the West Hampstead streets for 50 years.
6. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET COFFEE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?
7. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET DINNER IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?
Hard to pick just one. Petite Coiree, a French/Korean cafe (get the Kimchee Airinchini to start!). For a night in, you MUST pick up Sushi takeaway from Sushi Tokoro, run by the *sweetest* husband/wife duo, the former of which used to be a Chef at Nobu. There are only two small tables, so we get takeaway at least once a week. In my 5+ years in London, this is the closest you'll get to New York-style sushi (i.e. fresh, good price, and not a chain like Wasabi/Yo Sushi or super high end like Hakkasan).
8. HOW WOULD YOU SPEND A SATURDAY IN WEST HAMPSTEAD AS A LOCAL?
Start with a cocktail at the super sleek Heads + Tails. Expect white marble, velvet lounges, and gold accents. Split a pizza at cozy Saraccino. End the night with a glass of wine or pint at The Gallery, your not-so-average local pub that sometimes has live music.
9. HOW MUCH WOULD AN UBER TO OXFORD CIRCUS COST YOU?
10. WHAT’S THE BEST PLACE TO BE OUTDOORS IN WEST HAMPSTEAD?
Kilburn Grange Park is a small, but mighty, great for doing a couple of laps with your dog, playing tennis, or enjoying the gorgeous garden blooms. You can also jump on the Overground for two very quick stops and be walking into Hampstead Heath in less five minutes.
11. WHAT ARE THE BEST LOCAL SCHOOLS IN WEST HAMPSTEAD? PAID? STATE? PRIMARY? SECONDARY? ANY INSIDER TIPS ON HOW TO GET INTO THE GOOD SCHOOLS?
There are several well-known nurseries that require applications at birth or when they're still babies (Broadhurst School, North Bridge House). The American School is nearby, so if you're an expat and want some continuity, you have that option.
12. WHAT ARE SOME GOOD AREA THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS?
The Sherriff Centre is a church/cafe/shop/post office/children's soft play. There are two areas separated by under and over 2's. Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre is a 10-15 min walk from West Hampstead and has everything kids could want—pools, climbing walls, giant soft play, classes. There's also "Toddlers' World" three times a week where they set up bouncy castles, jungle gyms, etc. Kilburn Grange Community Centre has multiple *free* drop-in playgroups throughout the week broken down by ages—babies, toddlers, under 5's, etc. It's a pilot "sure-start" program (there are only a couple others throughout the city), and I'm SO impressed. (As is my toddler daughter—it's the highlight of her week.)
13. HOW DO YOU MEET OTHER PEOPLE IN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD?
Pubs and parks. We bring our dog to both and she's an excellent conversation starter.
*images courtesy of Casey Odjana