The North London Guide
Many would describe London as a series of villages, each with its own architecture, mom and pop shops, and quirky characters, and nowhere is that more true than in North London. The villagers of Hampstead and Primrose Hill are lucky to live near two of the most gorgeous parks with beautiful views of the city below, while Islington’s charm lies in its quiet, tree-lined streets, which house many of London’s politicians—Brexit Boris included—and classic, old-school gastropubs. Meanwhile, King’s Cross and punk-ish Camden are both undergoing a major revamp, leaving their village roots behind with glitzy restaurants, shops, and theaters moving in and luring the tourists along with them.
ZSL London ZooOuter Circle, Regent's Park | +44.34.4225.1826
The animals at the London Zoo are well kept, so a visit here is always a happy one. Plus, a recent renovation converted many of the animals' enclosures, making them truer to how they live in nature. There are also a number of daily kids activities that are heavy on fun without skimping on education.
Everyman Screen on the Green83 Upper St., Islington | +44.871.906.9060
This is one of Britain’s oldest independent theater groups—with cinemas in Hampstead, Belsize Park, Maida Vale, and more—and as such, they know how to entertain. Loved for their comfortable and stylish interiors—armchair or couch seating comes complete with footstool and a side table for that glass of wine and gourmet snack (no fake-buttered popcorn or boxed chocolate to be found).
Gill’s Cookery Workshop7 North Sq., Hampstead | +44.77.5978.5912
Gill's classes run every holiday from 9am until 3pm, over the course of which they teach about five to six dishes. Gill demonstrates and then the kids learn to make everything from scratch. Many courses are themed around seasons and holidays like Valentine's, Halloween, and Christmas. She also runs children's birthday parties with international cuisine themes like American, Italian, and Japanese.
Happy Returns36 Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead | +44.20.7435.2431
High up on Rosslyn Hill in Hampstead, this recently-expanded shop stocks an ample mix of conventional toys along with science and craft projects. Wrapping paper, party favors, and plenty of stickers are also available, making the birthday present-buying chore a bit easier. Anyone who has a child caught up in the Lego or Sylvanian Families mania will be well taken care of here. Their Schleich shelf, full of those classic and very realistic plastic animals, totally triggers nostalgia.
Huggle8-10 Winchester Rd., Hampstead | +44.20.7483.2826
Huggle stocks a huge range of kid and baby related products. Founders Rachel and Jason Heller buy with an eye for practicality and good design, and the range of options is pretty astounding, making this the perfect place to stock up for a baby on the way.
High SportsSwiss Cottage Sports Centre, Adelaide Rd., Camden | +44.34.5363.1177
Rock climbing is a seriously intimidating sport for beginners, but High Sports team eases nerves with informal classes and supervised sessions targeted for newcomers. With gym locations all over London, they are an especially great resource for kids, who can learn the basics (and safety) in their Junior clubs. For those who are less committed, they also do birthday parties and one-time drop in classes, which do a fantastic job of occupying kids on rainy days.
Talacre TreetopsDalby St., Kentish Town, Camden | +44.20.7974.8765
This colorful indoor climbing frame for 6-month to 11-year-olds is part of the Talacre Sports and Community Center, and just a short walk from the Kentish Town West station. If you want to bring your really little ones to play, a good time is between 9-10:30am on weekdays for the "Under 5 Only" session.
The Martial Arts Place88 Avenue Rd., Hampstead | +44.20.7586.1222
At The Martial Arts Place, they teach a form of kickboxing called Mo-Gei-Do, meaning 'The Way of No Boundaries.' Teaching kids from 5-years to 14-, the environment here is positive and supportive and in addition to the practice, issues like stranger awareness and road safety are also included on the syllabus. They offer great classes for adults as well.