London’s Royal Parks – which include Hyde Park, Regent’s Park, Green Park and others – are well-loved by Londoners and tourists alike.
But did you know that London also has lesser-known open spaces, used mostly by locals? One is north of the river and the other to the south.
This special double feature will reveal all, as well as highlighting some exceptionally good-value hotels nearby which are well-rated on TripAdvisor.
Though the idea of Londoners’ “favourite parks” is a value judgement, it’s nice for visitors to see parts of London not overrun by other tourists.
So you should try to visit Hampstead Heath (featured here) or Clapham Common (featured in part 2) at least once during your visit to London.
If nothing else, it will allow you to explore an area of London with its own distinctive charm, far from the madding crowd.
Hampstead Heath: London’s wild and ancient parkland
Hampstead Heath is in fact London’s most extensive ancient parkland. It is truly massive and spans some 790 acres.
With its many ponds, hills, playgrounds, trails and pools, Hampstead Heath offers a rare diversity of places to explore. You can walk, swim, play or run to your heart’s content! It’s also a great place to take kids.
It’s hard to believe that this thoroughly unspoilt, tranquil parkland is so close to the bustle of central London. Hampstead Heath also adjoins the grounds of a heritage-protected stately home (Kenwood House).
What I personally love about Hampstead Heath is its natural “wildness”.
Unlike many London parks, it is not groomed which I think imbues it with a certain sense of history and authenticity.
People have trodden “The Heath” (as it’s affectionately known) for centuries when it probably didn’t look much different to how it is now. Hampstead Heath really is one of London’s best hidden gems.
Recommended cheap hotels near Hampstead Heath
We already featured the Holiday Inn Swiss Cottage as a good-value hotel, since it’s in zone 2 of the tube map rather than zone 1.
It’s within walking distance of Hampstead Heath, with the added benefit of being near Finchley Road tube and lots of airport coach stops.
This may allow you to book an even cheaper flight to Stansted or Luton at some ungodly hour, safe in the knowledge that your first night’s stay is easily accessible (airport coach services often operate 24 hours a day).
The hotel gets good, solid reviews (though not outstanding ones) and is currently ranked just outside the top 100 on TripAdvisor. There are lots of eating out options opposite at the big O2 centre, as well as a big cinema.
A further local option is 274 Suites, which provides serviced apartments in the Hampstead area and was also previously featured on this blog.
TripAdvisor guest reviews love 274 Suites for its great value for money: for example you get free wifi and the benefit of having your own kitchen.
Finally, you have another solid enough budget hotel option near Hampstead at the Premier Inn Hampstead hotel.
This gets reasonable rather than great guest reviews, but does offer some very good deals. Test our meta search to see. We wrote about Premier Inn’s parent (Whitbread) and other budget hotel groups in another post.
But wherever you end up staying, please check out Hampstead Heath on your next visit to London! In part two of this special feature we’ll be covering another one of Londoners’ favourite parks: Clapham Common.
Photo credits: Holiday Inn Express (InterContinental Hotels Group), 274 Suites, Premier Inn (Whitbread).