I have a knack for exploring London neighborhoods on the coldest days of the year. It snowed when I roamed around Belsize Park, and my fingers nearly froze when I shot a video of Covent Garden. But London is so amazing that no amount of frostbite can discourage me from discovering new areas. To prove it, today I’m risking fingers and toes to find the loveliest things to do in Highgate.

Things to Do in Highgate London

Things to Do in Highgate, London

Up in north London, Highgate hugs the east side of Hampstead Heath and is known for its leafy streets, overabundance of good pubs, and Victorian cemetery. I used to go there from time to time when I lived in Hampstead, but I’ve been remiss since moving to central London.

Highgate Bookshop

Today I’m going to remedy that. Alighting at Highgate tube station, I turn the corner and head straight for one of my favorite spots: the forest.

Highgate Tube Station

Well, the wood. Highgate Wood has a magical quality to it, especially on days like today when the mist settles into the trees. It’s the perfect place to stretch my legs and fill my lungs with cleaner air after the tube journey. And as I meander along the paths I feel my pace slowing to village speed.

Highgate Wood

Because like many neighborhoods outside Zone 1, Highgate has a village feel.

Highgate Pub

I experience this as I walk past atmospheric pubs to get to Highgate High Street, where tearooms and bookshops rub shoulders with squares full of red phone boxes and historic chapels.

Highgate, London

Around the corner, baskets of flowers and fruit adorn the sidewalk and all the colors turn my cold day into a warmer one.

Highgate High Street

Soon I find myself in Waterlow Park, a green space sloping down a hill dotted with ponds. Views of City skyscrapers lure me along as I make my way south to Swain’s Lane.

Waterlow Park, London

This skinny road leads to Highgate Cemetery, the most famous spot in the neighborhood. With its impressive Victorian headstones and hauntingly beautiful atmosphere, it’s London’s answer to Pere Lachaise in Paris.

Highgate Cemetery

The graves of Karl Marx, George Eliot, John Singleton Copley, and other notables draw visitors from all over the world. But what I like best about Highgate Cemetery are the green mosses and wild ivy that have colonized the gravestones. Walking around makes me want to re-read Audrey Niffenegger’s haunting novel Her Fearful Symmetry, which is set in and around here.

Highgate Cemetery

The cemetery is rivaled in attractiveness by what’s in the nearby streets. Off Swain’s Lane, long rows of white buildings with half-timbered facades beg to be photographed. And photography is probably one of the best things to do in Highgate, what with all the beauty here.

Holly Lodge, Highgate, London

And the neighborhood saves the most beautiful bit for last. At the bottom of Swain’s Lane, Holly Village houses the most stunning group of homes in London. The Gothic entrance is straight out of a fairytale, and the houses inside remind me of woodcutters’ cottages from my childhood storybooks.

Holly Village, Highgate, London

Every time I see this place I’m reminded why Highgate is worth a special trip.

Holly Village, Highgate, London

By the time I’ve finished admiring Holly Village, my fingers are numb and my nose matches Rudolph’s in redness. But as I make my way to Archway tube station, I know it’s been worth braving the cold to explore Highgate. This north London neighborhood has so many secrets to reveal, and they’re all the more precious when I’ve had to fend off the chill to find them.

Holly Village, Highgate, London

Have you been to the neighborhood? What do you think are the best things to do in Highgate?

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Things to Do in Highgate London

28 comments on “Lady’s Lovely List of Things to Do in Highgate”

  1. Wow! What an absolutely lovely place to visit. I’ve been in London, but sadly not to anywhere near here. I love the small town look, the trails and the old looking homes. It’s so dreamy, great photos!

  2. I love English cemeteries. From the quaint village churchyards to the larger Victorian cemeteries, they are all lovely. I did the guided tour of Highgate Cemetery West last year. It’s definitely worth the time and money.

  3. Love it! When I get to London I will be referring to all your posts so I can get the most out of it! I bought a lonely planet tourist guide for only $20 and I am astounded as I can just pop it in my new Nine West bag and go EVERYWHERE!!!!!!!

  4. Next fall we’ll be in London for our 30th wedding anniversary and this tour will start off the list of neighbourhood/villages to visit for our daily walks. As I have fallen love with Central London neighbourhoods I’m curious how you compare the two areas? I so appreciate your descriptions and photos.

  5. Hi!

    I went to Highgate 18 months ago and I went to Highgate Cemetery because I love its Victorian atmosphere. I didn’t go to Holly Village because we didn’t have time but it’s one the places I want to visit when I travel to London again. I’m from Barcelona and I read a book called “Hojas de Dedalera” by the spanish writer Victoria Álvarez and the main character lives in Holly Village. It’s a wonderful book! I also read Her Fearful Symmetry. It’s fantastic!

    It’s been a lovely post!

    A hug!

    Laura

  6. I can’t believe I’ve missed this, after all the times I’ve been in London. Thanks for this, and all the other reallynlovely and helpful articles you do.

  7. I thoroughly enjoyed this post since it brings back some of my fondest memories of my November trip in 2013. I toured the “tour-only” side of Highgate Cemetery with a rather militarily disciplined guide but I got some fantastic photos. I also photographed those half-timbered buildings on Swain’s Lane as well as Holly Village. In fact, I had to do some Google research to learn more about Holly Village. As you said, it really does have a storybook look to it. I also enjoyed my walk through Waterlow park. The trees were sporting their fall colors so it was especially beautiful. I’ve posted about all these places on my travel blog, it’s one of my favorite areas.

  8. I didn’t even know about Highgate until I read Her Fearful Symmetry…and that book definitely stirred my wanderlust to go visit! I really enjoy the artistic monuments in old cemeteries (of which the Victorian Era of course is the high point), which leads me to ask – do you know of any older cemeteries in the London vicinity? Like 17th Century or so? Or are most of them in the countryside?

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