One of London’s most underrated perks is that you can take a bucolic country break without leaving the big city. Hop on the Tube and head north to Hampstead, which—thanks to the wild meadows and woodlands of Hampstead Heath (not to mention its summer swimming ponds)—has attracted many an artist over the years. Among them: the Romantic poet John Keats, whose former home has been turned into Keats House, a small museum with live poetry performances. These days, you might bump into residents like Ricky Gervais and Ridley Scott in one of the village’s old-fashioned gastropubs. Built in the 1700s as the studio of painter George Romney, the cozy Holly Bush now serves a classic pub lunch (pulled pork sandwich; fish and chips) using seasonal ingredients. Go for a pint at the 16th-century Spaniards Inn, which makes an appearance in Charles Dickens’s The Pickwick Papers; apparently Keats penned “Ode to a Nightingale” in the lovely enclosed garden.
From the Kentish Town station, walk north 5 minutes through the park. Enjoy the rolling hills and get lost in historical literature or take a break at one of the pubs.
HAMPSTEAD HEATH: 44-(0)20-7332-3322; cityoflondon.gov.uk
KEATS HOUSE:10 Keats Grove; 44-(0)20-7332-3868; cityoflondon.gov.uk
HOLLY BUSH: 22 Hollymount; 44-(0)20-7435-2892; hollybushhampstead.co.uk
SPANIARDS INN: Spaniards Rd.; 44-(0)20-8731-8406; thespaniardshampstead.co.uk