Kenwood House is a stunning 17th century country mansion set within beautiful grounds in Hampstead Heath which is managed by National Heritage. With restored interiors and an art collection boasting masterpieces from greats like Turner and Rembrandt, it makes for a dream day out. Admire the lavish interiors then treat yourself to afternoon tea before walking it off in the manicured grounds. The entrance is free and you can visit throughout the week. If you’re looking for free things to do in London, places to explore in Hampstead or want a taste of country living without leaving the capital, you must visit Kenwood House.
Kenwood House is a joy to visit and it’s absolutely free! It’s a must for all Londoners and visitors. I took my mum for a visit recently and she thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the pot of tea and slice of cake at the end of the tour! This former stately home is located on the edge of Hampstead Heath (Northern boundary) so it feels as though you are in the countryside. It’s such a wonderful place to visit because of the lush landscaped gardens, the architecture, the exquisitely decorated interiors and abundance of art to admire.
I’ll give you a brief overview of the history but if you are planning it’s a good idea to read the history section on the website. The fist house on the site was built by John Bill (Kings James I’s printer) in 1616. The house as we know it today has had many owners and facelifts over the years. Prominent remodeling took place when William Murry (1st Earl of Mansfield) bought it in 1754. He commissioned the Scottish architect, Robert Adam, to give the property a neoclassical villa make-over which included the famous library and addition of the Ionic portico at the entrance.
We have the 1st Earl of Iveagh aka Edward Cecil Guinness (as in the brown drink) to thank for bequeathing Kenwood House to the nation along with his art collection of 63 paintings when he passed away in 1927. The stipulations included free entrance and that the mansion and the contents should be preserved for generations to see how the other half lived in the eighteenth century. So raise your pint of Guinness and say cheers to Edward!
Today, the building is managed by English Heritage. You might be aware of the recent renovations which were quite extensive and partly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The interiors and the grounds are in fantastic condition so it is really worth a visit. You get a glimpse into how the privileged lived and it doubles as a gallery with all the amazing art on display from all the greats including Rembrandt, Turner, Gainsborough and Vermeer.
Kenwood House Visit
You can tour the house with your friends at a leisurely pace. There are volunteers available should you want to ask any detailed questions. The gardens are also well worth exploring and stretch 112 acres which is designed by Sir Humphrey Repton. You also have the expansive Hampstead Heath is right on the doorstep if you fancy roaming around that as well.
Explore the Grounds
If all that exploring makes you hungry you can pop into the Brew House Café or The Steward’s Room. The type of food available is roast dinners at the weekend which looked really good, soups, sandwiches, salads and plenty of cakes. The food is actually very good and I’ve eaten there on many occasions. You can sit inside or outside on the terrace.
Don’t forget to pop into the gift shops for a little souvenir. There are two gift shops, one in the house and you’ll also notice a little house near the restaurant which is often surrounded by the most beautiful flowers. The products are great quality and well worth exploring it you have a friend’s birthday on the horizon. You’ll find mugs, stationery, tote bags, tea towels and more to admire.
Kenwood House Information
To find out more visit the Kenwood House Website. The house is open from 10am until 5pm every day. Check the website for bank holiday opening hours. The address is Hampstead Lane, Hampstead NW3 7JR. We travelled on the 210 bus which stops really close to the house. Otherwise get the train to Gospel Oak or Hampstead Heath or the tube to Hampstead Heath. Parking a car may be a bit difficult so it is better to take public transport if you can. Enjoy your day out, you’ll love it!
Author: Homegirl London. Photographs: Homegirl London. Thanks: Mum, Homeboy and Alan for a wonderful day.