Off-the-Beaten-Path: A Park & Pub Crawl through North London

a wintery spaniards inn, north london

a wintery spaniards inn, north london

It’s amusing to see patterns emerge.

Looking back at random choices, noticing the patterns with 20/20 hindsight vision and recognizing the choices weren’t random after all.

Every city I go to, every single one, I’m drawn to the natural side of it.

In Medellín Colombia, I spent a lot of time in Parque Arví and the Botanical Garden.

In San Francisco, California I recently spent a free day walking next to the water along the Embarcadero to Coit Tower to get lost in the see of foliage climbing up the residential hill. My 10th time in San Francisco and I hadn’t done this particular activity yet!

And in London, I spent a whole day pub crawling, through parks.

I mean if you’re going to do something in London outside typical tourist sights like the London Eye, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, etc. it’s going to be to spend ample time in the pubs.

This is where Londoners hang out.

Along with complaining about the weather, taking the piss out of someone or something, and a Sunday roast dinner, this is the London culture; order a pint, sit and chat with friends near a fireplace, in an establishment with hundreds of years of patron history. Sold.

But, of course, we would pub crawl and tack on meanderings through the parks of London.

Hence, our Park & Pub Crawl. Brilliant concept, right? :-)

By now I’m sure you know that walking is my favorite activity while traveling.

I get to a new place, check-in, drop the luggage, and repack some essentials for a day of unexpected adventures of epic proportions. Often ignoring my map and relying solely on intuition to guide me the first (few) days - where I stumble and what I come across often sets the mood and/or itinerary for the upcoming days.

There really is no better way to see a city than to traverse it’s streets on foot, stopping where you feel called to stop, and not necessarily at “checkpoint” sights marked on a map.

London door & building
Cute little door in London.jpg

While our Parks & Pub Crawl was slightly different in that our local tour guide had a few pubs in mind she really wanted to share with us, for example, where her dad used to hang out and George Michael’s watering hole, we still set off on our exploratory off-the-beaten-path to see the land, the streets, neighborhoods, bustling squares, shops, and commerce, of unknowing quaint sector of town - North London.

It’s funny; the best travel days (for me) are rarely the ones when I see the iconic sights, and usually more about the things we do and discover that make our experience in the city uniquely our own.

Marcel Proust said it best, “Travel is not about seeing new sights, but in having new eyes.”

Every trip gives us a marvelous opportunity to experience the world in an entirely new way. Which often means leaving expectations, schedules, and routines behind.

Okay, back to the Park & Pub Crawl.

We started at Alexandra Palace, better known to the locals as Ally Pally - a sprawling regent area that when built was known as “The People’s Palace” with panoramic views of London.

Then proceeded through mystical and energetic Highgate Wood to our first pub, The Flask - a North London institution, in which the oldest part of The Flask pub dates back to 1663.

Walking through the Highgate Wood.jpg
the Flask Pub Highgate London

After a pint and the opportunity to defrost from the bitter winter cold, we continued on through Hampstead Heath, a sprawling 320 hectare woodland area and one of London’s most popular parks, ending at Kenwood House where you can see pretty incredible artworks like a self-portrait of Rembrandt. Casual.

seating room in kenwood house

seating room in kenwood house

self portrait of rembrandt

self portrait of rembrandt

Hampstead heath in winter

Hampstead heath in winter

After meandering around the estate on Hampstead Heath, we continued on to The Spaniards Inn. Built in 1585, The Spaniards Inn has more than a few stories to tell.

fireplace park and pub crawl
Friends at the Spanish Inn
the Spaniards Inn  in the summer, I must go back when the sun is shining and plants are blooming!

the Spaniards Inn in the summer, I must go back when the sun is shining and plants are blooming!

After a pint here, the winter sun was already starting to set, so we went straight on ahead to our final pub of the day, The Holly Bush - a traditional gem of a 18th century pub with a wealth of cozy corners.

Holly Bush Pub London

Again, how lush is this pub in the daylight of spring! I must return for another park & pub crawl not in the thick of winter.

Finally ending at vegan pizza, we definitely appreciated the carbs after all the walking!

Another pub to check out in London is the Princess Louise!

Princess Louise pub London

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