Offering pretty pastel houses, scenic views and celebrity neighbours, Primrose Hill remains top of the property pile, writes Ruth Bloomfield
It is where Boris Johnson spent his formative years and is famous for its candy-coloured houses, the antics of its starry residents, and the distant roar of the lions at London Zoo.
But Primrose Hill is far more than a place for the rich and famous to misbehave and influencers to tag on their Instagram. Forget the hype. This north London village is a lively, leafy, laid-back delight, from its pristine squares and terraces to its thriving, vibrant high street. And all within walking distance of central London.
At first glance
Absolutely the only place to truly appreciate the beauty of Primrose Hill is from its summit. This vantage point, some 63m above sea level offers some of the most spectacular and panoramic big sky views over London, particularly around sunrise or sunset.
Once the hill was used for the fighting of duels. During the pandemic, a real festival vibe evolved on warm lockdown days. But as the world returns to business as usual, so the hill is now the province of civilised groups of picnicking parents and local teens staking out a spot in the sun.
Back on the streets, Primrose Hill has some of the prettiest pastel-painted terraces you’ll find. Chalcot Crescent and Square are particularly charming. Little surprise that it is a filmmakers’ favourite, providing the backdrop for both the Paddingtons and Bridget Jones franchises.
Another painted house – this time a pink beauty on Albert Terrace – is said to have inspired writer Dodie Smith’s description of the home of The Hundred and One Dalmatians heroes, Pongo and Perdita, and their owners Roger and Anita Dearly.
North London is not short of lovely, leafy urban villages but Mark Pollack, director of Aston Chase estate agents, believes Primrose Hill is in a league of its own. “Firstly it is on the doorstep of Primrose Hill itself and Regent’s Park, and you are literally a few minutes’ walk into Camden Town for a completely different vibe,” he says. “The architecture is very attractive, and it is one of the few wealthy and gentrified neighbourhoods which has retained a sense of identity, with a blend of independent restaurants, cafes, and shops.”
While buyers in nearby Hampstead and St John’s Wood might work in the finance or legal sectors, in Primrose Hill, says Pollack, there is a “disproportionately high” number of creatives, as well as successful tech entrepreneurs.
This north London enclave found itself in the media spotlight thanks to a cabal of celebrity residents dubbed the Primrose Hill Set whose party lifestyle was earnestly documented by the tabloids. Liam Gallagher, Kate Moss, and Sienna Miller have all long grown up and moved on. Primrose Hill is still celebrity friendly but today it attracts a far more low-key crowd. They include superstar singer Taylor Swift, who is said to share a £7m home with her British actor boyfriend Joe Alwyn, Claire Foy or Jenna Coleman.
Schools & Shops
Regent’s Park Road is the de facto heart of Primrose Hill, and this pretty curve of Victorian buildings provides a very upscale village retail experience.
You might stock up your wine fridge at Bibendum, have a treatment at Cowshed Primrose Hill, or shop for a new colour scheme at Graham & Green. Primrose Hill Books is a local staple, as is Pamela Schiffer, where you can check out the rails of laid-back fashion by European designers. For special occasions you can have a bespoke ring designed or remodelled at Harriet Kelsall. and there are also basics like a post office, chemist, a butcher, and various delis.
As for schools, the Prime Minister attended Primrose Hill School before going on to bigger things at Eton. The school is rated “outstanding” by Ofsted. There are also quality prep schools, notably the selective North Bridge House Preparatory which takes pupils up to 13-years-old and also gets top marks from the schools’ watchdog. The Hall School (boys) and Sarum Hall School (girls), both in nearby Belsize Park, are also popular. For older pupils in the state sector there is the high-performing Camden School for Girls and the UCL Academy. In the independent sector University College School and South Hampstead High School for girls are both within walking distance.
Beyond Primrose Hill you have Regent’s Park at your disposal – from the south side of the area it is said you can sometimes hear the lions of London Zoo roar. Closer to home is Camden Market, with its bars and live music, or you could take a stroll along Regent’s Canal to King’s Cross. In the evening you might catch a band at the Roundhouse, a movie up the road at the Everyman Belsize Park, or a play at the Open Air Theatre.
If you like a good gastropub you’ve come to the right place. For smart food and a relaxed atmosphere all roads lead to Gloucester Avenue. The Engineer is a real local institution. Expect classy comfort food and on sunny days its beer garden is always packed. Just up the road The Lansdowne (below) has a Mediterranean-inspired menu, with lots of vegan options, and The Pembroke serves smart versions of pub classics. Amongst Primrose Hill’s clutch of restaurants, the friendly, family run Lemonia, which has been cooking up a storm on Regent’s Park Road for over four decades is a must, as is Odette’s (above), combining Modern European cuisine and an extensive wine list in a romantic setting.
Expect to pay around £4m for a four-bedroom townhouse in Primrose Hill, where Knight Frank is currently listing an elegant four-bedroom townhouse on Gloucester Crescent for £3.950m. But Mark Pollack of Aston Chase estimates that if you want to live on Chalcot Crescent or Primrose Hill Road, overlooking the open space, you would have to pay £7.5m to £10m. This premium is partly because these houses are larger and because of the prestigious address. For a smaller home, John D Wood is selling a two-bedroom flat on Regent’s Park Road for offers over £1.25m, or a one-bedroom flat on Chalcot Crescent, for offers in excess of £575,000. While pastel-painted townhouses are classic Primrose Hill, the area does possess some architectural surprises. Aston Chase is selling the extraordinary Eglon House, a contemporary 13,000 sq ft live-work space built partly from glass bricks. The £20m property’s former residents include the film director Tim Burton, who rented the house for two years.
Like most of London, there is a lack of stock for sale, and weak demand for homes without outside space. Orly Lehmann, a partner at Knight Frank, estimates buyers should budget around £750,000 for a two-bedroom flat with a garden, balcony, or terrace – or £700,000 to £750,000 for one without. “This year it has really been business as usual, despite the international situation,” she says.
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