You wait decades for the railroad, and three come at once. The Junction Railway, the Midland and the Metropolitan & St John's Wood each opened a station in West Hampstead in the late 19th century. Today their descendants - the Jubilee Line, Thameslink and Silverlink's North London Line - provide convenient links to the West End, the City, Canary Wharf and Stratford.
Although West Hampstead's name echoes the posh residential enclave and famous heath on its eastern border, it could easily and perhaps more accurately be known as East Kilburn, thanks to its busy winding roads and ethnic mix.
West Hampstead attracts young, mostly single professionals - and restaurateurs. Thanks to the construction boom that inevitably accompanied the arrival of the railroads, period houses are abundant. Most houses were converted, and some are now being extended a second time. Developers are even active in the West End Green conservation area.
"When we first moved here 45 years ago, Parsifal Road had about 20 big houses, and now there are about 120 flats," says Rozalie Miles, the chairman of the Parsifal Road Association.
"Although these buildings were single-family houses, there were not many families. In the entire road maybe three houses had children. Professionals and artists lived here, actors such as Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer. It was so quiet you felt you had to tiptoe down the road."
Miles says property developers buy homes in the conservation area, refurbish without planning permission, and then apply for retrospective permission.
"One builder put in four bedrooms where there should have been only two. The house that Harrison and Palmer used to live in became a home for the elderly and then a developer bought it. Overnight he took out the front garden and made it into 15 very upmarket en suite birds' nests. He didn't have planning permission and we fought him. In the end the council allowed it. He said that it cost him a fortune to go to appeal, but he could afford it."
Miles does not object to change per se. "We have to fight, otherwise developers will turn all open space into a concrete jungle. But it is nice in the summer to see all of these people dining on the pavement."
What properties are available?
In addition to period houses and conversion flats, West Hampstead is cherished for its mansion blocks with large rooms and high ceilings; today, some are freehold, some leasehold. There are also modern blocks of flats and artists' studios and houses.
What do flats cost?
Cedar Estates is taking reservations for converted two and three-bed flats in Cotleigh Road scheduled for completion next month; £250,000 to £350,000. Doubly convenient but also doubly noisy, a two-bed flat on West End Lane is above shops and a bus stop; £265,000 at Cedar Estates.
Tell me about mansion block flats?
A two-double-bed flat with communal gardens on West End Lane is £325,000, at Dutch & Dutch. A four-bed two-bath flat in a three-storey corner block in Cholmley Gardens has tennis courts and children's play area, £479,950 at Parkheath. Both have communal gardens and shared freeholds.
Dutch & Dutch is selling a three-bed flat in Harvard Court, Honeybourne Road, in the conservation area for £385,000 and a three/four bed flat on Fortune Green Road for £675,000. The latter has panoramic views from the fourth floor, a private roof terrace and a 34ft reception.
What about more unusual properties for sale?
West Hampstead Studios is a two-bed freehold house with a Japanese interior complete with rice paper walls and oriental furnishing, paintings and pictures; £565,000 at NoéGlasman. Parkheath is selling a two-bed, three-storey house on Sherriff Road with a period exterior and Le Corbusier interior, £599,950 at Parkheath.
Period houses are scarce but...?
Needing modernisation, a four-bed Victorian on Cotleigh Road, £589,950. From NoéGlasman. A five-bed three-reception terrace on Maygrove Road with stained glass and other original features and 40-foot south-facing garden, £699,950 (Parkheath).
What about transport?
Thameslink serves St Pancras, and the Jubilee and North London Lines serve Stratford. The latter also stops at Camden Town and Highbury and Islington.
What about schools?
Emmanuel CE Primary on Mill Lane at Fortune Green Road and West End Lane scored 100 per cent in English, maths and science (averages for schools in England are 78, 74 and 86), and University School's GCSEs results were 99 per cent (the average is 54).
And the shops?
In addition to the bars and cafés, the large O2 Centre has a multiplex cinema, and a Sainsbury's. Every Wednesday, from 10am-3pm the Swiss Cottage Farmers' Market sets up its stalls in the car park near the Homebase DIY store.
And one for the pub quiz?
What do medical pioneer Joseph Lister, engineer Sebastian Ferranti, and actresses Mary Moore and Lilli Palmer have in common?Reuse content