Mayfair, an exclusive London address and an enclave of elegance and luxury. The area was originally layed out in the early 18th century by wealthy families such as the Grosvenors and the Berkeleys. It remains one of the most expensive areas in London with fine houses, elegant shopping arcades and leafy squares.
I find this a very relaxing area to wander around particularly at the weekend, there’s so many quiet side streets and hidden places to find and explore, I just like the fact that you’re in central London but it feels a world away.
Piccadilly Circus is a bustling crossroads in the heart of London, look around and sat in the middle overlooking the tourists and the busy traffic is the small statue of Eros.
Leaving Piccadilly Circus I make my way down Piccadilly, a little way down on the left is St James’s Church designed by Sir Christopher Wren. The church holds regular markets in its grounds which can be worth a look. Further down on the same side you’ll see Hatchards, the royal bookseller. The attractive store has been selling books since 1797.
A little further down is the high class grocery and department store Fortnum & Mason, founded in 1707 by a footman to Queen Anne. Inside on the ground floor you’ll find a wonderful selection of teas, preserves, chocolates and biscuits, all perfect for gifts or a little bit of self indulgence. There are several other floors selling various goods and a couple of restaurants, they serve a nice afternoon tea in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon. Back outside look for the royal warrants on the front of the shop, these tell you that even today they are still the grocery supplier to the royal family.
Straight across Piccadilly is Burlington House, an old 18th century mansion, now home to the Royal Academy of Arts, they often have some very good exhibitions showing here. If time is short it’s worth going through the arch just to have a look at the enclosed square inside, the architecture of the building is beautiful.
Just beyond the Royal Academy is the Burlington Arcade. Built in 1819 this is the best known of the exclusive shopping arcades in this area. The top hatted beadles (security staff) enforce some strange regulations like no whistling, singing or hurrying.
Having walked through the arcade – at a leisurely pace! – I come out into Burlington Gardens, Savile Row is my next stop.
Savile Row is best known for bespoke tailoring and one of the oldest and best shops is Gieves & Hawkes who have been trading at No.1 since 1785. No.3 is famous for being the home of the Apple record company which was owned by the Beatles, it’s where the band gave their last concert from the roof in February 1969.
New Bond Street is filled with designer shops all ready to empty your purse or wallet, I’m here to see a bronze sculpture of Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt called Allies, it was erected in 1995 to celebrate 50 years of peace after World War II.
New Bond Street turns into Old Bond Street where the fashion stores disappear and the exclusive jewellers take over, at No.28 I turn right and go into the Royal Arcade another of Mayfair’s exclusive shopping arcades. At the other side is Albermarle Street, the home of Brown’s Hotel. It’s from here that Alexander Graham Bell made his first successful telephone call.
I’m now on Curzon Street and looking at G.F. Trumper, the court hairdresser and perfumer, established here in 1875. The building is beautiful and is a good example of a fine 18th century shop.
A little further up on the left is the covered entrance to Shepherd Market. Built by the architect Edward Shepherd in 1735 the area became a notorious red light district. Today it’s a lovely place to walk around with lots of outdoor cafes, independent shops and restaurants.
Back on Curzon Street stands Crewe House which Shepherd built in 1730 as his own home, it’s now the Saudi Arabian Embassy.
Hays Mews, a pretty little street of now highly desirable and very expensive homes was at one time all stables for the coach horses of the wealthy, you can still see where they would have been.
Berkeley Square was made a household name through the song “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”. Originally laid out in the mid 18th century it still retains its attractive leafy feel. Unfortunately busy traffic filled roads somewhat spoil the atmosphere these days. The west side of the square has retained the most characterful buildings.
Mount Street Gardens are just off the square and inside them is the Church of the Immaculate Conception, it’s worth a look inside. The peaceful gardens lead into South Audley Street which in turn leads to Grosvenor Square.
Grosvenor Square is one of the largest squares in London. The large, ugly building of the American Embassy sits on one side and isn’t in keeping with the square’s period style.
Going diagonally across the square brings me out onto Brook Street. Claridge’s, one of London’s finest hotels, and one of the best afternoon teas in London, is here. No.25 Brook Street is where George Frederick Handel, the composer, lived and died, there is a museum dedicated to him and his work on the upper floors of the building. Next door at No.23 is where guitarist Jimi Hendrix lived from 1968 to 1969.
Back on New Bond Street and I’m at the home of famous auction house Southeby’s. If it’s open anyone can pop in to see the articles waiting to be sold. Further on into St. George’s Street I come across the imposing St. George’s Church. Built in the 1720’s it was the first church in London to have a portico.
At the top of St. George Street is the statue of William Pitt, who became prime minister in 1783 at the young age of 24. The statue marks the entrance to the small but pretty Hanover Square.
I enjoyed my wander around Mayfair, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about it.