Step through shopping history in the arcades of Mayfair and St. James’s
The idea of shopping as a past-time, as a genuine form of activity that could last several hours and result in no purchases at all, is said to have begun in eighteenth-century London. By the early nineteenth century, this activity was seen as an opportunity to promenade in one's finest clothes while being stimulated by an endless array of wonderfully non-utilitarian delights. There was no better place to do this than the arcades of St. James's and Mayfair.
Five arcades are visited on this tour, ranging from the classical Royal Opera Arcade, designed by Regency star architect John Nash, to the magnificently long and profitable Burlington Arcade, built in 1819, to the Victorian baroque Royal Arcade, the art nouveau/art deco Piccadilly Arcade and the newly refurbished Princes Arcade. Each arcade has its own stories and cast of historical characters. Each today is possessed of particular shops carrying highly crafted, unique items that can only be seen and touched there.
The arcades were traditionally known for their bijouterie, and today some of London's finest jewellery, silver, handbags, shoes and watches sit in the shops' small windows, waiting for the stroller's leisurely admiration. Come pouring rain or hot sun, the arcades are always temperate, always welcoming.
On the tour, we will visit several of the most original shops and talk with staff about their products and histories, such as Tom Woods Cello Shop, said to be "the most beautiful cello shop in the world", and Charbonnel et Walker, from which Noel Coward used to have chocolates delivered nightly to his home. First-class, individualised service is a hallmark of the arcades, and thus they represent something precious and vanishing that deserves our continued admiration.
Book your Shopping Arcades Tour
The tour is available Tuesday afternoons at 2 pm and lasts just over 2 ½ hours.
The cost is £25 per person. Students and senior citizens may come for £20.
Groups may range from one or two people to no more than eight people.
Reserve your place for a Tuesday afternoon tour or arrange a private tour at your convenience 07805 935403 or contacting Cindy Lawford here.
If you are reserving a place on the day of tour, please text or ring 07805 935403.
Getting to your Shopping Arcades Tour
The meeting point is in front of the Royal Opera Arcade, at its Pall Mall entrance, London SW1Y 4UY, just behind Her Majesty's Theatre and New Zealand Embassy on Haymarket.
The closest tube stations are Piccadilly Circus and Charing Cross.
For a private Shopping Arcades Tour
The cost for a 2 1/2 hour private tour is £35 per person, with a concession of £30 for students and senior citizens. Private tours are available most weekdays, starting from 10 am to 3 pm, and on Saturdays at 10 am only.