London’s Arcades

Posted by: on Jun 1, 2011 | 2 Comments

London’s Arcades date back to the early nineteenth century, and for generations were the most exclusive shops in town, but are now often forgone in favor of bigger, more populated shopping streets.  I’ll admit that most of the time I spend in the Arcades is either walking from Green Park tube station up towards Savile Row or from Mayfair down to St. James’s, but I love them nonetheless.  The sights, sounds, and in many cases smells, are worth the walks, and I dare you to walk by Cleverley or Budd without stopping to take a look.


The Burlington Arcade

Probably the most famous of the Arcades, it connects Burlington Gardens with Piccadilly.  The Beadles famously guard the gates, prevent tourists from smoking and acting unruly, and usher everyone out at closing time each day.  Although my picture doesn’t show it to it’s best advantage, the Burlington Arcade is a sight to see.  Lord Cavendish, fortunate enough to be living in what is now the Royal Academy, had the Arcade built in 1819 by architect Samuel Ware.  It was extremely popular amongst the dandies and society beau of the day, and with Bond Street served as a popular route along which young bucks could promenade.

But your eyes will quickly drift from the beautiful storefronts and architecture to the goods behind the glass.  Vintage Patek Phillipe watches, Dupont pens and lighters, and leathers of every color populate the displays.  On the Piccadilly side is Laduree, where I often find myself drawn irresistibly by the smell of Black Currant macarons.  And, if you’d prefer a more permanent pleasure, stroll towards the other end and drop by Michael Rose.  Mr. Rose is probably the finest purveyor of signet rings in the world, as well as a consummate gentleman.


The Royal Arcade

Originally just called “The Arcade,” the Royal Arcade is actually the smallest of the Mayfair arcades.  Size matters for some things, but evidently this isn’t one of them.  In the 1880s the Royal Arcade was home to James Smith and Sons (now on New Oxford Street) and Queen Victoria’s shirtmaker, May & Brettell.  The later of these two caused it to be christened the Royal Arcade only a few years after its opening in 1879.  It was originally built to connect Browns Hotel to the famous shopping of Bond Street, and still serves as a nice corridor between east and west Mayfair.

Now the Royal Arcade houses some of the finest shops in Mayfair.  In only a few meters of one another you have GJ Cleverley, Ormonde Jayne (in what used to be May & Brettell), EB Meyrowitz, and a handful of fantastic watch shops.  Surprisingly, until Ormonde Jayne moved in a few years ago, that famous storefront had remained vacant for quite some time.

The Piccadilly Arcade

Connecting Piccadilly to Jermyn Street is the Piccadilly Arcade.  A stones throw across the street from the arch of the Burlington Arcade, it’s a perfect conduit from Savile Row to the other famous row.  Facing you as the stroll through is Beau Brummell, who a few times a year is kitted out in either tweed or blue jeans depending on what the occasion calls for.

First up, on the north-east corner, is Santa Maria Novella.  As I’m sure you’ve guessed by the name, they’re not a classic English brand by any means.  They’re actually a centuries-old Italian apothecary, who make some very interesting products.  In particular, there’s a traditional Italian liqueur called Alkermes that is unlike anything I’ve ever had.  Then, as you walk down you’ll find the famed Budd shirtmaker, who no matter what anybody says is still alive and kicking.  They’ll be closing for some renovations, but with the people at Huntsman supervising you can be sure the changes will be nothing but improvements.  And finally New & Lingwood occupies both shops flanking the statue of the beau, over whose shoulder you can get a glimpse of Edward Green.

The Princes Arcade

And, finally, we come to the Princes Arcade.  Sadly there isn’t much to say about this almost-defunct causeway.  Like the Piccadilly Arcade, it connects Piccadilly and Jermyn Streets, and is Victorian in origin.  But, unlike the Piccadilly Arcade, the Princes arcade is waning.  Many of the shops are closed, and others are occupied by tourist shops.  At one time the Royal Arcade almost suffered the same fate, so hopefully once the construction on the eastern end of Jermyn street is complete we’ll see a revival.  Wish and wait.


  1. Christian
    June 1, 2011

    What a wonderful new site chap

    Best Wishes,


  2. E.B. Meyrowitz Glasses, Frames & Spectacles — tortoise,horn — Gentleman's Gazette
    June 12, 2011

    [...] holiday, we find that we miss our people, and that’s really special.” E.B. Meyrowitz 6 Royal Arcade London W1S 4SF +44 20 7493 5778 Share this article on Facebook Tweet about it Subscribe to the [...]


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