Piccadilly and St. James’s

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Piccadilly and St James’s are the main route of the West End. Piccadilly has been called Portugal Street in the past. The name comes from pickadills, ruffled collars worn by the dandies of the 17th century. St. James’s retains traces of the 18th century, when surrounded the royal residences, and members of the court and society used to go shopping. As soon as King Henry VIII built the palace of St. James, around 1530, the area became the center of fashionable London and remains so today. Influential people still walk through its historic streets on their way to lunch at their clubs, discussing current themes, to shop in the most ancient and unique shops or visit one of the many art galleries of the capital. Two shops in St. James’s Street – Lock, the hatter, and Berry Bros, wine trade – remember the time. Fortnum & Mason serves special food for 300 years. Mayfair, to the north of Piccadilly, is still the most fashionable address in London, while Piccadilly Circus marks the beginning of Soho.


Getting There

The Piccadilly Tube Line serves Hyde Park Corner, Piccadilly Circus and Green Park – also served by the Jubilee and Victoria lines. Bakerloo and Northern lines serve Charing Cross. Buses 6, 9, 15, 23 and 139 serve the area.


Highlights

Royal Academy of Arts – Sir Joshua Reynolds founded the academy in 1768. It is the headquarters of the largest and most sought after exhibition;

Burlington Arcade – Uniformed beadles prevent disorderly conduct in this 19th century gallery;

The Ritz Hotel – The name comes from César Ritz. Opened in 1906, still lives up to fame;

Spencer House – An ancestor of Lady Diana, Princess of Wales, built the house in 1766;

St. James’s Palace – This Tudor-style palace is the official seat of the Court;

King Street – has many art galleries such as Christie’s in St. James’s;

Pall Mall – Its famous clubs offer refuge for men (and a few women) of business;

St. James’s Church – The organ of the favorite church of Christopher Wren was brought to Whitehall Palace in 1691;

Piccadilly Circus – Crowds and neon lights make Piccadilly Circus the heart of West End;

Jermyn Street – It is one of the most elegant streets of London, with shops for sophisticated gentlemen;

Royal Academy of Arts;

St. James’s Park;

Buckingham Palace;

Green Park;

Guards Museum;

Piccadilly Circus – For years, people gather under the symbolic figure of Eros, conceived as an angel of mercy and later associated with the Greek God of Love. Delicately balanced with his bow, Eros became the hallmark of the capital. The statue, 1892, is a tribute to the Earl of Shaftesbury, a Victorian philanthropist. Piccadilly Circus was part of John Nash’s original plan for Regent Street, but has changed greatly in recent years and today is mostly surrounded by shopping centers. One is located behind the facade of the London Pavilion (1885), formerly a hall of music. The flashy neon ads mark the entrance to the entertainment district of London, with its cinemas, theaters, nightclubs, restaurants and pubs;

St. James’s Church – Among the many churches designed by Wren, this was one of its favorites. Changed over the years and partially destroyed by a bomb in 1940, it keeps till present times the uniqueness of 1684 – high arched windows, thin tower (replaced by a fiberglass replica in 1966) and light interior. The partition behind the altar is one of the best works of the master carver Grinling Gibbons, who also did a fine font with Adam and Eve standing, beside the tree of life, in the 17th century. The artist and poet William Blake and the Prime Minister Pitt the Elder, were baptized there. Further works by Gibbons can be seen above the great organ, made for the chapel of Whitehall Palace, but installed here in 1961. The Church has a full calendar of events and a popular café;

The Ritz Hotel – Cesar Ritz, Swiss hotelier and creator of the term ritzy, was practically retired in 1906, when the hotel was built. The columns of the building remember Paris, where the greatest and major hotels were located at the turn of the century. The establishment keeps the Edwardian opulence of the fin de siècle and it is a popular location for those who are properly dressed for an afternoon tea. The softness and elegance of the environment is incremented by the events and fashion shows taking place in the Palm Court at 1.30pm, 3.30pm and 5.30pm;

St. James´s Palace – Built by Henry VIII in around 1540 in the location of a former hospital for people suffering of Hansen’s disease, was a royal residence for a short period, especially during the reign of Elizabeth I and in the late 18th century. In 1952, Elizabeth II made her first speech as queen at St. James’s. The north gate, at St. James’s Street, is one of the best landmarks of Tudor period in London. Today the buildings of the Palace are occupied by the privileged employees of the British Crown;

Pall Mall – The name of this game comes from the elegant street-Palle Maille, a combination of cricket and golf in the early 17th century, was practiced at the site. For over 150 years Pall Mall is the center of the London club. The exclusive gentlemen’s clubs were created to offer its members a refuge from their wives. Most of the clubs was built by famous architects of the time. At number 116 on the left side of the east end of the avenue, is the entrance with columns of the United Services Club (1827), John Nash. This was the favorite club of the Duke of Wellington and now houses the Institute of Directors. In front, on the other side of Waterloo Place, is the Athenaeum, designed three years later by Decimus Burton and long a bastion of the British establishment. Beside, there are two clubs of Sir Charles Barry, architect of the Parliament. The Travellers is number 106 and number 104 in Reform. The imposing interior is well preserved. Only members and their guests can enter;

The Mall – This approach leads to triumphant Buckingham was created by Aston Webb redesigned when the facade of the Palace and the monument to Queen Victoria in 1911. Follows the path of an old road on the edge of St. James’s Park, designed during the reign of Charles II and became the most stylish ride from London. On both sides of The Mall flutter flags of the countries of heads of state on official visits;

Spencer House – This style of Palladio Palace was built in 1766 for the first Earl Spencer, an ancestor of Lady Diana, Princess of Wales. The restoration has recovered the splendor of 18th century and there are beautiful paintings and contemporary furniture. There is the beautiful room painted and decorated. The house is open to the public for tours, receptions or meetings;

Queen´s Gallery – The Queen has one of the best and most valuable collections of paintings in the world, rich in works of old masters like Vermeer and Leonardo da Vinci. The gallery expanded with enhancements made to the Palace for 150 years. Now, there are three and a half times more exhibition space and a beautiful entrance with a portico of columns. Among the seven halls of the gallery, is dedicated to a permanent exhibition of some masterpieces of the royal collection. Temporary exhibitions tend to gather a collection of works ranging from paintings to pottery and jewelry, furniture, books and manuscripts;

Royal Mews – Although only open a few hours a day, these stables are worth a visit for anyone who loves horses and royal pomp. The stables and carriage house, designed by Nash in 1825, can accommodate horses and vehicles used by the Royal Family in official events. The most important piece is the golden chariot built for George III in 1761, with panels painted by Giovanni Cipriani. Among the other vehicles is the Irish State Coach, carriage bought by Queen Victoria at the ceremony of official opening of Parliament, the real open landau carriage and glass used in royal weddings and transport of foreign ambassadors. Harness elaborate and splendid animals are also exposed. There is a show that explains the history of the site and current work. Visitors see the cars being prepared for use. The route allows for the observation of the stables riding school of the 18th century, where the horses learn to gait. A real gift shop is open daily to the public;

Wellington Arch – After nearly a century of debate about what to do with an area in front of Apsley House, Wellington Arch, designed by Decimus Burton was erected in 1828. The sculpture, Adrian Jones, 1912 and before being installed, Jones put eight people in the hollow interior of the body of one of the horses. The arch was restored, and the public has access to the inner halls with exhibits. A platform on a sculpture offers beautiful views of London;

Shepherd Market – This charming haven for small shops, restaurants and outdoor cafes, where cars do not pass, lies between Piccadilly and Curzon Street. Named after Edward Shepherd who built in the mid-18th century. During the 17th century, the annual 15 days in May (origin of the name of the area) occurred in this place. Shepherd is still the heart of Mayfair;

Faraday Museum – Michael Faraday was a pioneer of electricity in the 19th century. His lab, in the 1850s, was rebuilt in the ground, here and now is on display along with a small collection of scientific equipment and personal belongings.

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