Why a trip to Regent Street and St James’s is in order this Christmas
This is why a trip to two of London’s most diverse and characterful shopping destinations, Regent Street and St James’s, is an experience not to be passed up this Christmas. Steeped in history, these elegant streets have been a centre for fashion in London since the early 1800s. Yet while they maintain that reputation today, continuing to house the flagship stores of several British heritage brands, they’ve also flowed with the times, becoming home to pioneering tech and wellness brands, plus several up-and-coming boutiques.
While the shops on Regent Street and St James's have been kitted out with new health and safety measures (hand sanitisation points on the street and store entrances), the pavements beyond have been extended to better allow for social distancing. As such, a trip to Regent Street and St James’s feels safe and spacious. Meanwhile, the warm, twinkling angels that float above the streets throughout the festive period are enough to draw us here alone.
As with all of the most successful shopping trips, planning is essential. Here’s our guide to making the most of Regent Street and St James’s – two historical shopping locations where, 200 years on, quality and style continue to reign supreme.
Begin your day….
Head first to Hagen Project, where you can enjoy a hygge-inspired brew, made with beans processed at the coffee company’s east London roastery. Here, you'll also find a selection of freshly-baked Danish pastries and snacks to fuel your trip. Whether shopping for gifts or a special something for yourself, the experience is always more pleasurable once caffeinated.
Shop for fashion and fancy
Regent Street established itself as the centre of fashion in the 19th century and upholds that reputation today, boasting the flagship stores of a number of British heritage and global brands.
A trip there wouldn't be complete without popping into Apple and picking up gadgets for the tech fanatics in your life. For the fashion conscious, seek quality and long-lasting appeal at the likes of Burberry, Mulberry and Karl Lagerfeld, where style transcends the latest trends. If time is limited and you’re in need of inspiration, you’ll find gifting options for all at nearby Anthropologie, which stocks the latest styles in homeware, jewellery, clothing and more.
With the big brands explored, it’s time to turn onto neighbouring St James’s, a stately stretch nestled between Piccadilly, Haymarket and Green Park, where the buildings are a portal back to 19th century London, while the stores within them offer an unrivaled shopping experience.
For he whose wardrobe is finely curated, look to independent menswear boutiques Luca Faloni, Emma Willis, Harvie & Hudson, where private appointments can be booked for a more personalised service. For leather that lasts, Aspinal of London is your one-stop shop. While for the foodie in your life, or to complete your own festive spread and revel in some Christmas cheer, head to Fortnum & Mason, and immerse yourself in its chocolate-box assortment of biscuits, spreads, bottles and all the little extras. Here, you’ll also find gift hampers to send to those celebrating elsewhere.
Lastly, for the ones in your life who never hint at what they want or insist you’re not to spend on them, you’ll find your answers on Princes Arcade in the form of Prestat's colourful chocolates, Grenson’s timeless footwear and anatomē’s natural scents.
Refuel at renowned restaurants
Regent Street and St James’s are as much about destination dining as they are retail. Celebrate your finds and toast the reawakening of London’s finest institutions at Michelin-starred Aquavit, Asian fusion specialists Scully, or modern West African Ikoyi – three restaurants which exude celebratory charm. Meanwhile if you or those you’re dining with are gourmands, book a table at Gordon Ramsay's Heddon Street Kitchen, Spanish fine dining restaurant Sabor, or Angela Hartnet’s brilliant Italian-influenced Cafe Murano.
And if it's dining with all the fanfare you’re craving, look to French-influenced Brasserie Zédel – part of Corbin & King’s collection of stalwart, elegant dining rooms, the restaurant regularly hosts live bands and a meal here is always one to remember.
Explore leading galleries
The area is also a treasure trove of art and cultural institutions. If time and energy levels permit, use this opportunity to explore the latest offering at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), browse for collectables at Christie’s or pay a visit to White Cube at Mason’s Yard, where Tracey Emin’s exhibition Living Under the Hunters Moon is on show until January.
Revel in some well-earned wellness
With your Christmas shopping list (or a decent chunk of it) ticked off, it’s time to take a moment for yourself. At innovative beauty concept Glow Bar, you can warm up in an infrared sauna before enjoying a High Vibe facial and shopping the products to recreate the experience at home. Heading to a special occasion later? Book an appointment with Dry By, where a manicure and blow dry will take you from day to night. These streets are also home to some of the most prestigious male grooming institutions, Murdock and Ted's Grooming Room among them, both of which also offer gift vouchers.
See the streets sparkle
With daylight fading, and thoughts of steaming mulled wine and crackling fires calling, it’s time to peer up at the sky above, where the annual Spirits of Christmas display – a chorus of angels glowing warm and bright – glitters above the streets. Regent Street was the first central London location to introduce festive lighting back in 1954. Over 60 years on and not only is the annual Christmas lights display (now encapsulating St James’s too) the largest in London, it remains among the loveliest – proving that keeping with tradition is no bad thing.
Regent Street and St James’s are holding a 12-days of Christmas competition across both destinations, offering the chance to win a host of special prizes – from fashion to gourmet fodder – from some of their most revered brands. The competitions are taking place on Instagram, with more information available at @RegentStreetW1 and @StJamesLondon.
West End retailers and restaurateurs are also joining forces as part of #MyWestEnd to orchestrate a series of traffic-free Saturdays in the lead up to Christmas. Regent Street will be pedestrianised on Saturday 5, 12 and 19 December, from 10am – 9pm, making shopping here an even more spacious experience.