Mayfair: A Guide

Awash with art galleries, museums, hotels, restaurants, shops and historical places of interest, there is much to see and do in Mayfair. Read on for our round-up of what to explore in the area…

Whilst hard to imagine today, up until the early 18th century Mayfair was a fairly rural area; its name deriving from the annual ‘May Fair’ that took place in the area that is now known as Shepherd Market. Having grown increasingly unkempt over the years, it was The Grosvenor family who acquired the land with plans to turn its fortunes around… Its prestigious status – not least affirmed by its prime positioning on a Monopoly board – has befitted Mayfair ever since.

Surrounded by green parkland, it’s an appealing area to explore year-round. With something for everyone – both Londoners and tourists alike – here are a few things to see and do in Mayfair if you find yourself in the area.

Somewhere to stroll

Mayfair is surrounded by three of London’s Royal Parks (there are eight in total) – Hyde Park, Green Park and St James’s Park. Each has its own charm and things to do, whether it be rowing or boating on the Serpentine in Hyde Park, taking a breather on a deck chair in Green Park or watching the resident pelicans at feeding time in St James’s.

Somewhere to shop

From iconic Bond Street, revered all over the world for its plethora of elegant department stores and designer shops, to celebrated Savile Row and specialist art & antiques emporiums such as Grays Antique Market, there is enough to keep even the most dedicated shopper occupied. Standing proud on Piccadilly itself is Mayfair institution, Fortnum & Mason, where you can stock up on everything from coffee beans to chocolates. And don’t miss the numerous Arcades that run off Piccadilly – Burlington Arcade perhaps being the most famous – at which you’ll find treasure troves of jewellery, the finest cashmere, perfumes and more…

Somewhere to take in the art

The Royal Academy of Arts – fondly referred to as The RA – is the oldest fine arts institution in Britain, having been founded in 1768. Located on Piccadilly, it’s universally renowned for hosting some of London’s finest exhibitions throughout the year, along with its permanent collection of treasures from ancient sculpture to modern-day masterpieces. On display now is ‘Making Modernism’ – an exhibition devoted to the ground-breaking female artists working in Germany in the early 1900s – Paula Modersohn-Becker, Kathe Kollwitz, Gabriele Münter and Marianne Werefkin.

If you have a penchant for historical interiors, then Apsley House may be well worth a visit. Situated just a short stroll up Piccadilly past Green Park, the largely Neoclassical façade was remodelled for the Duke of Wellington in the 1800s, drawing on many contemporary influences – and is also home to stunning artworks, such as the statue of Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker by Antonio Canova.

Slightly further afield, but still within a short walking distance from The Wolseley, lies the National Gallery, with a plethora of stunning artworks on display for free in its extensive galleries, it’s well worth a browse. And there’s still time to catch a major retrospective of Lucian Freud. And for those in the market for buying art as well as admiring it, Mayfair is where many international auction houses choose to call home – Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Bonham’s being three of the most significant.

Somewhere to eat

After a day of roaming, especially when laden down with bags aplenty, what better way to take the weight of your feet than by enjoying dinner at one of Mayfair’s many restaurants? On Piccadilly, a two-minute walk from Green Park tube, just past The Ritz and near enough opposite The Royal Academy, The Wolseley is perfectly situated be it for an early-evening meal, a celebratory dinner or just a late-night bite to eat. What’s more, a Café Menu runs through until 11pm every evening and there are always tables held back on a first come first served basis for those just passing by.

Somewhere to be entertained

If you’re looking for a little lunchtime entertainment, perhaps before taking Afternoon Tea, then just next to Maison Assouline lies St. James’s Church where you can enjoy free concerts on Wednesdays and Fridays.

If you are more inclined to thespian activities, then our Theatre Guide is regularly updated with what productions are on in the local area. Not to be missed is the upcoming production of ‘Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons’ at the Harold Pinter Theatre, starring Aidan Turner and Jenna Coleman; running from 18th January til 18th March, with tickets starting at just £15.

And should, following dinner, you feel like continuing your evening – at the end of Piccadilly (though just outside Mayfair we admit), the live music venue, Crazy Coqs – situated within the same building as Brasserie Zédel, has a revolving rostrum of acts across disciplines such as cabaret, musical theatre, comedy and spoken word. With shows most days of the week, there’s something for everyone.

Published 10th January 2023