Get in Londoners, we’re going shopping! And we’re headed to Bond Street. One of the most expensive and sought-after strips of real estate in Europe, this oasis of sophistication has been at the heart of London’s high fashion since the 18th century.
Venerated for its elegant stores, designer fashion brands, art galleries, fine jewellery shops and antique stores, Bond Street is the destination for luxury shopping. So without further ado, here’s everything you need to know about Bond Street!
What’s the history of Bond Street?
There’s evidence to suggest that Bond Street has been a historic London landmark since time immemorial—at least a Roman stone culvert discovered in 1894 says so—but the street as we know it was first established in the late 17th century. In 1683 a consortium of Georgian investors headed by Sir Thomas Bond, the namesake of the street, bought Clarendon House from the 2nd Duke of Albemarle and demolished it to develop the area. In the house’s stead, they built three streets: Albemarle, Dover and Bond Streets.
If you make your way down the street now you’ll probably notice that the street is divided into two: Old and New Bond Streets. That’s because Sir Thomas Bond built only half of his street first. The New Bond bit was developed 14 years later. Fun fact — in the 1920s, the council tried merging the two into one single Bond Street but the locals just wouldn’t have it. Bond Street is still divided into two nowadays, and you can see the divide just outside Tiffany’s & Co.’s flagship store.
Back in the 1700s, when the gorgeous Georgians paraded themselves on the streets of London with their powdered wigs, anyone who claimed to be someone had to be seen on Bond Street. Shop owners purposely let out the upper storeys attracting the likes of Jonathan Swift, William Pitt the Elder, Admiral Horatio Nelson and George Selwyn. Even the scandalously popular Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, preferred its shops to those in Covent Garden.
During the 19th century, its reputation as the bourgeoisie’s favourite place for a rendezvous started waning, but it still managed to maintain its reputation as London’s prime luxury retail area we all know and love today. So, as you can see, there’s not much that has changed for Bond Street, which has remained just as fashionable as it was 300 years ago.
Where can I shop on Bond Street?
All right, get your comfy shoes on cause you’re gonna be doing a whole lot of window shopping and walking. How could you not? Home to world-famous retailers like Asprey, Cartier, Dolce & Gabbana, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Ralph Lauren and Tiffany & Co., Bond Street’s got some pretty spectacular window displays and shops.
By order of seniority, let’s start with Burlington Arcade. Built in 1819 by the Earl of Burlington, the arcade is home to the finest antique jewellery shops, shoe stores and boutiques. At this arcade connecting Bond Street to Piccadilly, you’ll find stores such as Carrie Bradshaw’s favourite, Manolo Blanik, and Ladurée, the French patisserie with the famous double-decker macarons. And, here’s another little fun fact for you, Burlington Arcade is guarded by the Beadles, the oldest and smallest Victorian uniform-wearing guard force in the world!
Founded in 1781, Asprey has been historically recognised as an unparalleled purveyor of luxury goods. Its flagship store, found at 167 New Bond Street, was founded in the 1830s, and is one of the street’s oldest shops. At Asprey you’ll find anything from fine jewellery with rare coloured diamonds to the finest china and silver items.
Having served tasteful shoppers since 1890, department store Fenwick (63 New Bond Street) sadly recently closed earlier this month (February 2024). For 133 years, the store offered home decor to exceptionally priced make-up and was also king to wacky window displays and seasonally appropriate entrance decor.
Louis Vuitton, found at 20 New Bond Street, doesn’t shy away from explosive décor either. A must on any luxury shopper’s list, we couldn’t forget the French luxury handbag designer. Plus, its colourful façade makes for a perfectly luxurious Instagram opp. Honourable mentions also include the Ralph Lauren mansion at 1 New Bond Street; the Victoria’s Secret London flagship store at 111 New Bond Street with its incredibly Instagrammable crystal staircase; and Cartier at 175 New Bond Street, whose Christmas décor is perhaps the most gorgeous one on all of Bond Street.
Bond Street and its surroundings also boast an impressive number of Royal Warranties, including the official provider of queenly underpants Rigby & Peller, found just off Bond Street at 22A Conduit Street.
What else is there?
But not everything revolves around shopping on Bond Street! For you art connoisseurs out there, the international auction house Sotheby’s has its London base at 35 New Bond Street. Here you’ll find free art exhibits or, if you’re in need of your daily dose of drama, you can also watch an auction for free. Just down the street from Sotheby’s is The Royal Academy of Arts, where you can catch its latest art exhibitions and events.
If you need a break from all the walking, you can always stop and have a chat with Roosevelt and Churchill themselves at the Allies statue, just outside Asprey. These two old chaps are always seen having the time of their life, entranced in a perpetual conversation that looks quite fun. Plus, they will always give their best smile for your pictures!
And last but not least, you should make a point of stopping at Claridge’s Hotel on Brook Street. Whether you’re looking to stop for a spot of tea (more on that in a sec!) or to spot the latest celebrities visiting the city, this hotel is a total must-see emblem of the Mayfair and Bond Street areas. Claridge’s gets especially beautiful over Christmas, so make sure to at least stop by and admire its festive façade in all its splendour.
When to visit Bond Street
If you’re looking to go shopping, the only thing you really need to keep in mind when visiting Bond Street is the stores’ opening times. As a rule, all of its shops are open 10am to 7pm Monday through Saturday, and 12pm to 6pm on Sundays. Burlington Arcade, on the other hand, is open every day until 8pm, while the Royal Academy of Arts is open every day from 10am to 6pm (except on Fridays when it’s open until 10pm).
Other than that, any time is a good time to visit Bond Street — just bear in mind that it’s one of the busiest streets in London and will probably be jam-packed with people any day of the week, not just on the weekend.
Christmas time also happens to be a wonderful time to visit Bond Street, as the mesmerising Christmas decor and window displays are an absolute joy for the senses. We suggest heading to Bond Street after sundown to appreciate the lights in all their glory!
Restaurants, bars and pubs near Bond Street
All that shopping must have made you ravenous, but you’re in Mayfair so there are plenty of options to choose from. There’s nothing quite like sitting down for a cup of tea to regain your strengths after an afternoon full of shopping — and Mayfair is home to some of the best afternoon teas in London. Head to the mega-posh Claridge’s or The Ritz for an afternoon tea full of glitz and glamour, or head on over to Fortnum and Mason on Piccadilly Street for the most traditional of afternoon teas.
If high-quality dining in a highly fashionable setting is what you seek, then your best bet is to head on over to sketch. This impossibly yellow, once pink, restaurant is the cream of the crop of Mayfair dining! From Michelin-star dinners to evening cocktails, you’ll find plenty of options to suit your every mood at sketch.
Berkeley Square’s Latin addition, Amazonico, serves excellent, exotic bites that promise to take you on a trip down the Amazon River and South America. Another great option if you’re looking for the very best of Mayfair’s fine dining.
But if you wish to experience the historical side of Bond Street, you should head over to The Guinea for a pint. Lodged at 30 Bruton Place since 1423, this is one of London’s oldest pubs. And, if you’re feeling frisky, why not try one of their famous (and somewhat expensive) steaks?