When King Henry VIII demolished a hospital for sick women to make way for his new hunting lodge, he paved the way for the development of one of London’s greatest gems, the stylish and sophisticated area of St James’s. Over the next 300 years, it became home to the “best sort of people”, where you’d find houses owned by “persons of the highest social rank”.
St James’s is still where you’ll find some of London’s grandest homes today, along with its finest hotels, bars and restaurants. It also has the oldest luxury shops in the world, and one of its streets boasts more Royal Warrants than any other street in the country. (Royal Warrants are awarded to businesses that supply the royal family.)
This tour will take you through elegant streets into leafy garden squares and narrow alleyways. Along the way, we’ll see some of London’s most iconic sights and also plenty of hidden gems. Most of all, we’ll hear the stories, scandals and gossip that have all helped to create the unique character of the area that we see today.
Among the things you’ll see are:
• A royal palace where you could live if your pockets are deep enough
• The oldest wine and spirit merchant in the world
• The shop where you can spend around £17,000 for a pair of shoes
• London’s only Nazi memorial
• The Grand Old Duke of York
• The most decadent nightclub in London
• The world’s most famous corner shop
And you’ll hear stories about:
• A customer of one of London’s most exclusive shops who met a grisly end
• A famous pop star who arrived for an evening out as naked as the day he was born
• Daniel Craig’s swimming trunks
• How King Charles II may well have been an illegitimate child
• A great military commander who was too short to get on and off his horse
• The female Member of Parliament who was tempted to poison Winston Churchill
• The famous Hollywood star who was thrown out into the street for inappropriate behaviour
I’m sure you’ll enjoy soaking up the unique atmosphere of St James’s with me.
Green Park, St James's Palace, Pall Mall, St James's Square, Jermyn Street, Piccadilly, Fortnum & Mason
The tour starts on the south side of Piccadilly, outside Green Park Tube Station. If you're coming by tube, Green Park is served by the Piccadilly, Jubilee and Victoria lines. Start the tour by standing outside the entrance to Green Park with the legendary Ritz Hotel immediately to your left.
Places to stop along the way:
Why not finish the tour in style and treat yourself to a traditional afternoon tea in Fortnum & Mason's Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon. Don't forget to book in advance.
Best time of day:
You can enjoy this tour at any time of day. It can get busy around St James's Palace when the Changing of the Guard is taking place and you can check the schedule on the Household Division website.
St James's is generally a very safe part of London but like all big cities the traffic can be very heavy at times. If you're visiting from another country remember that we drive on the left side of the road here. When crossing roads, look both ways carefully before crossing as the traffic may well be coming from the opposite direction from which you are used.
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