Fairytale of old London
Not for nothing did our favourite director, Paul Feig, set Last Christmas in the U.K. capital. From The Ritz and Mayfair’s Regency splendour to Covent Garden and Harry Winston on Bond Street, THE RAKE’s new Property Correspondent takes you on a tour of London’s best-dressed streets for the festive season.
Christmas, bringer of that warm, fuzzy feeling. The mulled wine, the mince pies, the mad rush of buying presents for those we love... Jubilant and traditional practices aplenty, but as a Londoner who works in property, I can’t help but ponder another glorious matter: who will have the best Christmas display?
As a child growing up in London, I remember the Christmas lights, lampposts ornately adorned with angels and cherubs, and the brilliance of Harrods’ windows. As ‘holiday fever’ increased in intensity year on year, the build-up to the big day became more of a spectacle. At the same time, Christmas decorations enjoyed a meteoric rise on the London property scene. What began presumably as harmless fun has given way to a fabulous and brazen wave of holiday displays across the city. From storefronts and restaurants to eager residents filled with Christmas cheer, it seems the biggest competition of the year has crystallised in an unexpected way. Here are the best neighbourhoods in London to help you get in the mood for the season.
Mayfair and St. James’s
The mix of five-star hotels, offices and luxury boutique shops gives Mayfair and St. James’s the edge when it comes to the holiday season. Think large wreaths, an abundance of baubles, and amply adorned doors and railings. The Georgian and Regency facades are brought to life in opulence, colour and splendour, and are a must-see for those looking for a dash of glamour in their Christmas photos and selfies. Some of my favourite places include The Ritz, Annabel’s, Fortnum & Mason, and the Burlington Arcade.
Upmarket and demure Belgravia stands out with its beautiful white stuccoed facades, international embassies and quaint London terraced residential houses. A few boutique hotels and shops are dotted about, as well as traditional antique and furniture shops that foster a more residential than commercial atmosphere. Think ornate and calmer streets, with festive displays on both residential homes as well as shop and hotel fronts. There is a more homey feel here than in Mayfair, which is pleasant. Some of my go-to locations are Elizabeth Street, Pimlico Road, Motcomb Street and Cadogan Place.
My home neighbourhood is principally Victorian, though there are some wonderful examples of Georgian architecture, such as Kensington Square. Compared to Mayfair it is a quieter residential area, yet it retains a fabulous old-school charm that makes it so appealing. Chelsea is lined with quaint streets featuring a mix of typically English Victorian terraced houses and grandiose homes, such as those on Cheyne Walk. There are leafy squares and a blend of local and swanky shops for A-listers. With many residents from all over the world, a lot of the decorations have an international element to them, which is rather fun. Some of my favourite places include Peggy Porschen, the cake and cupcake shop; The Ivy Chelsea Garden restaurant; and the charming pub No. Fifty Cheyne. As for home decorations, keep an eye out on Glebe Place, Carlyle Square and Bramerton Street.
Yes,thisistechnicallyMayfair,butitisalsoitsownneighbourhood, and with good reason. My first memory of Bond Street was as ‘the expensive one’ on the Monopoly board. I would try with all my might to buy it, or endeavour not to land on it, to save me from handing over a rather large sum. As I grew up I learned not to fear the place but to embrace its fine shops and retailers. According to Westminster City council, Bond Street has the highest concentration of haute-couture stores in the world. It is split into two sections: Old Bond Street and New Bond Street. The former was developed by Sir Thomas Bond, and enjoyed strong growth in the 1720s. Prestigious shops established in that period still exist today, and their displays are some of the most sumptuous in the city. The Georgian style of architecture ensured that a framework of pilasters and friezes adorned the facades. These are what help create that almost fairytale look of beautiful features, bright lights and eccentric displays. Some of my favourites include the panther at Cartier that ‘comes alive’; the garland arch in front of Harry Winston; the moon and stars at Tiffany’s; and last but not least the street decorations that light the way.
Bustling Covent Garden, on the fringes of the West End, was originally home to a fruit and vegetable market in the central square. It is now a popular shopping destination as well as a tourist hotspot. The piazza transforms into one of the most Christmassy places in London. The best sights include an 18-metre Christmas tree, and there is a Winter Warmer Festival, with mulled wine on hand as you stroll by Christmas pop-up shops. Inside Covent Garden market, think oversized baubles, wreaths and magnificent lighting displays. There is also a reconditioned 1884 Christmas sleigh handpainted by the British artist James Gemmill.
Read the full story in Issue 91, available now.