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London’s history is one of the richest in the world, with layers upon layers of Roman, Saxon, Norman and medieval trade, but when it comes to shopping as we know it, we have to take a closer look at the 19th century.
If you’re looking for the most beautiful shopping arcades in London, it is indeed around the 19th century that covered shopping areas became popular, following the famously whimsical English weather.
Beautiful architecture in London can be found in every corner, from medieval sites to secret churches and stunning, famous streets.
Around Piccadilly and Regent Street are to be found some of the most beautiful shopping arcades, however, you will also be able to find a couple around the City of London, also home to many secret alleyways and cute courtyards.
Beyond a curated shopping experience, these shopping arcades also make for influencer favorites, of the kind you would come across when looking for secret photo spots.
From Burlington Arcade to Princes Arcade, these offer independent boutiques and sophisticated luxury brands, and they make for the perfect spot to admire Christmas decorations in London!
The Most Beautiful Shopping Arcades in London
In this guide, I’ll break down a dozen of the most beautiful arcades in London, which ooze history and luxury.
I always like to say that the poshest fashion and jewelry brands are those unbeknownst to the public, and the likes of Piccadilly Arcade and the Royal Arcade are the very places you’ll come across their shops.
And since you’ll be in the heart of London, make sure you discover some of Mayfair’s hidden gems when you’re in the area.
From Brown Hart Gardens, which provides peace and posh, to Mercato Mayfair nestled in a grand church, you have lots to visit around these pretty places!
Most Beautiful Shopping Arcades in London: Leadenhall Market
Leadenhall Market is the first of our guide, and undeniably one of the most beautiful shopping arcades in London.
Its location in the City of London makes it easily accessible from both London Bridge and Liverpool Street, with the whole area filled with gorgeous streets.
Dating back to the 14th century, Leadenhall Market used to be a lead-roofed manor house, from which it takes its name, and stands on the site of a former Roman forum.
You are therefore not only visiting a very pretty shopping arcade when making your way to Leadenhall Market, but also a site rich in medieval and Roman history.
The current structure dates back to the 19th century, and a formidable example of Victorian architecture that blends glasswork and ornate wrought-iron.
You’ll find similar architecture at the Smithfield Meat Market, another one of the City of London’s best hidden gems, and a seemingly long forgotten beauty.
If you ever get hungry, I urge you to try a pastry or two at Aux Merveilleux de Fred, a famous bakery in Paris with several locations in London.
Their French pastries are special and unusual even in France, and they are simply exquisite.
Most Beautiful Shopping Arcades in London: Piccadilly Arcade, Central London
The entrance to Piccadilly Arcade is what makes it one of the most beautiful shopping arcades in London, if I may, especially when you are walking from Fortnum & Mason towards Piccadilly Circus.
Indeed, you’ll find there one of the oldest perfume shops in London, Santa Maria Novella, born during the Middle Ages in Florence, Italy.
Facing Santa Maria Novella and their incredible perfumes, you will find another famous skincare shop, Aesop, whose prices follow those of the posh areas that Mayfair and St James’s are.
Piccadilly Arcade is another perfect photo spot, provided you wake up early, and its location between Piccadilly and Jermyn Street makes it easily accessible from Green Park and Piccadilly Circus stations.
Most Beautiful Shopping Arcades in London: Royal Arcade, Mayfair
Ormonde Jayne might very well be my favorite shop in the Royal Arcade, another one of the most famous spots to go luxury shopping in London.
The British perfume brand is also one of the oldest in town, with elegant scents ranging from their bestselling Montabaco and Levant perfumes to luxury candles.
If there’s one place to visit when going luxury shopping in London, it is Mayfair, which is not lacking in high-end shops, with nearby Bond Street filled with the likes of Cartier, Chanel and Hermès.
However, to further admire London’s beautiful architecture, the Royal Arcade is a must-visit in my book.
And if you feel like a snack (I know I always do), the Royal Arcade is also home to one of London’s oldest and best chocolate shops, Charbonnel et Walker – established in 1875, the Maison is properly English and known for being the Royal Family for decades.
Most Beautiful Shopping Arcades in London: Royal Exchange, City of London
The Royal Exchange is a historic building located in the City of London, a couple of steps away from Bank Tube station, and another one of the incredibly beautiful shopping arcades to visit when in London.
You’re really close to some of the City of London’s secret churches, namely St Stephen Walbrook, as well as stunning courtyards that showcase London’s history better than any other place in the city.
The Royal Exchange was founded in the 16th century, originally established as center for commerce, before it was destroyed during the Great Fire of London in 1666, like St Paul’s Cathedral and St Dunstan in the East, two landmarks within walking distance.
The current Royal Exchange was opened by Queen Victoria in 1844, and its neoclassical architecture is probably one of the prettiest reminders of Italian slash Roman architecture in London.
You will find a few shops inside, but I have to say that what you’ll mostly visit for is the architecture, before enjoying a well-deserved coffee at the Fortnum & Mason cafe.
Also, and because you shouldn’t miss it for the world, pop by Horizon 22 if you have the time.
This is one of the City of London’s best free rooftops, and can be booked online or directly at the door with a QR code – and it’s currently one of the highest free rooftops in Europe!
Most Beautiful Shopping Arcades in London: Burlington Arcade, Mayfair
Aside from Leadenhall Market and the Royal Exchange, Burlington Arcade is another must-visit spot – if you’re looking for secret places, that definitely won’t be it.
Burlington Arcade is one of the world’s oldest shopping arcades, opened in 1819 by Lord George Cavendish, then co-owner of Burlington House.
The ornate iron and glass roof gives Burlington Arcade an air of grandeur completed by the luxurious shops housed inside; Anya Hindmarch, Lalique, Roja Parfums and Manolo Blahnik all have branches there.
The shopping arcade’s elegance is something otherworldly, and around Christmas time, it becomes one of the places to visit in London for decorations and lights for which no budget has been spared.
It’s one of the it places to go shopping in Mayfair, only equalled in beauty by Bond Street and New Bond Street, if I may.
Within walking distance, Mount Street Gardens offers an aura of peace and calm much needed after a shopping morning.
Or, if you get hungry, know that some of London’s most extravagant restaurants are located all around Mayfair, with statues and columns beyond your wildest dreams.
Most Beautiful Shopping Arcades in London: Princes Arcade, Piccadilly
Then, we have another one of the most beautiful shopping arcades in London, once again located in Piccadilly.
Parallel to Piccadilly Arcade, Princes Arcade connects Jermyn Street with Piccadilly, and is a very pretty place to enjoy Christmas decorations when the time is right.
While it’s usually much easier to find female fashion brands in London, Princes Arcade is filled with luxury goods for men, from British shoe brands to leather bags and high-end clothing.
Again, you’re close to both Maison Assouline and Fortnum & Mason here, which also means you are close to Burlington Arcade and Burlington House, a historic building housing the Royal Academy of Arts.
All three should be visited if you’re passing by Princes Arcade, as they all offer beautiful architecture and special things to buy in London!
Most Beautiful Shopping Arcades in London: Quadrant Arcade, Regent Street
Just off Regent Street, Quadrant Arcade was closed for the longest time, and the Grade II listed arcade, with its incredible Art Deco architecture, is one of the places you cannot miss when walking around Central London.
Regent Street is not only one of the most famous, but also prettiest streets in Central London.
Since you’ll definitely visit, at least when traveling to London for the first time, make sure you pop by Quadrant Arcade.
Originally established in 1928, the beautiful shopping arcade is now back and prettier than ever before, especially around Christmas time.
One shop to visit when in Quadrant Arcade is Creed, with decadent high-end perfume scents – even if you’re used to budget shopping in London, you will want to try them out.
Most Beautiful Shopping Arcades in London: Hay’s Galleria, London Bridge
Hay’s Galleria is probably one of the most underrated – yet still gorgeous shopping arcades in London, and turns into a very colorful spot during spring and Christmas time.
Located in Southbank, very close to London Bridge, Hay’s Galleria is nestled in a former warehouse dating back to the 19th century.
The steel and glass roof is only one of Hay’s Galleria highlights and reflects its industrial background, and, notably, you’ll find there Cafe Piazza, a great coffee shop when it comes to decadent hot chocolate.
You only have a few shops inside Hay’s Galleria, which is rather home to cafes and restaurants – namely a great Costa Coffee perfect to study.
In the middle of Hay’s Galleria is also suspended a David Kemp replica of the ship The Navigators, which strongly echoes the past of the arcade, and a strong reminder that we are indeed in one of London’s maritime neighborhoods.
You’ll also find many different hidden gems in London Bridge and nearby Bermondsey, all worth a visit to learn about London’s history as a port.
Most Beautiful Shopping Arcades in London: Royal Opera House Arcade, Covent Garden
Covent Garden is one of the oldest places in London, with the piazza laid out for the first time in 1631.
However, even if Covent Garden’s shops attract thousands of visitors on the daily, the Royal Opera House Arcade still seems to be one of the area’s hidden gems.
That’s where you’ll find many different jewelry shops, for instance, including Vashi, a personal favorite.
Make your way to Long Acre when you’re done enjoying the Royal Opera House Arcade to find all kinds of fashion shops.
You’ll also find quite a few hidden gems in Covent Garden and around, starting with Bageriet, an incredibly tiny and instagrammable Swedish bakery, and ending with Stanfords, a beautiful travel and map bookshop.
Most Beautiful Shopping Arcades in London: Apple Market, Covent Garden
As it’s a covered market, I thought I’d include Covent Garden’s Apple Market, which not only offers plenty of artisan and souvenir shops, but also amazing cafes and restaurants.
One of my favorite tea shops in London, Whittard of Chelsea, is located inside the Apple Market, and is very much worth a visit for amazing tea, hot chocolate preparations and chocolate-covered coffee beans.
Around Christmas time, the Apple Market truly becomes one of the prettiest shopping arcades in London, with huge baubles hanging from the ceiling.
It’s interesting to note that while Covent Garden was one of the first developed neighborhoods in London, it did not always present this aesthetic, especially not in the 17th century, when it was merely a vegetable and fruit market for the monks of Westminster Abbey.
That’s what makes it so interesting in my opinion, since you can also learn about the history of Covent Garden with boards plastered on the walls around the Apple Market.
If you get hungry for a little snack, Laduree on one end of the Apple Market offers some of the best macarons in London, and you’ll have a straight view on the performers in front of St Paul’s Church’s gate!
Most Beautiful Shopping Arcades in London: Gloucester Arcade, South West London
Gloucester Arcade in South Kensington is one of the most secret shopping arcades out of this whole guide, and already offers great insight on the posh area it is nestled in.
You only have a few shops inside Gloucester Arcade, but if you’re ever in need of quick shopping, you’ll find a very handy Waitrose there.
After all, it’s not the convenience of supermarkets and food shops we’d be looking for when visiting beautiful shopping arcades, but rather interesting architecture.
And since the glass roof of Gloucester Arcade is lovely, if you’re ever around, say, visiting Dopamineland, the Science Museum or the Natural History Museum, it’s worth a quick visit.
The Most Beautiful Shopping Arcades in London
Beyond their beautiful character, London’s shopping arcades testify to the city’s history with their architectural notes.
One of my favorite things to do in Central London has always been to go shopping, whether for Kurt Geiger handbags or Barry M lip liners, but I do love taking the time to admire the city’s history.
When you are done discovering these, why not continue roaming the city in search of properly British shops?
Close to Burlington Arcade, you’ll find, for instance, the stunning department store Fortnum & Mason, perfect for Penhaligon’s perfumes and luxurious makeup brands.
Or, make your way to the City of London to enjoy views of not only Leadenhall Market, but all of the secret streets around it!
Until next time!
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