A revitalised West End is still London’s top shopping destination, but it also has everything you could want for a perfect weekend break in the capital.
The West End shopping mecca of Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street attracts 200 million visits each year. But of these visitors 25 per cent are from overseas and a further 21 per cent are from outside of the capital. For Londoners, often the West End is overlooked in favour of less tourist-heavy shopping destinations or, when a visit to Selfridges or Topshop is a shopping necessity, involves a swift dash in and out to avoid the crowds.
However, with 179 flagship stores and hundreds of exclusive designer boutiques hidden in the area, the West End is once again becoming the shopping destination of choice for even the most jaded Londoner and offers an exciting fusion of high-street and high-end fashion.
Here at BRITAIN we decided to try out a weekend in the London West End and were pleasantly surprised by some hitherto unnoticed hidden gems. One of our favourite fashion finds was the delightful and romantic St. Christopher’s Place just off Oxford Street; an exciting mix of well-known shops, quirky boutiques and alfresco dining.
After a long day’s shopping, we also loved the beauty treatments available across many of the West End’s iconic stores. You can have a sleek blowdry at Hersheson’s blow dry bar in Topshop, or try Filthy Gorgeous or Nail Inc in Debenhams to add daring colour to your fingertips.
We went to Wah Nails in Topshop and they offer such extraordinary designs it’s easy to spend an exorbitant amount of time deliberating. Did we want strawberries to compensate for the dismal summer? Leopard print? Polka dots? It would have been sensible to pick a colour that goes with everything but at this bonkers nail bar the whole point is to be slightly outlandish; why ask for something that can be recreated at home? Mint green with gold studs was the order of the day.
The West End isn’t all about the shopping and pampering though, and is home to 40 renowned theatres, 30 museums and galleries, and 17 Michelin-starred restaurants. We escaped the busy streets for dinner at the Criterion in Piccadilly.
Though the restaurant sits bang in the centre of Piccadilly Circus, stepping inside its magnificent glittering interior is like entering a different world. The menu, made from the finest and freshest British ingredients, was equally impressive and the gazpacho starter with avocado mousse and tiger prawns was simply delicious.
If you’re coming to the West End from out of town, then the area has many attractive hotels to choose from. The new W Hotel in Leicester Square is unashamedly stylish and offers Asian-inspired cuisine at its restaurant the Spice Market, presided over by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who has three Michelin stars.
We stayed at long-term West End favourite, Sanderson, off Oxford Street. With its diaphanous white curtains and dream-like theme, this fashionable hotel is the perfect antidote to serious shopping. We particularly liked the little touches such as pretty tea-lights lit in the rooms ready for guests to come back to, and the cocktails in the Long Bar are not to be missed.
For food, fashion, entertainment and nightlife, the West End has it all to suit every taste and budget – why not give it a try?
The best of the West End
The Sanderson Hotel Room rates start from £215 plus VAT for a standard queen-size room. To book, call 020 7300 1400 and ask for reservations or visit: www.sandersonlondon.com
Oxford Street’s High Street Fashion Week presented by the Metro took place on 5-9 September. To find out more visit: www.facebook.com/OxfordStW1
John Lewis To book a Fashion Advice appointment at your nearest John Lewis please call 020 3073 0564. www.johnlewis.com
Debenhams To book a free Personal Shopping appointment call 0844 561 6161 and ask for your nearest store. www.debenhams.com
Liberty of London Set in an iconic Tudor building, Liberty a wonderful emporium where the latest fashions sit alongside design classics. It offers everything from grooming services for men to designer fashion brands such as Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood and Manolo Blahnik.
Visit Hersheson’s Blow Dry Bar in Topshop Oxford Street, browse the hair menu, choose your favourite and the team will create a look in 30 minutes – no need to book. To book an appointment at WAH Nails email email@example.com
Sensory Lab Coffee wake-up at Barrett Street in St Christopher’s Place
Sofra To book a table at Sofra or any other restaurants at St Christopher’s Place, visit www.stchristophersplace.co.uk
London Palladium: Wizard of Oz To reserve tickets call 0844 412 2704 www.wizardofozthemusical.com
Learn more about our kings and queens, castles and cathedrals, countryside and coastline in every issue of BRITAIN magazine!