London, the bustling capital of England, is a city rich in diversity, culture, and history. Amidst its iconic landmarks like Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London, there lies a hidden gem that captures the essence of a bygone era while still buzzing with modern-day vibrancy: Shepherd Market. Nestled in the affluent neighbourhood of Mayfair, this charming square serves as a microcosm of what makes London great. Edward Shepherd, the architect, designed this little oasis back in the 18th century. Over the years, Shepherd Market has worn many hats: it has been a haven for shopping, a hub for entertainment, and yes, even a centre for controversy. The area holds within its cobbled streets the whispers of riotous fairs, notorious brothels, and the brilliance of artists and writers who have found inspiration here. This article aims to pull back the curtain on Shepherd Market, offering you an in-depth look into this intriguing nook of London.
History of Shepherd Market
Originally built on the site of a “May fair,” from which the area Mayfair derives its name, Shepherd Market has an eclectic past. Established as a fashionable district with a market building, duck pond, and even a theatre, the area quickly gained notoriety for less-than-reputable activities like gambling and prostitution. During the 19th century, it became the backdrop for infamous establishments like the Kit Kat Club. But time is the best editor, and it reshaped Shepherd Market. By the 20th century, it had transformed into a bohemian hub, attracting artists and writers. The market building may have been demolished in 1925, but in its place grew a rich culture that led to the area’s revival in the 1960s. Today, it’s an alluring spot for tourists and locals alike, blending its checkered past with present-day charm.
Fun Fact: The name “Mayfair” is actually derived from the “May fair” that used to be held where Shepherd Market now stands. This fair was a fortnight-long event full of festivities but was discontinued in 1708 due to its riotous reputation.
How to Get to Shepherd Market
Located a stone’s throw away from notable attractions like Piccadilly Circus, Green Park, and Hyde Park, Shepherd Market is highly accessible. You can arrive there via the Piccadilly line with the closest Tube stations being Green Park and Piccadilly Circus. Bus routes 94, 199, and 22 also service the area. If you’re driving, though parking is limited, nearby car parks offer alternative options.
What Will You Find in Shepherd Market?
In Shepherd Market, variety is the spice of life. This charming square is like a treasure chest, offering surprises at every corner. Each step you take immerses you in a unique blend of London’s old and new. Just like you wouldn’t visit Paris without going up the Eiffel Tower, or go to New York and not see Times Square, a trip to London would feel incomplete without spending some time in Shepherd Market. So, what exactly does this place have to offer?
Shops: A Retail Wonderland
Shepherd Market has no shortage of independent shops, each one being unique in its own right. If you have an eye for fashion, you’ll find boutiques showcasing British designers as well as global brands. The shops aren’t mere retail outlets but are expressions of individual style and creativity. For those with an interest in history and culture, the antique shops are veritable treasure troves. You might stumble upon a Victorian teapot or an exquisite piece of Georgian furniture. Art lovers are not left out either; with art galleries displaying pieces from modern abstract to classic portraits, there is something for every aesthetic taste. And if you need to pick up some groceries or snacks, a convenient small supermarket is available for those quick grabs.
Restaurants: A Global Culinary Tour
One of the great joys of Shepherd Market is its incredible array of restaurants. It’s a culinary paradise where your palate can travel the globe without your feet having to leave the cobblestones. For a traditional British experience, you can have fish and chips or a classic roast. French bistros offer escargot and coq au vin, while the Italian places seduce you with fresh pasta and fragrant sauces. Japanese sushi bars deliver the freshest sashimi, ensuring a broad spectrum of flavours that could satisfy even the most demanding of foodies.
Bars: The Night Comes Alive
The atmosphere shifts when the sun sets, but Shepherd Market doesn’t lose its vigour. Its bars offer a haven for those looking to relax and soak up the local atmosphere. Cocktails, both classic and inventive, are the order of the day, along with a selection of wines and beers. Of special note is The Grapes, a traditional British pub that dates back to the 16th century. It serves as a cosy gathering point for both tourists and locals, offering that unique British hospitality with a pint and perhaps a pie.
Other Attractions: A Symphony of Experience
Shepherd Market isn’t merely a square where you can shop and eat; it’s a hub teeming with experiences that cater to a wide range of interests. If you fancy fine wine, the Shepherd Market Wine House offers an exquisite collection of reds, whites, and rosés, perfect for the connoisseur or the casual sipper. Art enthusiasts will feel right at home in 54 The Gallery, an intimate space showcasing a selection of contemporary and traditional art. For those with an eye for luxury and a taste for the finer things in life, Heritage Auctions presents a chance to bid on rare and valuable items.
Gentlemen seeking traditional grooming services will find Joseph of Mayfair Barbers to be more than satisfactory. They offer the quintessential British barbering experience, complete with straight-razor shaves and hot towel treatments. Likewise, if precision and luxury are your calling cards, Watches of Mayfair is an obligatory stop. The shop offers a vast range of high-end timepieces that combine craftsmanship with elegance.
In short, Shepherd Market envelops you in a wide variety of experiences, turning an ordinary day into an extraordinary adventure.
Tips for Visiting Shepherd Market
- Comfort is Key: With cobbled streets, comfortable shoes are a must.
- Plan Ahead: It’s wise to make restaurant reservations on popular days and especially on weekends.
- Stay Alert: Though it’s a safe area, it’s good practice to be aware of your surroundings.
Shepherd Market is more than just a charming square in Mayfair; it’s a slice of London that has stood the test of time. It has evolved, yet retained its unique character, making it an intriguing blend of old and new. From its cobbled streets and diverse shops to its rich history and modern amenities, Shepherd Market captivates the hearts of all who visit. Whether you’re in London for a day or a lifetime, this enduring landmark offers something for everyone. So next time you find yourself in the British capital, make sure you don’t miss out on this captivating spot.
- How old is Shepherd Market? Shepherd Market dates back to the 18th century.
- What makes Shepherd Market unique? Its blend of history, shops, restaurants, and vibrant culture.
- Is Shepherd Market safe to visit? Yes, it’s a safe and charming area in Mayfair.
- What type of shops can I find in Shepherd Market? Boutique fashion, antiques, art galleries, and more.
- Are there traditional British pubs in Shepherd Market? Yes, The Grapes is a classic British pub to enjoy.