London’s Burlington Arcade was one of the world’s first shopping arcades. Opened in 1819 to great acclaim and now recognised as a historic and architectural masterpiece. The Burlington Arcade is one of the longest covered shopping streets in Britain. However, the Burlington Arcade was completed in 1819, a year after The Royal Opera Arcade, often promoted as the oldest shopping arcade in the world of its type and is just a short walk from the Burlington Arcade. These arcades are the precursors of the mid-19th century European shopping gallery and the modern shopping centre.
Unlike today’s malls, the early arcades had style and top architects of the day were used like John Nash, more famous for Buckingham Palace and the flamboyant Brighton Pavillion.
So a walk through these arcades today combines history, architecture and insight into London 200 years ago as well as prices and shopping purchases of the rich today.
The arcades in the Piccadilly area today were originally marketed to the very top of society, with only the most select tailors, corsetiers, watchmakers and jewellers. Little has changed today, the whole area is very exclusive, though perhaps unlike 200 years ago you’ll find more leather goods and handbags than corsets.
So for this short walk we’ll take you through two arcades, Piccadilly Arcade and Burlington Arcade. Both have exits opposite one another on Piccadilly so you just cross the road to visit both.
Piccadilly Aracade is the relatively new gallery of the two, opened in 1910. We’ll start the walk in Jermyn Street entrance. Jermyn Street is full of ‘gentlemen’s outfitters’ still selling top of the range shirts, ties and suits suitable for the many gentlemen’s clubs in the area. (No not those gentlemen’s clubs, the ones with old men on leather sofas under chandeliers sipping a brandy gentlemen’s clubs).
There are 16 shops within the arcade, offering high quality goods and a service of national and international repute. From modern and vintage jewellery, handmade waistcoats and tailoring to unusual and unique giftware.
Burlington Aracde is for most people the most fascinating gallery. The entrance is directly opposite the Piccadilly exit of the Piccadilly Arcade. Bob has a specific detailed blog on Burlington Arcade
Getting To Shopping Arcades
The Arcade entrances in Piccadilly are the easiest entrance to find. Directly adjacent to the Royal Academy, on the north side of Piccadilly along Piccadilly Burlington Arcade is only a short walk from both Green Park (go east towards Pccadilly Circus) and Piccadilly Circus (go west) underground stations. Piccadilly Aracde is on the south side. Jermyn Street runs parrallel to Piccadilly south of Piccadilly. Fortnum & Mason, another very high class shop is almost opposite the entrance. The whole area is a high class shopping district.