One of London’s most famous thoroughfares, Regent Street – and its immediate area – is an esteemed destination for any visitor to the UK capital, offering many of the biggest highlights of the West End district. But what exactly does it contain and why should you definitely pay it a visit? Here’s our handy guide to one of the most revered of streets in the Smoke…
Where is it – and what’s in it?
Winding its way north to south, the broad, mock-Georgian boulevard that’s Regent Street effectively divides Soho on its eastern side from Mayfair on its western side and connects the equally iconic mainstays of the West End that are Oxford Circus with Piccadilly Circus. For the most part, of course, Regent Street’s revered for its plethora of luxury brand-backed retail outlets, but there’s also a number of fantastic fine dining, bar and café options; ideal if you fancy a slap-up meal, a terrific cocktail or a quality coffee.
What’s the shopping like?
Whether you fancy a spot of window shopping or the real thing, Regent Street’s the perfect destination for some fancy retail therapy. With major high street outlets such as All Saints, Mango, Reiss, Cos and Zara and world-famous fashion and retailing names like Apple, Mulberry, Aquascutum, Burberry, Calvin Klein, Hackett and Massimo Dutti, there’s everything under the sun to choose from up and the down the street. Plus, who could resist the legendary toy shop supreme that’s Hamleys or the adored, oh-so elegant department store that’s Liberty (to be found tucked just behind Regent Street on Great Marlborough Street)?
And, last but not least, any visit to the area simply wouldn’t be complete without a stroll along the iconic Carnaby Street. Located just behind Regent Street on its eastern side, this short thoroughfare will be forever associated with the fashion, style and culture of London in the Swinging Sixties and, as such, retains a retro vibe thanks to being home to a number of kitschy, yet cutting edge retail outlets. Indeed, if you’re staying relatively nearby – at, say, a hotel near London Paddington station, like the Shaftesbury Premier London Paddington hotel – this is one spot in the capital you have to make a beeline for; just imagine the bragging rights when you’ve returned home!
What about eating out?
Both spoil-yourself-rotten high-end dining destinations and agreeable but affordable restaurants and eateries are very much in evidence in the immediate area around Regent Street. For instance, for those with expensive taste(bud)s, the likes of Gaucho Grill, Momo and Sketch are simply must-visits, while cheaper but still delicious options are provided by chain eateries like Pizza Express and La Tasca. And don’t forget to have a snoop around Kingly Court, a three-floor covered piazza that lies between Regent Street and Carnaby Street and offers everything from al fresco dining to à la carte menus.
What about the watering holes?
As it’s located in the heart of the West End, Regent Street too is a fine place to head for some top nightlife spots – or if you just fancy a quick early-evening drink before heading on elsewhere. Stylish cocktail venues as well as traditional English pubs are to be discovered dotted among its many back streets, including the famed Sketch Bar and, of course, the equally talked-about Ice Bar – where, yes, the temperature’s kept so low the literal ‘ice bar’ doesn’t melt!
What about the Christmas lights?
Finally, if you’re planning your visit to the Big Smoke for later in the year, it’s worth considering travelling in late autumn; that way, you’ll be able to experience first-hand the Regent Street’s Christmas lights. Perennially the most elegant and often the most spectacular of the area’s festive illuminations along its thoroughfares, the lights on Regent Street tend to have a theme each year. What exactly that’ll be this year – and what they’ll look like –is a closely guarded secret, of course; nobody but those in the know have any idea until the big switch-on.
That said, should you do your online research ahead of time, at least you’ll be likely to find out which VIP’s been called on for the switch-on duties – should you come along to the ceremony then, not only will you get to witness the lights come in the street for the very first time that season, but you’ll also be able to get some serious celeb-spotting done. What could be better!