While visiting London you can never give a miss to Shepherd Market in Mayfair. Though created about a century back it still has the typical old world charm about it. From a stroll at the Green Park to having tea at homely cafes, to picking up gifts from boutique stores for your near and dear ones a visit to Shepherd Market is always entertaining. This impressive market square with shops, restaurants, and Victorian pubs has a relaxed and addictive ambience.
Unlike the more popular shopping areas like Oxford Street and Piccadilly, Shepherd Market is an escape into a more subdued and laid back environment. It is a 5-minutes’ walk from Green Park underground station and close to Grand Hotel London Hyde Park in Paddington.
Image Credit: Andrei Tudoran
History of Mayfair and Shepherd Market
The place where Shepherd Market today is being originally the venue of infamous 15-day fair that was held here during the month of May. James II established this fair in 1680 primarily for trading cattle. With every successive year thereafter the fair became bigger and unruly. It even went to the extent of frequent rioting. Queen Anne put an end to this May fair and her successor King George I set up in developing this area into a proper market place. Edward Shepherd, an architect and developer was commissioned to develop that area. In between 1735-46 the entire area was developed with a two-storied Shepherd Market with a theatre atop, paved alleys and a duck pond. After development of Shepherd Market, the entire surrounding got transformed. Unruly cattle traders were replaced by more sophisticated visitors. By the beginning of 20th century Mayfair became an address for the refined and ultramodern residents of London.
Interesting stories abound about Mayfair and Shepherd Market. It is here that P.G. Wodehouse’s fictional character Wooster and his butler Jeeves stayed. Author Michael Arlen stayed here opposite ‘The Grapes Public house’ for writing his novel ‘The Green Hat’ which had the Shepherd Market as its backdrop. This book became a Broadway hit and was also made into a film featuring Greta Garbo. In more recent times, author Jeffrey Archer met Monica Coghlan a prostitute in the 1980s and their encounter eventually landed Archer in prison.
Shepherd Market today is no longer the address of the aristocrats that stayed here about a century or fifty years back, though some families have stayed behind. It is now an escapade for Londoners who love to shop and dine in a relaxed environment. It is now a veritable market place with shops, boutique stores, eateries, and pubs. There are pharmacies, barbers, tailors, luggage makers etc lining the alleys or in street corners. In the midst of the crowds you would also discover the most luxurious vehicles parked on the roads. These belong to the wealthy families that have stayed back in Shepherd Market area.
Week days and week nights at Shepherd Market
On weekdays you get to see local businessmen and office goers scattered across the market area. You might come across an occasional group of Japanese or American tourists led by a guide. During lunch hours the place becomes a little crowded with many office executives coming for a quick bite of sandwiches or burgers. Shoppers are few. Art galleries draw in some visitors. These art galleries are interesting as their exhibits change regularly.
Evenings are strikingly different from daytime. The pubs and eateries get enlivened with employees working in nearby Curzon Street, Paddington, and Piccadilly coming in hundreds and filling up the pubs. Many of the art galleries host open evenings regularly where wine and food are served free. There is a distinctive crowd for these art galleries.
Weekends at Shepherd Market
Weekends are remarkably different from weekdays at Shepherd Market. The entire area transforms into an area of activity and cheerfulness. Crowds swell with shoppers spilling over from Bond Street and Oxford Street. Londoners from near and far come in more for food and less for shopping. People come with families for the relaxed ambience of this area and the hospitality meted out at the restaurants and pubs. On weekends office goers are completely replaced by a more informal crowd. The lanes and alleys though become crowded compared to weekdays still manage to maintain a tranquil charm throughout.
Eating and drinking in Shepherd Market
Perhaps the best place to have English ale in London is Shepherd Market in Mayfair. The relaxed setting of the pubs is perfect for a pin of this drink after a hard day of work or touring. For coffee lovers there are traditional cafes done up in trendy decor. Here you could savour English tea with fish and chips. From breakfast to suppers, everything is served with care and smile. Be it a French toast for breakfast, a duck roast for lunch, or sauté vegetables with bread roll for dinner, each item is prepared from fresh ingredients and is typically English.
Image Credit: Billion Photos
It is not that; you have to remain satisfied with English cuisine while visiting Shepherd Market. If there are French, Italian, and Polish restaurants to serve European cuisine, there is equal representation of Asian restaurants serving authentic Indian, Thai, and Lebanese recipes. There are restaurants that also serve American and Mexican dishes. With so much variety available for food lovers it is only natural that they come in hundreds every day. Weekday evenings and throughout the day on weekends Mayfair eateries remain full.
Things to do at Shepherd Market
The Royal Academy of Arts – From June to August, Summer Exhibition is held here every year. This is supposedly world’s largest submission art exhibition and attracts art connoisseurs from across the globe. There are exhibits of paintings, sculpture and architecture to admire.
Image Credit: David Burrows
Visiting Green Park – This 40 acres of greenery offers an enchanting walk on your visit to Buckingham Palace.
Shopping at Mount Street – For exclusive buying, there is no comparison to Mount Street. Items in cut-glass and bone china, exclusive fashion apparels, and antique comprise a few of these.
While visiting London next, make a programme to visit Shepherd Market in Mayfair and feel its tranquillity.