While its traffic-free cobbled piazza, grand market building and shop-laden backstreets seem quite high-end to today’s visitor, this bustling West End destination was originally Westminster Abbey’s orchard, then a fruit and veg market, then a red light district – the handsome 19-century market buildings were a gentrification effort. The architectural grandeur paid-off: between the opera house and the Apple store this postcode is pretty bloody classy. It does still offer regular craft and antique markets, and you can still see the street performers it was once famous for, but your main activity here is shopping. In the piazza itself mostly the sort of stuff you’d by as a gift for someone you want to impress but don’t know that well – l’Occitane soaps, Laduree macarons, traditional toys from Benjamin Pollock’s Toy Shop. Slightly north in Seven Dials you’ll find mainstream-but-trendy clothing (Pop Boutique), chic gifts (Magma) and the perfect coffee (Monmouth). But largely you’ll enjoy wandering the well-kept courtyards and watching the well-kept world go by from one of the overpriced piazza cafes.
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