Shopping on Regent Street: a visitor’s guide

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    Whether you want to spend some money, do some people watching, or simply enjoy the sights and sounds of one of London’s busiest areas, a trip to Regent Street won’t disappoint.

    This busy thoroughfare sees more than 7.5 million tourist visits a year and there are more than 20,000 people employed here. The street was designed by distinguished architect John Nash and many of the buildings that line the road are Grade II listed. There are a number of public artworks on display too.

    The history of Regent Street

    Regent Street was the world’s first shopping street and one of the first planned developments in London. When it was designed, there was a desire to create some order out of the confusing web of medieval streets. John Nash’s original vision included broad, architecturally distinguished thoroughfares and public spaces, and he planned for a straight boulevard inspired by the ones found in France. However, issues with land ownership did not allow this to happen.

    Final designs were adopted by an Act of Parliament in 1813 and construction began – which first meant demolishing much of what was already there.

    During the 19th century, Regent Street became a centre of fashion. Shops expanded and many of the buildings were seen as old fashioned or not up to building standards. As 99-year leases came to an end, the street saw a huge amount of redevelopment, which led to the street’s appearance today. None of the original structures survive except for some sewers designed by Nash and All Souls Church.

    Finding Regent Street

    Regent Street runs for about a mile, from Waterloo Place in St James’s to All Souls Church at Langham Place. The main shopping area is located between Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus.

    The most convenient Tube stations for those wishing to visit Regent Street are Picadilly Circus (on the Bakerloo and Piccadilly lines) and Oxford Circus (on the Bakerloo, Victoria and Central lines). Other nearby stations within a short walk of Regent Street include Leicester Square, Bond Street, Green Park and Charing Cross.

    A variety of buses travel through the area, including the 3, 6, 7, 10, 12, 13, 23, 25, 55, 73, 88, 94, 98, 137, 139, 159, 189, 390, 453 and C2. Several night buses also service the location.

    The closest Network Rail station is Charing Cross. There are also several cycle hire docking stations nearby if you’re thinking about travelling via bicycle.

    Notable shops

    The shopping choices along Regent Street are numerous, and you can find everything from designer soaps through to luxury vehicles. Here are a few to keep an eye out for:

    Hamley’s – The oldest and largest toy shop in the world, Hamley’s was founded by William Hamley as “Noah’s Ark” in Holborn. It moved to Regent Street in 1760. This flagship store has seven floors and has more than 50,000 toys on sale. It’s also a popular tourist attraction and sees around five million visitors each year.

     

    Apple flagship store – Opened in 2004, this was the first Apple Store in Europe. It’s also the most profitable shop in London, earning £2,000 per square foot a year. However, it’s no longer the largest Apple Store in the UK – that honour goes to the shop in Covent Garden.

     

     

    Jaeger – This shop was founded in 1884 by Lewis Tomalin, who was inspired by naturalist Gustav Jager’s use of non-animal based clothing. The original shop on Fore Street was called “Doctor Jaeger’s Sanitary Woollen System” and Oscar Wilde was a regular visitor to the shop. The premises moved to Regent Street in 1935.

     

    Liberty – Located just off Regent Street, this department store sells a wide range of luxury goods, including men’s, women’s and children’s fashion, as well as cosmetics, fragrances, jewellery, homeware, furniture and stationery. It’s also well known for its floral and graphic prints, which can be found on fabric, clothing, paper and other goods.

     

    Other things to see on Regent Street

    The BBC – Broadcasting House, the BBC’s headquarters is located just north of Regent Street. It was first used by the BBC in 1932 and today, several of the country’s national radio stations are still broadcast from this building.

     

    University of Westminster – Founded in 1838, the main campus is located at No 209 Regent Street. The university is one of the oldest educational institutions in Central London, and it’s home to the Regent Street Cinema, which was a platform for many major scientists, authors and artists, including Charles Dickens, the Lumiere Brothers and John Henry Pepper.

     

     

    All Souls Church – Built in 1823 and consecrated the following year, this is the only surviving building in Regent Street that was designed by John Nash.

     

     

    Piccadilly Circus – This road junction between Regent Street with Piccadilly is a popular meeting place and tourist attraction. It’s well known for its flashing electric signs and the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, which is often mistakenly called the statue of Eros.

     

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