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Best Things to do in Mayfair: An Insider’s Area Guide

Best Things to do in Mayfair: An Insider’s Area Guide

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Mayfair, nestled in the heart of central London and renowned as being a playground for the rich and famous, is actually a neighbourhood with a lot to offer those of us with rather more modest budgets. Explore Mayfair with this comprehensive insider’s guide.

From its string of slick restaurants, upmarket cocktail bars, boutique stores, and multitude of historic landmarks, it is a side of London that everyone should experience.

Undoubtedly the poshest district in London and universally known for occupying the priciest and most prestigious spot on Monopoly boards, Mayfair is an upscale hub of swish restaurants serving Instagram-worthy gourmet cuisine, high-end designer boutiques, and iconic red brick mansions that are home to some of the most affluent individuals in the city.

Flourishing from a rural field at the turn of the 18th century into a desirable postcode for the upper classes of London, Mayfair has a rich and fascinating past. First, there was the annual ‘May Fair’ in which the district’s name originates – a raucous festivity that was eventually banned on the grounds of being a public scandal. 

Mayfair’s gritty past of disorderly celebrations, debauchery and red-light district status is far-removed from the affluence and reputation it exudes today.

Stately buildings in Mayfair

Whether you have cash to splash, or are resigned to people-watching and window shopping, Mayfair is a fabulous and unique part of London to explore, and there are a whole host of bars, cafes and restaurants to sample, historic shops to discover, galleries and museums to stroll around, and plenty more hidden treasures.

So, if you’re ready to find out what to do in Mayfair, come with us on a journey of discovery.

Things to do in Mayfair

St James’s Park 

St James's Park

The prettiest of London’s Royal Parks (no, there’s no question as far as I’m concerned), St James’s Park nestles between Buckingham Palace and Westminster. 

There are plenty of colourful borders providing a backdrop for a sunny picnic and spectacular photo opportunities of Buckingham Palace, Horse Guards and The London Eye. 

Keep an eye out for the pelicans – first introduced by the Russian ambassador in the 17th century, they’ve flourished in the park ever since. Keep your eyes peeled for the occasional politician taking a morning or lunchtime constitutional – Neville Chamberlain and his wife used to walk through St James’ Park every day during his time as Prime Minister.

K2 Telephone Boxes

K2 Telephone Boxes

Few iconic designs shout London as much as the K2 Telephone Boxes

There are surprisingly few bright red boxes remaining around the city today, but if you look inside the entrance to the Royal Academy just off Piccadilly you can see the originals that kicked the whole famous craze off.

These are Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s original prototypes – and the smallest listed buildings in London. 

Afternoon Tea at Claridge’s

Afternoon Tea

One of the most quintessentially British things to do in Mayfair is to stop for a spot of afternoon tea at the world-famous hotel Claridge’s. 

The origins of the iconic afternoon tea are believed to date back to 1840, when Anna Russell, 7th Duchess of Bedford, needed something to curb her appetite between lunch and dinner. Serving freshly prepared cupcakes, scones, and other sweet treats along with perfectly cut rectangle savoury sandwiches, afternoon tea at Claridge’s is a must.

This famous upmarket hotel offers a few twists on the traditional afternoon tea, including a Champagne afternoon tea that contains some additional sparkle, and a children’s afternoon tea to provide future generations with a taste opulence.

Royal Academy of Arts

The historic Royal Academy of Arts lies a little outside the heart of Mayfair, in Piccadilly. 

Having funded a series of incredible artists for more than250 years, the Academy offers an array of different artistic exhibitions, from its permanent collection that features some highly prestigious artists, to its famous annual Summer Exhibition that highlights upcoming contemporary talent.

While some exhibitions require pre-booking and paid entry, several are free for everyone to enter as they look to help make art accessible for all.

If you are an art or history fanatic, a trip to the Royal Academy of Arts should be high on your list of things to do in Mayfair.  

Pickering Place

Pickering Place Mayfair

England’s smallest square takes some finding. So much so that without knowing where it is, chances are you’ll walk right past the narrow walkway that leads you to Pickering Place

It may be small but this hidden square is one of Mayfair’s quirkiest spots – the very place where the last duel in England was fought and the historical base for the Ambassador of Texas (before it became a part of the US). 

Here, you can find original gas-powered street lighting still in evidence and beautiful Georgian architecture that transports you back to the 18th Century. Legend has it that Georgian dandy Beau Brummel once fought a duel here in amongst the gambling dens and bear-baiting.

Thankfully, things are rather calmer these days, and you can imagine what life might have been like in Georgian London.

St James’s Palace

St James's Palace London

Chances are that when you think of a royal palace in this part of town, you’ll think of Buckingham Palace… but there’s another much older palace ensconced in Mayfair too: St James’s Palace

St James’s was actually the royal residence in London for 300 years until Queen Victoria decamped the family to Buckingham down the road. While you can’t have a look around inside, the gorgeous facade originally built by Henry VIII is well worth looking at.

Today the palace remains in regular use as a working palace, with The Accession Council meeting here after the death of a monarch, while several royal family occasions continue to be held here, such as the christening of Prince Louis in 2018. 

Down Street Station 

Down Street Station

London is full of abandoned tube stations – but Down Street stands out. 

This former station on the Piccadilly Line lies between Green Park and Hyde Park Corner stations, but was little used. Many trains didn’t stop here and the lack of use led to its closure in 1932.

Hidden down a small street just off Hyde Park Corner, the station served as an important base in World War II and was where Winston Churchill often took refuge during the height of The Blitz before the Cabinet War Rooms around the corner from Downing Street were ready for use. 

You can visit with one of TfL’s brilliant Hidden London tours

Berkeley Square

Berkeley Square

Originally designed in the mid-18th century by the renowned English architect, William Kent, Berkeley Square is a leafy public garden surrounded by elegant residential buildings. 

A string of famous residents have called Berkeley Square home over the centuries, some of which include the notable writer, Horace Walpole, who lived at No. 11, Winston Churchill, who lived at No.48 as a child, Lord Clive of India (number 45), and another former Prime Minister, George Canning (number 50)

Listen carefully and you may just hear the call of the famous nightingale immortalised in song by Eric Maschwitz and Manning Sherwin at the start of World War II.

Handel & Hendrix

Handel Blue Plaque London

Doubling up as the Handel & Hendrix Museum, which celebrates the works of the famous composer, George Frederic Handel, 25 Brook Street was also the home of Jimi Hendrix, who lived at the address from July 1968 and March 1969. 

In the Handel House, you can expect to find four restored historic rooms that contain numerous artefacts and objects that belonged to the composer, whilst in Hendrix’s flat, there is a permanent exhibition that documents Hendrix’s position in the thriving artistic and musical world of London in the 1960s. 

Christie’s and Sotheby’s


The global leaders of auctioneering and renowned for auctioning some of the world’s most prestigious items and artefacts, both Christie’s and Sotheby’s are situated in the heart of Mayfair. 

Depending on when you visit, both auction houses open their doors to members of the public, where you can view a selection of items before the auction date before sheepishly putting your purse or wallet back in your pocket once you see the reserve prices. 

If there are no upcoming exhibitions, it is still well-worth strolling past the buildings which are beautiful.

Queen Alexandra Memorial

Queen Alexandra Memorial

Hidden in plain sight down the side of St James’s Palace, the Queen Alexandra Memorial is an elaborate memorial commemorating the much-loved wife of King Edward VII.

Queen Alexandra of Denmark, to give her her full title, didn’t always enjoy the happiest of marriages with Edward, who was a renowned and unabashed philanderer. Yet, she was adored by the British public.

Sheathed in black enamel, it’s a gorgeous art-nouveau work by Alfred Gilbert (who also designed the Eros Statue in Piccadilly Circus). Swing by on your way to St James’s Park. 

Marlborough Gallery

Founded in 1946 by Frank Lloyd and Harry Fischer, Marlborough Fine Art is situated on Old Bond Street, and started out initially exhibiting works by predominantly Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, French Modern masters, as well as an array of antique books. 

Over the last 75-plus years, the Marlborough Gallery has exhibited a plethora of ground-breaking works, and continues to push artistic boundaries; it is well-worth seeing if there are any exciting exhibitions on when you are visiting Mayfair.

Faraday’s Laboratory and Museum

Royal Institution of Great Britain

Part of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, the fascinating Faraday Laboratory and Museum is a brilliant spot for science enthusiasts; discover over 200 years of ground-breaking scientific research and invention, and explore Michael Faraday’s actual laboratory. 

It is completely free to visit, and enormously fascinating; there is an enormous selection of historic and scientific items, from Faraday’s magnetic spark apparatus, his magneto-optical apparatus, and even his voltammeter, which was revolutionary in changing how electricity is quantified.

The Small Galleries 

Mayfair, being the monied place it is, teems with small art galleries – some of which are London outposts of more established brands, others independent. 

You can find them in the series of smaller roads that run around the block of Dover Street and Old/New Bond Street. The galleries are small but mighty. The work is often by artists with fairly well-established names. That said, unless you’re big into the art world the chances are you’ll be discovering them for yourselves. 

A lot of the gallery’s doors will be closed. Just knock or ring the bell and staff will be happy to let you in to browse

Shepherd Market

Bridging the gap between Mayfair and Piccadilly, Shepherd Market has a fascinating history. Comprising two square precincts built between 1735 and 1746 on the open ground used for the May fair from which Mayfair takes its name, it became well-known for up-market prostitutes until as recently as the 1980s.

While its debauched past has long been consigned to history, this remains a fascinating spot to wander through just for its interesting story.

Flat 12, 9 Curzon Place has had a particularly chequered history. Cass Elliott, known as Mama Cass, an American actress died here on 28th July 1974, four years before Keith Moon of The Who passed away at the same premises. The owner at the time was Harry Nilsson.

At the Eastern end of the market is the Curzon Mayfair Cinema, while the market itself is home to some gorgeous pubs, restaurants, and independent boutique stores. 

The Royal Arcade

The Royal Arcade

Whether you are looking to purchase some new treats, or simply stroll through and soak up the atmosphere, The Royal Arcade is an unmissable spot in Mayfair.

A guide to the area’s best hotels for your stay.

Constructed in 1879, and connecting the beautiful Old Bond Street with Albemarle Street, the elegant and historic Royal Arcade is the oldest shopping arcade in London. 

Filled with exclusive fashion and jewellery shops, this exquisite arcade is richly designed with fabulous Victorian features, and it truly feels as though you have jumped back in time. 

Savile Row

Savile Row

World-famous for being the home of men’s tailoring, Savile Row is a street in Mayfair that is dedicated to producing bespoke, traditional suits. 

The Row has a rich history spanning approximately 300 years, and until this day remains an icon for men’s luxury attire.

A few of the best tailors to visit on Savile Row include Huntsman, Davies & Son, who have historically fashioned bespoke attire for Kings, Princes and Presidents. Another fantastic Savile Row tailor is Bernard Weatherill, which was founded in 1910, and holds a Royal Warrant for Queen Elizabeth. 

Heywood Hill

The perfect spot for bibliophiles, the famous Heywood Hill bookshop is situated in the heart of Mayfair, and sells everything from antique classics to new releases. 

Housed across two floors of an elegant Georgian townhouse, Heywood Hill is a magical literary spot, and has attracted a plethora of famous writers and curious readers since it first opened in 1936.

They also offer a personalised book subscription service for you, and will even take time out to curate tailored gift boxes for the bibliophile in your life.

Burlington Arcade

Burlington Arcade

Established in 1819, Burlington Arcade has long been the go-to shopping spot for those on the hunt for luxury items, from hats, jewellery, gloves and watches. It is also the longest covered shopping arcade in Britain. 

Grays Antique Market  

For lovers of vintage gem and fineries, Grays Antique Market in Mayfair is a treasure trove of artefacts, spanning from 40 BC up to the 20th century; spread across two levels, this market should be high on your list of things to do in Mayfair.

Fortnum & Mason

Along with Harrods, Liberty’s of London, and Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason is part of London’s department store royalty, having been part of the Mayfair community for more than 300 years.

Fortnum & Mason is all about refinement and understated extravagance, from its beautiful exteriors to its stunningly-decorated insides. 

Perhaps best known for its loose-leaf teas and endless array of hampers, this is a must visit shopping experience in Mayfair, even if it’s just window shopping.

Eating & Drinking

Mercato Mayfair 

Mercato Mayfair

Mercato Mayfair

Street food might not be the first thing you think of when you think of Mayfair but Mercato Mayfair is setting out to change that. 

The grown-up newer sibling of Elephant & Castle’s Mercato Metropolitano brings the same delicious street food (the ice cream from Badiani’s is a must) but in the classier elegant setting of a former church a short walk from Oxford Street. 

Where else can you enjoy a German Kraft Beer and a plate of Molo’s Lobsters and Oysters in the crypt of a stunning church? 


Regarded by the New York Times as having ‘one of the world’s best’ Martinis, DUKES Bar in Mayfair serves up some of the most delightful (and strongest) Martini cocktails you will ever try.

In addition to the exquisite beverages, the setting is equally perfect; you can leisurely sip your cocktail in either the Drawing Room, or the Cognac and Cigar Garden, and feel as though you’ve jumped straight into a James Bond Movie.

Even better – it is believed that Sir Ian Fleming first coined the iconic catchphrase, ‘shaken, not stirred’ at DUKES. 

Burger & Lobster

Continuing with the slightly odd food juxtapositions, Burger & Lobster in Mayfair is a top eatery for those who, as the name suggests, enjoy a burger or a lobster. 

The Mayfair branch of this international brand is London’s original, and the food is fantastic, particularly considering the highly reasonable price tag.

We love their seafood platter that comes with or without a half lobster, while for those wanting to really test their taste buds, we suggest giving the Beast Burger that combines beef patties, lobster meat, brie, fennel slaw and truffle tarragon mayo a go. It’s a delight!

Hawksmoor Air Street

Committed to sourcing the highest-quality ingredients for every dish, Hawksmoor Air Street in Mayfair is a brilliant restaurant to sample gorgeous steaks and enjoy a cosy, intimate feel.

With its enormous floor-to-ceiling stained glass arches, sleek booths, atmospheric lighting, and, most importantly, its unforgettable cuisine, Hawksmoor Air Street is one to look out for in Mayfair.

While Hawksmoor are best-known for their steak restaurants, and this branch is no different, they’re branching out in Mayfair extending to upmarket seafood dishes too. And we can confirm they’re absolutely nailing it.


Often said to be one of the most Instagrammable eateries in London, Sketch flawlessly blurs the boundaries between art and restaurant, and its bold, playful designs are completely magical and enticing. 

The interior is stunning – make sure to take a trip to the toilet, as the loos are egg-shaped, and birdsong sound effects are blasted through the speakers. 

Yet, it’s the food that wows with Pierre Gagnaire’s three-Michelin-starred food worth every penny of its considerable price tag. The Autumn navarin of lamb main is gorgeous, yet its the Anjou pigeon and duck foie gras en croute that is the total star of the show.


Occupying three floors and offering spectacular views across Green Park, Hide London is a fabulous restaurant that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

Even better, the menu is accompanied by an impressive wine list, curated by Hedonism Wines. 

Each floor has a different theme; the top floor is light and airy, whilst Hide Below occupies the basement floor, where guests can enjoy a wonderful cocktail in an atmospheric setting.

The food is wonderful, with the Coconut labne grilled over charcoal providing a subtly smoked taste sensation, and the barbecued octopus with baked apple and white miso is as enchanting as it sounds.

Alternatively, have your tastebuds seduced by their gorgeous tasting menu.


The first Armenian restaurant to open in Mayfair, ever, is Lusin. It’s not cheap but if you’ve got the money it’s definitely an interesting place to eat. 

They serve up Armenian classics in an up-market setting – think house music playing in the background and beautifully presented dishes, plenty of rich young people – and do a good job of the cooking. 

Dishes draw from a broader Middle Eastern cuisine but have distinctive Armenian tones: A kebab comes wood smoked and served with cherry sauce, a roasted aubergine turned Armenian cheese salad. Hummus and kibbeh are both present on the menu. 

Da Corradi 

Though there is a more sit-down type branch of Da Corradi turning out delicious pasta and Italian dishes right next door, you’re coming to Da Corradi for the deli on the corner. 

They do delicious sandwiches, light bites like arancini and sausage rolls they claim are the world’s best.  – yet to pass judgement here. Corradi does ‘em mean, but there’s a lot of sausage rolls out there that, in the name of good, thorough journalism, need trying before we confirm DaC’s claim. 

The aforementioned sandwiches can be made to order from the plates of Italian ingredients or picked from the board that’s names riff off famous figures from Italian pop-culture: Il Padrino, The Soprano, The De Niro. They’re all best enjoyed, weather permitting, in Green Park just a short stroll south. 

Sexy Fish

On the corner of Berkeley Square, serving Japanese sushi, seafood, sashimi and Robata-grilled meat in a restaurant bedecked with art pieces by Damien Hirst and Michale Roberts.

Sexy Fish is open seven days a week, and includes The Coral Room, a private dining room surrounded by two of the largest live coral reef tanks in the world. 

While the bar is home to the world’s largest Japanese whisky selection, we love their upmarket take on proper Japanese cuisine. Their Ippai (one-bowl) lunch menu is just over £20 and while that sounds pricey, you won’t leave hungry. 

We also love their range of sexy fish truffles on the main course, including Chilean Seabass with Ramson miso.

Friday and Saturday nights see dinner combine with some stunning live entertainment for a truly wonderful assault on all the senses. 

The Windmill

In among the elegance, opulence, and extravagance of Mayfair is the humble Windmill pub. While it ticks all the boxes we look for in a London pub, what we really love is their range of gorgeous award-winning homemade pies.

All pies come with braised red cabbage and your choice of mash or chips, and while you can get old faves like Steak and Mushroom or Steak and Kidney, it’s the Pig’s cheek, rabbit, and prune pie that really whets our appetite.

Don’t fancy meat? No problem, they have vegan options, while their Devon crab, King prawn, and Atlantic haddock fish pie is just wonderful as well. 

There are the usual pub grub options as well, but we strongly urge you to eschew them for a pastry-filled delight.

Discover The Best Cafes in Mayfair

Discover The Best Bars in Mayfair

Burlington Arcade

Map of Mayfair