London is rich in history and culture, and its streets reflect that. It’s a bustling metropolis with a seemingly endless supply of things to see and do, whether you’re a local or a visitor.
Whether you’re looking to do some shopping, sightseeing, or simply people-watching, there is something for everyone.
From the bustling Oxford Street to the iconic Piccadilly Circus, each street has its own unique character.
We’ve put together a list of the most famous streets in London and the best things you can do and see in each.
So without further ado, let’s dive into the history of old London through its most famous streets!
A Brief History of London
London’s history dates back thousands of years.
The first evidence of human occupation in the area dates to the Mesolithic period, and the city has been continuously occupied since that time.
The first written record of London dates to the Roman period when the city was known as Londinium.
Over the centuries, London has been through many changes, both in terms of its physical appearance and its role in the world.
The Great Fire of 1666 destroyed much of the city, and the subsequent rebuilding resulted in the creation of the iconic Georgian architecture that is still a feature of London today.
During the Industrial Revolution, London became a major global center of trade and commerce, and its population exploded.
The city continued to grow throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, and today it is one of the most populous cities in the world.
The streets of London have also changed dramatically over the centuries. The narrow, winding streets of the medieval city gave way to the wide, straight boulevards of the Georgian era.
Today, London’s streets are a mix of old and new, with narrow alleyways and medieval lanes sitting alongside modern thoroughfares.
Despite all the changes that London has undergone, it remains one of the world’s most iconic and beloved cities. Its rich history and diverse culture make it a truly unique place!
Top 12 Streets in London to Visit
Check out these 12 must-see streets if you’re planning a trip to London.
1. Baker Street – The Home of Holmes and Watson
The fans of the famous fictional British detective ‘Sherlock Holmes’ will immediately recognize the name!
Baker Street is home to some of the city’s most iconic landmarks, like the Sherlock Holmes Museum and a Sherlock Holmes-themed pub.
Also, it’s just a really cool street to walk down, with a ton of great shops and restaurants.
You can find everything from high-end designer stores to more affordable chain stores. There is also a good selection of independent shops, so you are sure to find something unique.
Things to See in Bake Street
- Sherlock Holmes Museum – See some of the iconic artifacts from the stories, like Holmes’ pipe and magnifying glass.
- Madame Tussauds – The famous wax museum. Here you can see incredibly realistic wax figures of some of the world’s most famous people, from politicians to movie stars.
- The Regent’s Park – A beautiful green space perfect for a leisurely stroll. Be sure to check out the park’s rose garden.
- Baker Street Station – One of the busiest tube stations in London.
- The Sherlock Holmes pub – A traditional British pub decked out with Holmes-themed décor.
2. Piccadilly Circus – Famous for Lights and Glitz
Piccadilly Circus is in the West End of London, close to Regent Street, a popular shopping hub in London.
Piccadilly Circus is also close to the theatres of the West End, making it a popular place to visit in the evening.
The street, designed by John Nash and completed in 1819, was named after the Piccadilly Hall, a popular venue for balls and other events in the 17th century.
The most notable feature of Piccadilly Circus is the colourful billboards, the neon signs, and the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, which was erected in 1893 in memory of the philanthropist Lord Shaftesbury.
Places to Visit in Piccadilly Circus
- The Criterion Theatre
- Hard Rock Café
- Lyric Theatre
- Apollo Theatre
- The Comedy Store
3. Bond Street – Hub for Luxury Shopping in London
Full of high-end shops and restaurants, Bond Street is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. There are a few reasons why Bond Street is so popular.
Bond Street is in the heart of London, near many of the city’s most popular attractions, which makes it a convenient place to people-watch, window shop, or grab a bite to eat.
Also, Bond Street has a great atmosphere. It always attracts a pretty good crowd, and there’s a lot of energy and excitement in the air.
Places to Visit on Bond Street
- World-famous Selfridges department store – A great place to pick up some luxury goods or just browse through the latest collection of high-end fashion.
- British Museum – One of the world’s most famous museums and is home to countless ancient artefacts
- The south side of Bond Street is where you’ll find many of the city’s best designer stores. They are the perfect places to pick up a new outfit.
4. Oxford Street – Busiest Shopping Street in London
There are few streets more iconic or popular than Oxford Street in London.
This world-famous shopping destination is home to over 300 stores, making it one of the busiest shopping areas in Europe.
Whether you’re looking for high-end fashion, budget-friendly stores, or just a bit of window shopping, Oxford Street has something for everyone.
And, with a central location in the heart of London, it’s easy to get to no matter where you’re staying in the city.
Things to Do in Oxford Street
- You can do some serious shopping in Selfridges, H&M, and Topshop. John Lewis is an affordable option, with a variety of items across categories such as home, fashion, and more.
- And, if you need a break from all the shopping, there are plenty of cafes, restaurants, and bars dotted along Oxford Street, so you can refuel and rest your feet before heading back out to tackle some more shopping!
5. Charing Cross Road – Famed for Its Specialty Bookshops
This street has been around since the 13th century, and it’s named after the iconic Charing Cross statue that stands at its southern end.
Over the centuries, the street has been home to many different businesses, including bookstores, music shops, and the infamous Palace theatre.
Today, Charing Cross Road is best known for its shops – particularly its second-hand and antiquarian bookshops.
This street is a haven for book lovers; it’s also home to the famous Foyles bookshop.
Shops to Visit on Charing Cross Road
- Burger & Lobster
6. St. James’s Street – Residential Hotspot for Wealthy Aristocrats
If you’re looking for a street with character, then you’ll want to add St. James’s Street to your list of places to visit in London.
At one end of this historical street is St. James’s Palace, one of the official residences of the British royal family, and at the other end is Piccadilly Circus, one of the busiest areas of London.
You’ll also find a few high-end shops and restaurants, making it the perfect place to spend an afternoon exploring.
Notable Places to See on St. James’s Street
- St. James’s Palace – As mentioned, this is one of the official residences of the British royal family and has been since the 16th century. It is a large and imposing building that is open to the public on certain days of the year.
- Clarence House – The official residence of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. It was previously the home of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
- Fortnum & Mason – This luxury department store has been a London institution since 1707. From delicious food and drink to high-end fashion and homeware, Fortnum & Mason has it all.
- The Ritz London – This iconic hotel is a must-see while you’re in London. Be sure to stop by for afternoon tea or a cocktail in the bar.
7. Brick Lane – Home to Many Immigrants Communities
Brick Lane is a street in London known for its multicultural makeup. It’s home to many immigrants from Bangladesh as well as from other parts of the world.
Brick Lane is also home to several well-known curry houses, which are popular with both locals and tourists alike.
Unique Things About Brick Lane
- The street is home to several shops selling everything from vintage clothes to retro furniture, and there are also some excellent restaurants serving international cuisine.
- The East London Mosque is one of the most popular tourist attractions on Brick Lane, and it’s well worth a visit. The mosque is the largest in the UK and is a beautiful building with a stunning interior.
- The Brick Lane Market is another popular attraction, and it’s the perfect place to pick up a bargain or two. The market sells a wide range of items, from clothes to books, and it’s always bustling with activity.
8. Chancery Lane – A Hub of London’s Legal Professionals
Chancery Lane is home to some of the city’s most important legal institutions, including the High Court and the Law Society.
The street has been a center of legal activity for centuries, and it is still a popular place to work for many lawyers and legal professionals.
The name ‘Chancery Lane’ is thought to derive from the fact that it was once the home of the Court of Chancery, one of the most important courts in England. Today, it’s a busy street with a mix of office buildings, shops, and restaurants.
Notable Offices to Visit in Chancery Lane
- The Old Bailey: This iconic London court is located on Chancery Lane. You can take a tour of the court and learn all about its fascinating history.
- The London Stock Exchange: This world-famous stock exchange is worth a visit. You can learn about the stock market and see the trading floor in action.
- The Royal Courts of Justice: A must-see for anyone interested in the legal history of London.
- Lincoln’s Inn Fields: Lincoln’s Inn Fields is a large park near Chancery Lane that is a popular spot for lunchtime picnics and relaxing.
9. Old Compton Street – Entertainment Hub of London
Old Compton Street is a pedestrianised street that is home to many bars, clubs, and restaurants.
The street is also known for its lively nightlife and is a popular destination for tourists looking for a place to party.
If you’re looking for a more relaxed atmosphere, you can also choose to spend time at one of the many nice restaurants on the street.
Whether you’re in the mood for a quick bite or a leisurely meal, you’ll find what you’re looking for on Old Compton Street.
Things to Do in Old Compton Street
- Theatreland: Old Compton Street is home to many London theatres like Prince Edward Theatre. So this is the perfect place to catch a show, irrespective of whether you’re into musicals, comedies, or dramas.
- Dining: Some notable restaurants you’ll find here are The Vintage House, Algerian Coffee Stores, and Gerry’s Wines & Spirits.
- Shopping: From little souvenirs to designer clothes, you can buy everything from Sunspel, Clonezone Soho, or I Camisa & Son.
10. Harley Street – Globally Famous Hub for Private Healthcare
Harley Street is notable for its association with private healthcare and general practice.
The street is home to many private hospitals, specialist clinics, and doctors’ offices and has been associated with medicine and surgery since the 18th century.
The first Harley Street doctor was George Johnstone Stoney, who established a surgical practice there in 1733.
It is still considered to be a prestigious address and also a popular tourist destination, with many visitors coming to see the historic buildings.
Things to Do on Harley Street
- Visit the Harley Street Clinic. This clinic is one of the most famous in London and is known for its high-quality care.
- Shop at the many high-end shops on Harley Street, including Charlie Brear, Beige, and Louis Vuitton.
- Visit the London Museum of Health. This museum is dedicated to the history of health care in London.
- Take a walk down to see all the sights and sounds of the street.
11. Fleet Street – Former Home of London’s Newspaper Industry
Fleet Street runs from Ludgate Circus to Temple Bar. The street was named after the River Fleet, which flows through the area.
The street has been associated with the newspaper and media industry since the early 17th century. In the early days of printing, the street was home to many of the city’s printing presses.
London’s first newspaper, The London Gazette, was published on Fleet Street in 1665.
The street is also home to the offices of many of the UK’s national newspapers, including The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent, and The Daily Mail.
Fleet Street is also home to a few of London’s most famous pubs, including The Punch Bowl, The Tabard, and The George.
If all that were not enough, the street has been immortalized by the Dickens novel Bleak House as the home of the fictional newspaper, The Daily Chronicle.
Things to See in Old Baily
- The Old Bailey: The Old Bailey is the central criminal court in England and Wales. The court hears cases from the Greater London area and is one of the most high-profile courts in the country.
- St. Paul’s Cathedral: It is the seat of the Bishop of London.
- Buried River Fleet: Though it’s mostly covered now, you can get a glimpse of it at the corner of Greville Street and Saffron Hill.
- Temple Bar: A place of historical significance. It served as the main ceremonial gateway to London from the city’s western side.
- Former Daily Express Building: It was designed in the 1930s in the prevailing art deco style of the period, which makes this an absolute hidden gem!
12. Whitehall – Known for Its Many Governments Offices
The final destination in our list of the best streets in London is Whitehall which runs from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square.
It is the main thoroughfare for traffic between the City of Westminster and the City of London and is also the location of many government buildings.
The street was originally laid out in the 12th century and was initially known as “Westminster Street.” It was renamed “Whitehall” in 1532, after the Palace of Whitehall, the principal residence of the English monarchs.
The street is now home to several government departments, including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Home Office, and the Department for Transport.
Places to Visit in Whitehall
- The first section of Whitehall is home to Downing Street, the official residence of the British Prime Minister. You can also see the Cabinet War Rooms, which Winston Churchill used during World War II.
- The second section of Whitehall is known as Horse Guards Parade. Here, you can see the ceremonial guards who protect the British monarch. The changing of the guard ceremony takes place every day at 11 am.
- The third section of Whitehall is home to the Houses of Parliament. You can take a guided tour of the Houses of Parliament to see the debating chamber and the House of Lords.
- The fourth and final section of Whitehall is Trafalgar Square. This is one of the most popular tourist destinations in London. Here, you can see the Nelson’s Column monument and the London National Gallery.
Exploring the Streets in London
Planning a trip to London isn’t easy. There’s just so much to do but so little time! But you can make the most of your trip if you prioritize. While the city has no dearth of interesting and historic streets, these are the 12 most historic streets in London that you must visit.
We’ve left out many other historic London streets for the sake of conciseness, such as Regent Street, John Adam Street, Abbey Road, Pond Street, Rotherhithe Street, Lombard Street, and many more!
Moreover, there are many lesser-known hidden gems, such as Neal Street, Lamb’s Conduit Street, Endell Street, Bermondsey Street, and many others that deserve your time. But you should only wander in their direction if you have the time and money to spare. Otherwise, you better stick to the ones that we’ve just listed here.
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