Sitting pretty between the green expanses of Hyde Park and Green Park, the shops of Oxford Street and the restaurants and bars of Soho, Mayfair pretty much has it all - and the price tag to boot. It's the most expensive and exclusive square on the Monopoly board, and in real life this reputation endures, with Georgian mansions surrounding private squares, high-end art dealerships, exclusive members clubs and more.
Mayfair is historically linked to the aristocracy and royalty, with the Crown still owning a portion of the land here, and many properties owned or rented by titled residents. The area also has political and literary connections, with former residents including Winston Churchill and Oscar Wild.
But although wealth may ooze out of every part of Mayfair, there's more to this pocket of central London than just big houses and bigger wallets. Many major auction houses are located here, which has lead to a number of small, interesting galleries specialising in genres such as Middle Eastern and African art. The embassies for America and Canada are located here, among others, and for families looking for a private education there are various well-respected schools to be found here. The embassies also add a sense of safety to the area, an addition which is prized by the affluent residents.
Meanwhile the restaurant scene is rich in both senses of the word, with glamorous restaurants serving international menus, and cocktail bars counting famous faces as regular visitors. Designer shops can be found throughout, while for further shopping Oxford Street and Soho are both just a shot walk away. Less flashy than Knightsbridge and better connected than Chelsea, it's arguably London's best uber-pricey area.
On a map
Mayfair is in the Borough of Westminster. It is situated to the south of Marylebone and the west of Soho, and covers the postcodes W1K and W1J
History of Mayfair London
While some parts of London were busy, bustling areas filled with commerce and residents by the 1500s, Mayfair was still open fields until well into the 1680s, when the May Fair was moved here from St James, where it had been for hundreds of years. This led to the name Mayfair, and also began development in the area as people flocked here to visit the sights and sounds of the annual fair.
In the 1760s the fair moved again, this time to Bow in East London, and Grosvenor family took the opportunity to develop the empty land into a fashionable part of London with the elegant houses, shops and businesses we see today.
Transport from Mayfair London
Mayfair is served by two underground stations at opposite ends; Bond Street in the north, and Green Park in the south. Between the two they cover the Central, Jubilee, Victoria and Piccadilly lines, making commuting across London fast and easy from here - Bank is just 11 minutes away, and Liverpool Street only 12 minutes away.
Mayfair is also within walking distance of central areas including Piccadilly Circus, Soho, Covent Garden and Oxford Street, and is served by many buses both day and night.
Cost of living in Mayfair London
The Mayfair property market is dominated by grand Georgian and Victorian terraced houses, with plenty of Grade II listed buildings. Wealthy residents here can be particularly discerning about the interiors so most places have been fitted to a high standard too, and it’s rare to find somewhere ‘undiscovered’. There are also a certain number of new contemporary developments, all of which have been built to fit in with the style of the area.
Over the years Mayfair has developed a reputation as a very expensive part of London, and unfortunately for those on a budget the prices here show no signs of falling. As of 2016 the average rental price for a two-bedroom property here is around £5050 per month, although similar properties can be found starting from around £2300 per month.
Restaurants in Mayfair London
Adding a Mayfair spin to the concept restaurant idea, upscale brasserie Sackvilles specialises in two things - Wagyu beef, and seasonal truffles. For a taste of what the kitchen can do try the unbeatable foie gras, Wagyu beef and truffle in a brioche bun burger with a side of truffle mac n’ cheese.
Address: 8A Sackville St, London W1S 3DF, United Kingdom
Phone: 020 7734 3623
Looking for gourmet food in a very glamorous surrounding? You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better establishment than high-end sushi restaurant Nobu, where the two floors of gold-tinged interiors are usually packed with famous faces tucking into deluxe bento boxes, donburi dishes and creative cocktails.
Address: 15 Berkeley St, London W1J 8DY, United Kingdom
Phone: 020 7290 9222
Situated in the boutique Dukes Hotel on a quiet Mayfair street, the sophisticated Dukes Bar is famous for having been regularly frequented by James Bond author Ian Fleming, and as a result has been connected to the ‘shaken, not stirred’ martini ever since. Place yourself in the very capable hands of head bartender Alessandro Palazzi, and enjoy a cocktail or two in truly elegant surroundings.
Address: 35 St James's Pl, London SW1A 1NY, United Kingdom
Phone: 020 7491 4840
Shops in Mayfair London
Undoubtedly one of the most famous luxury shops in London along with the likes of Harrods and Harvey Nichols, Fortnum & Mason are renowned for their discerning range of products including hampers, coffees & teas, ladies clothing and perfume. The shop also recently added a spa onto the second floor, to help you relax and unwind after a long afternoon of shopping.
Address: 181 Piccadilly, London W1A 1ER
Phone: 020 7734 8040
Running from Bond Street to Burlington Gardens, the elegant Burlington Arcade is a covered Victorian shopping passage filled with high-end independent shops including jewellers, antiques and formal clothing. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for the arcade beadles in their frock coats and top hats, who patrol the arcade today as they have done for nearly 200 years.
Address: 51 Piccadilly, London W1J 0QJ
Phone: 020 7493 1764
Hark back to the days before camera phones and brush up on your photography skills at the Leica Store Mayfair, which sells a wide range of legendary Leica products. The store also has its own built-in studio, perfect for testing the cameras or getting advice from the knowledgable staff.
Address: 34 Bruton Pl, London W1J 6NR, United Kingdom
Phone: 020 7629 1351
Things to do in Mayfair London
One of the finest art institutions in the city, the privately-funded Royal Academy of the Arts is known for it’s diverse and innovative exhibitions, including a recent solo show from major Chinese artist and activist Ai Wei Wei. They also have an enchanting hidden garden bar known as the Keeper’s Garden, which is open to the general public after 4pm.
Address: Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD
Phone: 020 7300 8090
Due south of Mayfair, Green Park is one of London’s most overlooked green spaces, usually finding itself eclipsed by the fame of Hyde Park, Regents Park, or even Hampstead Heath. Unlike other London parks it has no lakes or buildings, but is mainly filled with mature trees and is a popular spot for running, dogwalking, and summer picnics.
Address: City of Westminster, Greater London
Phone: 0300 061 2350
Incorporating the musical careers of two very different artists in one Georgian townhouse, the Handel House museum on Brook Street was originally the home of German composer George Frideric Handel, later becoming a museum devoted to his life and works filled with period pieces and displays. Next door was once the home of Jimi Hendrix, and in recent years the two addresses were combined to form separate and connected museums dedicated to both Handel and Hendrix.
Address: 25 Brook St, London W1K 4HB
Main image credit: Suzy Devereux