London Drum

Visit Burlington Arcade and see its Beadles, shops & boutiques

Burlington Arcade in PiccadillyPhoto: Craig Cross
Where? Burlington Arcade, 51 Piccadilly, Mayfair · Web: Opening times? 8 AM to 7 PM (Mon-Sat); 11 AM to 6 PM (Sun) Visiting hours may change Time required? A typical visit is 15 mins Parking: Nearby car parks Buses: 8, 9, 14, 19, 22, 38 Bus fares Trains: The closest station is Piccadilly Circus Bakerloo Piccadilly Other nearby stations: Green Park Train fares

Craig’s review… Two hundred years ago this patch of land was the garden of Burlington House (now the Royal Academy of Arts next-door) but Lord George Cavendish got so fed up with people chucking their rubbish over his wall that he decided to roof it over and turn it into one of those fancy French arcades.

His bright idea worked fine for a while – he finally had his peace and quiet and his family had somewhere safe to shop – but its upper-class clientele soon started attracting pickpockets and thieves and he had to hire some security to protect them.

Shopping boutiques in Burlington ArcadePhoto: Craig Cross
Shopping boutiques in Burlington Arcade

History of the Burlington Arcade Beadles

The modern-day police force had hardly got going by then so he signed up some of his old soldier pals from a Royal Hussars regiment and these ‘Beadles’ have been guarding the arcade ever since – still dressed in the same top hats and frock coats that they wore in the 1820s.

They’re a bit like the mounted sentries at Horse Guards, I suppose – most of their day is spent posing for photos with the tourists – but every now and then they’ll jump into action to enforce the Victorian rules that are still traditionally upheld. There’s no running, humming or whistling (apparently that’s how the pickpockets used to warn each other that the Beadles were coming). And there’s no opening of umbrellas or riding a bicycle either… so it’s probably the only place left in London where you’re completely safe from cyclists.

Shops and boutiques in Burlington Arcade

Laduree French macaroon shop in Burlington ArcadePhoto: Craig Cross
The Laduree shop, famous for its French macaroons

There are around forty shops in total, selling everything from luxury leather shoes and suitcases to Bollinger champagne. Don’t bother going in there for your groceries because the only food on sale is a pyramid pile of macaroons.

The shops are so expensive that even rich people can’t afford to shop in them. I saw a cotton handkerchief on sale for seventy quid. You can get five grand fountain pens, silk ties, bow ties, and the kind of pastel hats that everyone wears to Ascot.

The most famous name is Hancocks, where they make all of the Victoria Crosses, and there’s an art gallery, a few jewellery boutiques, and shops selling glassware, cigars and the world’s largest collection of pre-owned Rolex watches (still ten grand a pop).

Christmas decorations in Burlington ArcadePhoto: Craig Cross
Christmas decorations in Burlington Arcade

I don’t go inside many of them because I like to flit through life like I wasn’t there – I like to remain anonymous and I don’t want to start up a conversation with the shop staff, because as soon as you step through the door you’re practically standing toe-to-toe with a saleswoman who will greet you with an upturned eyebrow and an acidic ‘Hello, Sir’. Obviously you can’t admit to her that you’re only there to be nosey, so for the next two minutes you have to pretend that you have five hundred quid to spend on a gentleman’s pipe. She totally knows that you don’t. But this is the game that everyone plays down Burlington Arcade. She probably only gets one real customer a week and she knows darn well that you’re not him.

Have a shoe-shine the old-fashioned way

The only thing that I can actually afford is two minutes with the shoe-shine guy. He looks like one of those old-fashioned shoe-shiners you sometimes see at a railway station, sitting in the middle of the arcade with a pot full of brushes and a chemistry set of oils and unguents, and you’re supposed to sit there making chit-chat about the weather whilst he buffs up your shoes.

Worth a visit? Value for money? n/aGood for kids? Easy to get to?

I also recommend… If you enjoy this then try Royal Exchange (travel from Piccadilly Circus to Bank by tube)

London Squire bookThe owns and has spent the last decade reviewing the capital’s landmarks, attractions and hotels. His guidebook is available from Amazon. This review was updated on

Your comments and questions

Sik When does Burlington Arcade open?

Craig Hi Sik. At the moment it's 8 AM to 6 Pm (Mon-Sat) and 11 AM to 6 PM (Sun)

Michel Immaculate shops full of beautiful things that i love walking past to admire in the window. They always have some of the most beautiful Christmas decorations

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