Within a few miles of Oxford Circus, Paddington, Heathrow and any deafening maelstrom of London chaos you care to mention, Belgravia surprisingly has the aura of a peaceful country village from a bygone era.
With artisan bakers, book shop, chocolatiers, delicatessens, jewellers, tailors and vintners on Belgravia’s cobbled streets it seems like nostalgic time-travel. In fact, this is an exclusive village of millionaires’ mansions and gleaming embassies but there is a significant sense of community amongst those who enjoy their drink in the Alfred Tennyson pub at the end of the working day.
Neither Victorians nor Edwardians ever tasted Sour Dough Bread as good as that at Poilâne nor hand-made truffles as delicious as those created at Rococo’s. Belgravia is about now, setting new standards in artisan shopping and service.
On your bike
Yes, Belgravia has more than its fair share of Bentleys and Rolls, where chauffeurs dare not loiter on double yellow lines for a nano second for fear of being towed away – but Belgravia is waging war against the infernal combustion engine.
Motcomb Street has been partially pedestrianised and if you stay at the Jumeirah Lowndes Hotel you’ll be offered a Kingston Bikes’ “Belgravia” in a patriotic livery of red, white and blue. Saddle-up and explore Belgravia’s quiet and leafy squares, it is relatively traffic-and-stress free. Take a guided “Belgravia and Beyond Tour” with Tally-Ho Cycle Tours.
The world’s prettiest cake shop?
Be warned – you may have to queue for what are probably the World’s Best Cup Cakes. This is the home of irresistible edible art.
Prettily-pastel-pink Peggy Porschen’s Parlour is where fairy-tale creativity meets Bake-Off technical skill. From 8am to 8pm Peggy’s, cheerful waitresses produce perfection on a plate whilst visitors from around the world wait for a table at a cake-shop that has become a legend in its own tea-time.
Possibly the next Downton Abbey?
Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey, sniffed out another great story of the English upper-classes in his recent novel Belgravia: social-climbing new money rubs against an old established family in nineteenth century Belgravia.
Fellowes may be onto another winner. Belgravia has encouraging form when it comes to classic television period drama. ITV’s successful saga of life Upstairs, Downstairs was set at 165, Eaton Square, with the original series focusing on the Edwardian era.
And even Benedict Cumberbatch had to deal with A Scandal in Belgravia in the raciest episode of BBC’s Sherlock.
Rubbing shoulders with royalty
When, in the 1820s, George lV transformed Buckingham House into a far more regal Buckingham Palace, the Duke of Westminster, the ultimate property developer, turned swampy Five Fields – previously frequented by brigands and highwaymen – into highly desirable Belgravia. The name originated from the Duke’s family name of Belgrave.
Thomas Cubitt, the builder, who has a pub named after him on Elizabeth Street, designed white-stuccoed five storey town houses around green squares with cobbled mews for the horses. Today those elegant houses have multi-million pound price-tags.
The finest cheeses
With a shop on Motcomb Street, The Fine Cheese Company is one of the saviours of British Cheese. Three decades ago the company’s founders saw that pile-them-high-sell-them-cheap-supermarket-Britain was destroying the diversity and quality of cheese available.
Schedule a leisurely coffee-break at the Fine Cheese Company so that you can try the flavoursome cheeses alongside some original crackers and chutney accompaniments.
Your Belgravia residence
Set in a residential area, the Jumeirah Lowndes Hotel, is an astonishingly quiet and tranquil base for your Belgravia Break. If you need further relaxation guests have complimentary membership at The Peak Health Club and Spa just two minutes walk away at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower.
It’s a luxurious boutique hotel overlooking the corner of Lowndes Square. Its summer Terrace creates a green oasis in the heart of Belgravia for al fresco drinks, lunch and dinner.
On Sundays the hotel runs a “Brunch and Book” event, in conjunction with Belgravia Books, which highlights this sophisticated enclave’s literary past: writers Mary Shelley, Virginia Woolf and Ian Fleming all lived locally.
Rococo’s hand-made chocolates – the truffles can take between two and four days to craft – isn’t just a Belgravia charm: Rococo’s chocolates are known throughout London and beyond.
What is different about the Rococo’s in Belgravia is the coffee shop and the secluded “secret garden” reached from a set of stairs at the back of the coffee shop.
Mungo and Maud, at 79 Elizabeth Street, is a dog and cat outfitters featuring designer pet accessories such as hand-stitched leather collars and cable-knit cashmere sweaters for chilly winter walks. Dogs need to look their very best for Belgravia’s Dog Show in June which features a Doggy Disco.
But in the baking summer of 2018 the big problem is frazzled paws from scorching pavements. In this world of pet perfection the answer is Paw Balm featuring Shea butter.
Fashion Jewellery’s Rock Star
Turning glass, metal and jewels into innovative costume jewellery has lead some fashion gurus to acclaim Vicki Sarge as a New Age alchemist.
Based on Elizabeth Street, Vicki Sarge and her craft-workers, down in the basement, have been creating iconic costume jewellery for over two decades. For many photographers, theatrical and television costumiers Vicki has become the go-to-designer when they are in need of some jewellery with attitude.
Belgravia in Bloom
Although Belgravia’s floral festival, when shops compete for the best display, officially takes place in May, the spirit of Belgravia in Bloom lingers on throughout the summer.
Immaculately manicured topiary, luxuriant hanging baskets and generously filled window boxes are some of the remnants of the festival but as ever Peggy Porschen’s Parlour is vividly spectacular and the entrance to Beulah’s boutique is breathtakingly beautiful.
Previously home to three Prime Ministers (Baldwin, Chamberlain and Thatcher), two James Bonds (Connery and Moore) as well as the notorious Lord Lucan who screen-tested for the role of 007, Belgravia’s attractions continue to draw in the rich and famous from all over the globe.
Michael Edwards is a travel writer from Oxfordshire, UK. Although Michael had his first travel pieces published nearly four decades ago, he is still finding new luxury destinations to visit and write on.
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