Thought that the world-famous West End thoroughfare that’s Oxford Street is only about the shopping? Think again. For the district that surrounds this most distinct of London streets has much to offer in addition to some serious retail therapy; that is, if you care to look beyond the shops in Oxford Street and, instead, around the corners, explore the side streets and peel back the layers a little.
Of course, it’s still worth popping on to the Tube from wherever you might be staying on a short-break, getting out at Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road or Bond Street, checking out the boulevards big-time department stores (Selfridges, John Lewis and House of Fraser), then visiting the bright lights of Piccadilly Circus at night or popping into Regent Street’s Hamleys. Yes, of course it is. Yet, if you’re after something a little off the beaten track in this particular area, allow us to present you with some other options that may surprise you to learn about (truly then, some interesting facts about Oxford Street and its nearby streets) and hopefully charm you to discover in person.
The Photographer’s Gallery
(16-18 Ramillies Street W1F 7LW)
Founded in 1971, The Photographer’s Gallery was the first gallery in the world completely devoted to photography. Tucked away behind Oxford Street, this tall industrial building with its steel framed windows and clean modern lines is unlike the surrounding London architecture. It holds a range of intriguing and unusual exhibitions, including some which are free. The Gallery also hosts a selection of fascinating talks, workshops and courses. Finish your visit with a cup of coffee and cake at the lovely cafe on the ground floor.
Japan Centre Ceramics and Sushi
(19 Shaftesbury Avenue W1D 7AL)
Right next to Piccadilly Circus (and so within very easy walking distance of many Park Grand hotels), this Japan Centre is a must-visit for lovers of Japanese food. You’ll find everything from fresh sashimi to Japanese food cupboard essentials. There are over 30 different types of rice alone, along with soba, udon, yakisoba and ramen noodles. Japan Centre also stocks a selection of Japanese travel and cookery books, crafts and cooking implements. To help you get to know your sake from your matcha, Japan Centre runs a series of seminars sharing its expertise in Japanese cuisine.
BBC Broadcasting House
(Portland Place W1A 1AA)
Originally opened in the 1930s, the iconic Art Deco BBC Broadcasting House has undergone extensive redevelopment over the last few years. The building, which is the worldwide headquarters of the BBC, is now home to news, radio, television and online services. You can go behind the scenes of Broadcasting House on a 90-minute tour, during which you’ll visit a number of famous TV and radio studios. There’s even an opportunity to have a go at reading the news and to make a radio play, complete with music and sound effects.
St George’s Hanover Square
(The Vestry, 2A Mill Street W1S 1FX)
Tucked away just off Regent Street, the church of St George’s Hanover Square is an unusual looking building with an imposing portico that overlooks Hanover Square. In contrast to the grey exterior, the inside of the church is light and open. St George’s is most well-known for one of its famous parishioners, composer George Frederic Handel. Handel even provided advice on the impressive organ that is still housed in St George’s. The church regularly hosts music performances, including concerts for the London Handel Festival.