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Mayfair

Ultraritzy Mayfair, lined with beautiful 18th-century mansions (along with Edwardian apartment buildings made of deep-red brick), is the address of choice for many of London's wealthiest residents—note the number of Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, and Jaguars on the streets. Even the delivery vans all seem to bear some royal coat of arms, advertising that they've been purveyors of fine goodies for as long as anyone can remember.

The district can't claim to be stuffed with must-sees, but that is part of its appeal. There is no shortage of history and gorgeous architecture; the streets here are custom-built for window-shopping, expansive strolling, and getting a peek into the lifestyles of London’s rich and famous, past and present. Mayfair is primarily residential, so its homes are off-limits except for one satisfyingly grand example: Apsley House, the Duke of Wellington’s home, built by Robert Adam in 1771, and once known as No. 1, London; the nearby Wellington Arch also commemorates the great hero.

Despite being bordered by four of the busiest streets in London—the busy budget-shopping mecca Oxford Street (to the north), the major traffic artery Park Lane (to the west), and the bustling Regent Street and Piccadilly (to the east and south, respectively)—Mayfair itself is remarkably traffic-free and a delight to explore. Starting at Selfridges, on Oxford Street, a southward stroll will take you through quiet streets lined with Georgian townhouses (the area was largely developed in the 17th and 18th centuries). From there, with a bit of artful navigating, you can reach four pleasant patches of green: Grosvenor Square, Berkeley Square, Hanover Square, with its splendid St. George's Church where Handel worshipped, and the quiet St. George's Gardens, bounded by a maze of streets and mews. Some of London's most exclusive shopping destinations are here, including Mount Street, Bruton Street, Savile Row, and the Burlington Arcade. The Royal Academy of Arts is at the southern fringe of Mayfair on Piccadilly, beyond which begins more sedate St. James's.

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