While the shops might be the thing you come to Oxford Street for, there are some interesting sites and landmarks along the way that tell important stories about London’s past. Look out for some of these places of note as you browse between shops.
The most unmissable site is Marble Arch which sits at the western most end of Oxford Street on the corner with Park Lane. Another significant piece designed by 19th century architect John Nash, it was originally a ceremonial arch leading to Buckingham Palace which was only to be passed under by the royal family and their guards on special occasions. Nowadays anyone can pass under the beautiful, white structure on their way in between Hyde Park and Oxford Street.
At number 363 Oxford Street you’ll find the first ever HMV music store which was opened in 1921 by renowned composer Edward Elgar and is now one of only three remaining in the country after its heyday as the UK’s biggest music seller. The Beatles famously made their first ever recording of a demo disc in the store furthering its important role in the British music scene.
Close to the north western corner of Oxford Circus you’ll see the sign for the London College of Fashion, one of the UK’s most famous fashion schools. Right in the centre of this retail haven, students learn the trade before working in some of the biggest names in the industry. Alumni include designers Jimmy Choo and Jonathan Anderson.
As you walk around the West End, you may notice blue plaques on the side of buildings which commemorate significant figures who have lived and/or worked in the buildings they hang on. There aren’t any on Oxford Street itself but just a few steps off from it on Argyll Street, right next to Oxford Circus tube station, you’ll find one dedicated to American writer Washington Irving, author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle who lived at the residence between 1783 and 1859.
The 100 Club, close to Tottenham Court Road tube station, is one of London’s most legendary live music venues. Open since 1942 and still swinging today, it started life as a restaurant and jazz club. A number of legends of that scene performed at that club including Louis Armstrong, Glenn Miller and Ronnie Scott who famously went on to open his own club which still exists in Soho. As times changed, the music played at the club evolved and by the end of the 1970s it had become heavily associated with the punk scene. In 1976 it hosted the first ever International Punk Festival with acts including the Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and The Banshees, The Clash, Buzzcocks and many more recognisable names that revolutionised music and youth culture. Today a roster of live music and club nights continue in the space that hasn’t been changed since its legendary years in the 1970s.