No West End shopping trip would be complete with a trip to Oxford Street. Europe’s busiest shopping street attracts over 200 million visitors every year and is home to some of the world’s best-loved brands, including department stores and multiple flagship outposts.
Formerly a residential area, with a dubious character thanks to raucous public houses, theatres and a gallows for public executions at the Marble Arch end, it was redeveloped towards the end of the 19th century to be more appealing to retail businesses. It wasn’t long before some now-famous names opened their doors on the street. John Lewis set up shop in 1864, and Selfridges in 1909, followed by Debenhams in 1919, and House of Fraser in 1935. During WWII, Oxford Street suffered considerable bombing and almost the entire road had to be rebuilt in the years following, but these names were determined to stay in business throughout.
Other significant buildings lining the street include The 100 Club, a gig venue which was a major player in the London punk scene, hosting gigs from The Sex Pistols and The Buzzcocks. London College of Fashion has had a campus overlooking the fashionable area since 1966 too.
Today, the street is a truly 21st century retail destination offering a wide selection of shops across fashion, beauty, home and lifestyle with free WiFi along the whole 1.9kms. Helpfully placed welcome ambassadors can be found on the street too. If you can’t see an ambassador to provide information or directions to your favourite store, simply tweet them @welcome_people to find an answer.
The Christmas lights, a tradition that has been running on the street since 1959, are a particular highlight every year. A celebrity is invited to switch on the lights at the end of November, followed by concerts and entertainment, an event which always attracts a large crowd. Events and promotions run by some of the 300 shops throughout the year ensure there’s always a celebratory spirit on Oxford Street.