Seven Dials: London's exciting West End

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London, England's West End, renowned for its globally esteemed theater district and Covent Garden, once veiled a small village, Seven Dials. Today, this historic area is not merely a juncture where seven roads meet, but a vibrant and creative community with its own unique character. You'll find fabulous boutique hotels, British and international labels, as well as exclusive, independent shops and restaurants that culminate in one of London's best shopping and lifestyle destinations.

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Originally developed by Member of Parliament Thomas Neale in the 1690s, Seven Dials was laid out in triangles to maximize the number of rentals and frontage. Neale intended to establish Seven Dials as the most fashionable address in London and chose the names of seven streets that would attract affluent residents of the time. The original street names were simplified and changed to, Monmouth, Mercer, Earlham and Short's Gardens, with three of the streets as continuations. In addition to the street layout and regal names, Neale also commissioned a sundial pillar for the center of his project that featured six sundials with the seventh, as the column itself. The pillar was regarded as one of London's 'great public ornaments' and the village's layout and identity still revolves around it today.

Shopping in Seven Dials

Seven Dials' chic but relaxed and friendly community is like no other in London. The streets are easy to navigate without all of the rush and traffic of Central London and the village setting is picturesque. In fact, if you walk down Monmouth Street, you'll come across Laura Lee and Tatty Devine jewelry shops. For fine jewelry with a relaxed yet feminine allure, Laura Lee is a Londoner who creates exquisite pieces that adorn celebs, models and fashion covers across the globe. Her collections and bespoke jewelry, designed with gold, silver, precious gems and old cast coins, reflect gorgeous detail, such as her amazing Oracle Multi-Coin Necklace and stunning Gold Star Band. Moreover, Lee's pieces are made in London with traditional tools and techniques.

If you love contemporary and playful jewelry, drop in at Tatty Devine for an excursion into distinctive design. Harriet Vine and Rosie Wolfenden founded the company in 1999 and hand make all of the jewelry in their London and Kent Studios. Tatty Devine designs have also won numerous fashion awards and are carried at retail boutiques throughout London. Stop by Tatty's in the Seven Dials shop to see their Hawthorn Autumn Necklace and best selling Lobster necklace.

For the best Parisian macarons, chocolates, cakes and fine confections in London, visit Pierre Herme Paris, located on Monmouth Street. Herme is a brilliant Patissier and is successor to four generations of Alsatian pastry makers. His Seven Dials patisserie opened in fall of 2014 with rave reviews for his renowned, unique flavor profiles, such as Mosaic with pistachio, cherry and cinnamon and Infiniment Rose, created with aromatic rose and rose petals. Stop by Pierre Herme Paris for a sumptuous and artful pastry or divine macarons; it's worth immersing yourself in luscious abandon.

Seven Dials sports dozens of fabulous fashion shops and several that focus on specialty attire, such as Finisterre, located on Earlham Street. This hip enterprise is the only coldwater surf shop in London! You'll find wetsuits and base-layers for surfing, as well as cool designs in knitwear, jackets and apparel for cold weather in the city. Finisterre's innovative men and women's clothing has won numerous awards and is frequented by coldwater surfers from around the globe.

No matter what streets you peruse in Seven Dials, you are sure to find a bevy of enticing items among the 120 shops. Here are a few excellent brands to explore: Fixation, the only store in London to sell awesome, single speed bikes; Christy's Hats for British-made hats with a traditional or contemporary twist; Peter Werth for stylish and contemporary menswear; Larsson and Jennings for their aesthetic Swedish/British minimalist design watches; Millar Harris for lovely fragrances, candles and scented body products. And, Coco De Mer, London's legendary erotica store that features designer lingerie and an array of toys and spicy boudoir accouterments.

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea is an essential event for many visitors to Britain. The ritual and traditional setting of the tea is part of the charm, as well as excellent pastries. The five-star Covent Garden Hotel, located on Monmouth Street, adheres to the splendid tradition with an all-day service for afternoon tea. It is available and served in either the lounge of the Brasserie Max or the hotel's fine Drawing Room. The service is impeccable and the stunning china set with white linen adds an appropriate backdrop for the three-tiered pastry plate. Covent Garden offers a variety of three afternoon tea menus with the Traditional, the Covent Garden and Gentlemen's Tea. The Traditional Tea features fresh scones with rich clotted cream and preserves, gorgeous and ornate cakes and dainty finger sandwiches. If you go, make sure to book ahead and plan ample time to relax and enjoy the atmospheric Drawing Room, while indulging in one of the best afternoon teas in Covent Garden.

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Lodging: Radisson Blu

The Radisson Blu Edwardian, Mercer St. is ideally situated in the heart of Seven Dials and faces the Sundial Pillar. In 2010, the Edwardian, formally the Mt. Baton, underwent a £ 25 million renovation and opened in 2011 as the chic Radisson Edwardian. This gorgeous boutique hotel offers a generous variety of 137 rooms that range from a cozy double to full-scale suites. The decor focuses on a relaxed-elegance, modern flair and is designed with sumptuous muted jewel tones, highlighted by original art. Each air-conditioned room provides a sanctuary of individual motif with great attention to detail and layout for guests. Excellent linens with velvety covers compliment the comfy beds and seating with a table or posh furniture enhances the rooms as well. Step into the bathrooms for another testament to great aesthetics and space with stone counters, top amenities (in all rooms) and large glass enclosed showers. And, most of the rooms provide stellar surrounding views of Seven Dials, especially the suites. In addition to the rooms, the Radisson Blu offers guests a fitness room, in-room spa services, business center, 24-hour room service, as well as excellent business and concierge services.

The Radisson's Scoff & Banter Restaurant, located on the main level is an absolute must if you love British comfort food! The restaurant is renowned for its fresh take on British classics and serves a scrumptious and large breakfast buffet with menu items and an Afternoon Tea. For lunch and dinner, the restaurant proffers enticing menus; try the Scoff & Banter favorite for dinner, a slow-cooked beef and ale pie that is caramelized with shallots and enrobed in rich and luscious gravy. Moreover, the relaxed and stylish restaurant is situated to take advantage of the wonderful street views of Seven Dials in an environment that's perfect for a leisurely meal without missing the outside activity.

The Radisson Blu Edwardian is the perfect partner for London's West End Theater and Seven Dials. The hotel's friendly and professional staff are among the best in London and committed to ensuring every guest is afforded attentive service. Note, the hotel is just minutes away from Covent Garden Market, a host of attractions and the tube. For additional information, visit .

For additional information on Seven Dials, history, fashion, shoes & accessories, beauty, grooming, lifestyle shops, theaters, food and drink, visit Seven Dials

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Patrice RapleePatrice Raplee is an experienced travel photojournalist and editor of Travel Excursion and Seattle Spotlight for Positively Entertainment magazine. In addition, she writes a monthly travel column for the award-wining site and is a regular contributor on travel radio shows. She is a member of North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA), International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) and the Recording Academy. Her articles and photographs have appeared in numerous international publications, as well as NW newspapers such as the Seattle Times, the Stranger and Seattle Weekly. Patrice travels the globe to cover destinations that feature fascinating culture, art, culinary, history and soft adventure.

Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author

Published: October 11, 2015

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