From the quirkiness of Neal’s Yard to game-changing treatments at Caudalie, here wellness and beauty writer Sophie Goddard shares the magic of Seven Dials…
As a young 20-something moving to London, I grandly reeled off a long list of reasons I’d be kissing goodbye to the South Coast in place of the city’s bright lights. It always involved me smugly citing the ‘culture’. By which, of course, I really meant the shopping. But the reality – and sheer magnitude of options suddenly on my doorstep – left me floundering. Until a friend in-the-know tipped me off. Seven Dials, she assured me – with it’s quirky interconnecting streets, buzzing restaurants and chic little boutiques dotted just a stone’s throw from each other – was the place for a newcomer to head. Turns out, she was right.
Off I trucked towards the Sundial Pillar, which marks the central point of Seven Dials, where I fell for shops, products and treatments I’m still loyal to today. With each hotspot dotted around that famous central point, I quickly found my bearings, and some of the loveliest shops I’ve ever known. Like Neal’s Yard Remedies, found nestled in Neal’s Yard itself among the rainbow-coloured buildings. As the original Neal’s Yard store, it houses the UK’s largest range of organic health and beauty products and over 30 different therapies in their Therapy Rooms, from homeopathy to acupuncture (I’ve tried the latter, it’s miraculous). But it’s their award-winning, ethically made products that keep luring me back – from the Goodnight Pillow Mist (trouble nodding off? One spritz will see you right) to their mineral-rich Aromatic Bath Salts, which magically turn any old bath into something much more heavenly.
Another special spot is the Caudalie store, the first UK boutique for the much-loved Bordeaux-born brand. Housing their botanically inspired products (don’t pass without picking up a bottle of Beauty Elixir) I’m not sure the masses realise the store also offers specialist treatments, from derma-rolling facials to candlelight massages. Get in quick, before they all twig! The Kiehl’s store is another long-time favourite, instantly recognisable for its apothecary-style interiors and staff decked out in lab coats. I keep coming back to the Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Masque, a clay masque that draws out lingering impurities and blackheads in minutes, leaving skin so clean and bright you’ll question what kind of sorcery’s involved. Crème de Corps, a super-rich body butter, is another buy that deserves its cult status, too.
As well as the shops we’ve come to know and love (and a few others you might be yet to discover) for me, the magic of Seven Dials lies in each shop’s handy proximity to the next. Instead of lugging bags up and down long high streets, just hop, skip and jump from one boutique to its neighbour, meandering down Mercer Street and back up Earlham, never too far from where you began. Head from Aesop to Niod and then The Abnormal Beauty Company – all without breaking a sweat. And if you feel yourself flagging? An espresso from 26 Grains or a generously sized pizza slice from Homeslice will sort you out. But just one thing – once you’ve enjoyed the delights of Seven Dials and find yourself laden with beautiful buys, do as my friend once did and give another newbie a polite heads up. After all, it’s far too lovely to keep to yourself.