If you’re coming to London in the near future and planning on staying in the Bayswater/ Paddington district of the centre of town (and why not; it offers affordable accommodation and is right on the cusp of the West End and all its attractions), then you must visit one of the area’s premier venues – Whiteleys. Technically speaking, Whiteleys is best described as a shopping centre, but the truth is it’s much more than merely that…
What is Whiteleys?
Whiteleys was originally a department store; in fact, London’s very first. The brainchild of William Whiteley, whom previously ran a flourishing drapery shop in nearby Westbourne Grove, it was opened by the then Lord Mayor of London in 1911. With its main entrance opening out on to the street that’s Queensway (just a short walk away from Kensington Gardens), its grand façade and white-washed elegance were matched by its interior, which featured an ornate staircase, fountains and further fixtures. In fact, so opulent an establishment was it that it even contained a theatre and a small golf-course on its roof.
The building was granted Grade II-listed status in 1970, but the store itself closed down just over a decade later and the building fell into disrepair, passing through the hands of different owners. In time, sadly much of the interior was demolished and so rebuilt, although the staircase remains, as does the façade on the outside. Eventually, the building re-emerged as a shopping centre and rose to become a major retail destination once more. In its current guise then, Whiteleys is home to many shopping and dining outlets, including high-street retail brands, coffee shops and excellent eateries, among others. It may no longer contain the theatre it once did, but now it’s also blessed with a multiplex Odeon cinema and a ten-pin bowling alley.
Being that’s its located in the Bayswater/ Paddington area, Whiteleys is situated almost right in the very heart of London. If you’re coming to the capital for a short-break and looking to stay in the West End, say, or visiting that part of town for the day, then it’s really only a hop, skip and a jump away. Not least because it can be accessed by a good number of Overground (or mainline) and Underground (or Tube) stations – it’s within walking distance of many of them. To wit, the following are all the relevant transport hubs to which you might fancy travelling for a visit to the shopping centre:
• Bayswater Tube station (Queensway W2 4QH/ 3 minutes from Whiteleys) – the nearest station of any type to the shopping centre, Bayswater serves the (yellow) Circle and (green) District lines, lying between Notting Hill Gate and Paddington stations on them both. The Circle line is, more or less, a circular line that encompasses much of Central London and the District line primarily runs east to west across the city – and vice versa. Bayswater contains two platforms and is within the city’s (Travelcard) Zone 1.
• Queensway Tube station (126 Bayswater Road W2 4SS/ 6 minutes from Whiteleys) – slightly further away from Whiteleys lies Queensway station, located at the junction at the end of Queensway and Bayswater Road, opposite Kensington Gardens. It’s served by the (red) Central line that mainly runs east to west – and vice versa – across the capital. Cited within London’s (Travelcard) Zone 1 and comprising two platforms, Queensway is a bit busier than Bayswater station, owing to its location.
• Royal Oak Tube station (Lord Hills Bridge W2 6ET/ 6 minutes from Whiteleys) – named after a nearby pub and lying due north of Whiteleys (a short walk up Queensway and along Lord Hills Bridge), it’s on the (pink) Hammersmith & City and (yellow) Circle lines, lying between Westbourne Park and Paddington stations on them both. Positioned in (Travelcard) Zone 2 and comprising two platforms, it’s maybe a transport option to avoid in late August – owing to the fact the Notting Hill Carnival passes very close by at this time of year, Royal Oak gets exceedingly busy.
• Paddington railway and Tube station (Praed Street W2 1HQ/ 10 minutes from Whiteleys) – if, for whatever reason, you’d rather not use the Tube to get to Whiteleys and you’re likely to be travelling in from outside of London, then you might find a good option is to use Paddington mainline station. Originally designed by the legendary engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel in the Victorian age, it’s one of London’s major Overground railway stations and terminuses.
Blessed with 13 platforms, Paddington serves trains to and from West London, the Thames Valley, South West England and South Wales, as well as train services to and from Heathrow Airport (Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect). Also, located beneath the railway station is a sprawling Tube station that’s connected to the (brown) Bakerloo, (yellow) Circle, (green) District and (pink) Hammersmith & City lines; it lies within (Travelcard) Zone 1.
• Marylebone railway and Tube station (Melcombe Place NW1 6JJ / 24 minutes from Whiteleys) – another old-school major Central London railway station, Marylebone lies north-east of Whiteleys, specifically in the ‘Marylebone-Baker Street’ district. Smaller and quieter than Paddington, it’s the starting point and terminus for a line running to the UK’s second city Birmingham and routes to Aylesbury (in Hertfordshire) and Oxford and, in fact, is a favourite location for filmmakers. Marylebone also possesses a Tube station that serves the (brown) Bakerloo line, lying between Edgware Road and Baker Street stations and located in London’s (Travelcard) Zone 1.
• Kensington Olympia railway and Tube station (W14 0NE/ 29 minutes from Whiteleys) – effectively lying on the boundary between Central and West London (and, more specifically, Kensington and West Kensington), this station’s one you may find yourself using to get to Whiteleys should you be staying further west, as it serves local commuter trains on the West London line that runs between Willesden Junction in the north and Clapham Junction in the south and operated by the Southern train company. Kensington Olympia also doubles as a Tube station, which is useful because you might want to use this to get to another Tube station nearer Whiteleys – it’s on a branch of the (green) District line and located in (Travelcard) Zone 2.
• Shepherd’s Bush railway and Tube station (W12 8ND/ 14 minutes from Whiteleys) – straddling the line between Central and West London like Kensington Olympia, Shepherd’s Bush is a very recently opened railway station (ostensibly to accommodate visitors to the nearby Westfield shopping centre) that lies on the West London commuter line between East Croydon in the south and Milton Keynes Central in the north, also operated by Southern trains. As such this station may also be useful as an interchange to get to Whiteleys. It’s also connected to Shepherd’s Bush Tube station, which is on the (red) Central Line, lying between White City and Holland Park stations and located in (Travelcard) Zone 2.
As mentioned, should you be staying in the West End area, the Whiteleys shopping centre is very easy to reach. Indeed, in the Paddington district where Whiteleys is situated (just slightly north-west of the West End), you’ll actually find a great deal of quality, affordable accommodation for a trip spent in the capital – from which you won’t just be able to visit the shopping centre with great ease but also much of the rest of the city.
For instance, located just a few minutes and a short walk away from the mainline Paddington railway station, one the best of the hotels near Bayswater, the Park Grand Bayswater is maybe the ideal accommodation in the area. Both classic and sophisticated, its elegance is savvily complemented by the contrast of modern, state-of-the-art fixtures and fittings and contemporary comfort of its rooms, the likes of which all discerning travellers demand. The lobby and public areas’ clean lines and palette of black, white and burnt orange are met by the quiet, relaxing understatement of each of its suites, while its bar and restaurant are welcoming for weary visitors who’ve spent a busy day sightseeing or indeed browsing and shopping at a top location like Whiteleys.
As one of London’s premier shopping experiences, Whiteleys’ opening hours are a reflection of the place’s largesse; its commitment to containing not just so many retail outlets, but also so many dining and entertainment venues all under one roof. To that end, the centre itself is open at 8.30am and closes at midnight every day of the week (Monday-Sunday). Likewise, its retail stores and outlets are open from 10am to 8pm each day between Mondays and Saturdays (although semi-department store Marks & Spencer opens an hour later on these days) and, owing to UK trading laws, between 12noon and 6pm on Sundays. Moreover, generally speaking, the centre’s restaurants and eateries open between 12noon and 11pm every day; however, it’s best to check with the individual outlets here, as their exact timings may vary.
In terms of when’s best to visit the centre; well, that depends on when you actually can squeeze in a visit, of course, as it’s opening hours are so generous. That said, its stores and various eateries are likely to be busiest on weekday afternoons and all-day Saturday and Sunday (especially in the run-up to Christmas), so best to avoid them at this time and on these days? Perhaps.
As noted, Whiteleys is home to a vast array of high-quality, high-street retailer stores; together they cover the full spectrum of the shopping experience. Here then, to give you an idea, are just a few:
• Beauty Base – dating back to 1975, this outlet brand is the capital’s leader in fragrances and cosmetics, perhaps because its focus is always to cater for shoppers’ personal preferences and experience when it comes to scents and grooming products. How so? Well, here customers are free to check out items at their leisure without sales assistants butting in, so they can discover for themselves exactly what they’re after and what suits them without the ‘hard sell’. Beauty Base also claims to beat most ‘duty free’ retailers when it comes to prices.
• E&A Moda – this place is all about providing luxury designer garments at affordable prices, many of them the rarer, less high-street-featuring pieces which are sourced directly from the London, Milan, New York and Paris fashion houses; among the brands available on its rails and shelves are the likes of Burberry, D&G, Gucci, Marc Jacobs and Prada
• Ernest Jones – what makes this jeweller a perennial favourite up and down the country is its commitment to stocking prestige brands and exclusive ranges that aren’t out of the price range of customers; we’re talking designer timepieces, exquisite jewellery items and giftware collections
• Gap/ Gap Kids – one of the high-street’s most popular and (still) one of its coolest fashion names, Gap has been churning out all-American preppy-inspired togs since way back – the end of the 1960s, in fact – via its holy trinity that’s denim, utility-wear and sweatshirts. Meanwhile, its children’s wear-focused sister store succeeds in producing quality but stylish clothing for those all the way up to 12 years-old (yes, starting with babies and toddlers); its fashion all the way here with the likes of graphic tees and designer denim – why should the kids miss out on that?
• H&M – a worldwide fashion retailer, so much so it boasts in excess of 2,000 stores across the globe, H&M is also about style, but along the lines of simple, highly accessible trends for both sexes and all ages (including teens and kids) and highly accessible prices too; the Whiteleys store claims that new items arrive every day!
• Haute Collage – interior design and, especially, outstanding oil paintings are the name of the game here, as well as making them available at prices that don’t break the bank, which is as much because this outlet’s wares are mostly supplied by exciting, up-and-coming artists and designers as much as anything else. Something of a favourite among bargain hunters then, as well as lovers of luxurious accessories for the home.
• Kurt Geiger – despite the sound of its name, Kurt Geiger’s a British designer-wear brand; in fact, don’t doubt it, because its original store opened on the West End’s Bond Street in the early ’60s. Today, its committed to delivering vibrancy and cutting-edge style via its fashion labels that scream urban wearability.
Indeed, of these labels, there’s Carvella, which looks to blend red-carpet-level glamour with dress-down chic, as well as KG Kurt Geiger, a collection that embraces downtown British fashion to encompass undeniable UK cool and, finally, Miss KG, which aims to arm women looking to rule the street in the style stakes with trend-setting accessories that are about functionality as much as aesthetic.
• Toys “R” Us – finally, with Christmas on the horizon, where better to pay a visit during your time at Whiteleys than the UK’s – and, well, actually, the world’s – leading toy megastore? Also specialising in baby-care items and family leisure products, Toys “R” Us lays claim to a staggering 1,500 outlets throughout the globe; its success basically down to its expansive range of toys, games, bikes, PCs and outdoor products, its unbeatable prices and its friendly, well-trained staff. No surprise then that it’s this retailer that’s received the prestigious Tommy Parent Friendly Award on nine separate occasions.
Entertainment and leisure
Again, it’s not just about the shopping at Whiteleys; although, as the above proves, that’s a big part of this venue’s appeal. Entertainment and leisure’s served in large, healthy doses here – here are the highlights:
• All Star Lanes – an afternoon or evening spent at this ten-pin bowling venue isn’t about whiling away a couple of hours or more with youthful fun, but more about popping along to a true destination, where bowling’s at its heart. And that’s because at All Star Lanes offers far more than just bowling; how about quaffing quality cocktails and supping on delicious dinner cuisine while you’re serenaded by terrific music, to create an unbeatable background ambience?
Both ideal for all the family (and so great for children’s parties and family get-togethers) and for grown-ups seeking a frivolous night-out – whether they’re groups of friends, work colleagues or a dating couple, this is a venue that may just have it all, including a private room experience that comes complete with a self-contained bowling alley and cocktail bar, thus perfect for private events.
• Lux Fitness – a private training venue that comes highly recommended, Lux Fitness offers several different services, ranging from one-on-one training to small groups and nutritional consulting as well as a varied selection of supplement products to keep your body and mind on the healthy straight and narrow
• Odeon multiplex cinema – Whiteleys’ very own branch of the UK’s leading cinema chain, this movie-going venue offers the full gamut (the latest blockbuster actioners, adventures, rom-coms, dramas and more right through to intriguing, alternative fare including live theatre, opera and sports broadcasts on the big screen), some of which are presented in Dolby Surround Sound, digital and 3D. Additionally, audio description/ subtitles, disabled access and ‘Premier’ seats are all available for selected performances, while a full roster of food and drink refreshments can be bought before each and every screening.
• Odeon’s The Lounge – proof of the comprehensive cinema offering you’ll find at Whiteleys comes in the shape of this service courtesy of Odeon, which is available for adults (those aged 18 and over) to ensure they can enjoy their film-viewing in perfect relaxation and refinement, enabling all the focus to be on the screen itself and the movie in question.
Each of the screens in The Lounge offer this intimate sort of experience, in part thanks to the smaller size of the auditoriums (an upper limit of 50 seats) and the opportunity to increase one’s leg room and spoil oneself in a reclining chair, while being served by staff from a restaurant-style food and drink menu. There’s also a bar area, so visitors can enjoy a quick beverage before they begin their movie-viewing experience – and take it in with them should they so wish!
Dining and refreshment options
There’s no doubt that, to complement your shopping and leisure activities, Whiteleys also possesses some excellent restaurants and outlets delivering snacks and refreshments. Moreover, owing to the fact its location is (as mentioned) right in the heart of things, slap-bang in the centre of London, it’s surrounded by further excellent dining out options.
In Whiteleys shopping centre, you’ll find:
• Costa Coffee – perfect for a pit-stop, this branch of the one of the UK’s premier and most friendly coffee shop chains serves a fine range of coffees, teas and other hot and cold drinks, as well as traditional and Italian sandwiches and sweet and savoury treats
• Pizza Express – the leading pizza restaurant throughout the country, Pizza Express is particularly popular with diners not just because it enables them to dine on delicious Italian cuisine full of fantastic flavour, but also because they get to watch the place’s pizzaiolos creating each dish to order; tossing and stretching the pizza dough before it’s cooked, garnished with fresh and tasty ingredients and served
• Urban Social – an independent speciality coffee-serving venue, this outlet is also the place to pop into for juices, smoothies and sweet and savoury crêpes and waffles
Near Whiteleys shopping centre, you’ll find:
• Bella Italia Queensway (55-57 Queensway W2 4QH/ 5 minutes from Whiteleys) – serving breakfast as well as lunch and dinner daily, this Italian cuisine-focused restaurant features a full menu drawn from traditional ingredients and cooking methods passed down from generation-to-generation within Italian families. A venue that’s equally as good a fit for a cocktail-fuelled night out with friends as it is for a bite to eat with the family during the day
• Little Persia (38 Queensway W2 3RS/ 4 minutes from Whiteleys) – a relaxed and atmospheric dining room, this venue channels the atmosphere and unique vibe of Middle Eastern dining, complete with dimmed lighting, über-plush upholstery and cushions and exquisitely colourful lanterns. Menu-wise, it’s all about variety but also authenticity thanks to cooking driven by traditional herbs and spices, succulent meats, salads and rice. Outside, you can also enjoy a waterpipe in a weatherproof-tented ‘shisha paradise’.
• Masala Zone Bayswater (75 Bishop’s Bridge Road W2 6BG/ 2 minutes from Whiteleys) – always lively, colourful and full of bold aromas and the hum of relaxed conversation, a visit to this branch of one of the UK’s leading South Indian cuisine-focused restaurants is a pleasure, indeed. The menu’s informed by the idea of bringing excellent authentic street food to the high-street dining room but with a contemporary twist, featuring thali family platters, flavoursome grills, regional curries and biryanis and fresh vegetables.
• Park Grand Bayswater hotel (52 – 56 Inverness Terrace W2 3LB/ 4 minutes from Whiteleys) – as already noted, our hotel makes for an outstanding accommodation solution in Bayswater London, but its restaurant and bar also make for a fine combination to ensure you’re well fed and your thirst nicely quenched either before or after a day spent at Whiteleys. Note too that guests who book directly with us have the option of indulging in a freshly prepared full English breakfast on each morning of their stay.
As made clear above, ideally the best and easiest – certainly the most stress-free! – the way of getting to Whiteleys shopping centre from wherever you may be staying in the capital is to use the London Underground network, specifically for its various nearby stations. That said, all manner of transport options is possible, of course; for instance, you may be driving into London and looking to park your vehicle during your visit. Just as well then that Whiteleys offers a rooftop car park that features a total 175 vehicle spaces.
Charges for each space then are as follows: £2.80 for up to one hour; £5.60 for up to two hours; £8.40 for between two and three hours; £11.20 for between three and four hours; £14 for between four and five hours; £24 for between five and eight hours; £36 for between eight and 12 hours and £50 for more than 12 hours.
Should you like the sound of this option, though, it’s important to note that the car park only accepts payments via credit or debit card; all such major cards can be used – American Express, Diners Club, Mastercard, Maestro and Visa. Additionally, you can park your car here, safe in the knowledge it will be secure, thanks to the fact the car park’s a recipient of the Secure Car Park Award – awarded jointly by the British Parking Association (BPA) and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) – while you spend a morning, lunchtime, afternoon or evening window-shopping, browsing or buying the delights on sale downstairs in the Whiteleys shopping centre.