When it comes to multi-role, hyper-dynamic, super-diverse, perfectly situated and extreme use postal codes, it’s hard to compete with London’s W1. From elegant Georgian townhouses to the north, to the density and grit of Soho to the east, the leafiness and calm of Hyde Park to the west and the hush of St. James to the south, W1 can confidently lay claim to being the beating heart of the United Kingdom, the most attractive stretch of real estate in Europe, and one of the most commercially important enclaves in the world. While economically and culturally diverse communities aren’t particularly rare, the sheer breadth and depth of the businesses and institutions that call W1 home make it unique – globally.
In less than one square mile, the district houses the worldwide news operations of the BBC, Europe’s most premium luxury shopping streets, clusters of the most savvy financial institutions and the world’s most respected art dealers. Woven throughout are the quiet parks and squares, handsome houses, well-protected embassies and exceptional hotels that make this both a destination and an eclectic collection of living neighbourhoods that are active around the clock.
W1 benefits, in part, from both its scale and history. Architecturally, it is a delightful mix of 19th-century pubs, 20th-century mansion blocks and 21st-century office and retail facilities. Shopkeepers (and bankers) can quite literally live above the shop, and it’s this seamless blend of live/work, shop/sell and eat/cook that helps maintain a natural metabolism where nothing stands out from the natural order of things. Indeed, W1 is not just about shopping or finance, museums or fine residences – it’s a heady mix of all of these with a culinary scene that has few peers.
In an era when politicians and developers too often over-plan and then under-deliver, W1 has its own ancient code of checks and balances that give it a rhythm that’s uniquely its own – cosier than New York, more integrated and lively than similar stretches of Paris, and less frenetic and far more walkable than Hong Kong.
My first job (circa 1990) in London was at the European headquarters for an American news organisation, and I eventually managed to settle in Marylebone six years later. Two decades on I’m still resident, and while I’ve worked in many other postcodes in and around London and other cities, I’m happy to have my main base alongside one of the area’s more verdant parks and in easy striking distance of some of the best shops, cafés, restaurants and services in London. I’ve often flirted with other parts of the city (and even other cities around the world) as potential places to live and work, but W1 has set the bar pretty high for its nearest urban competitors or for ambitious developers to mimic. With its lively pace from Monday to Friday, its leisurely pace at the weekends and its sound infrastructure, I can confidently say there’s no match for the dynamism of this most civilised hub in the centre of the world.