The Best-Smelling Street In London?

By Londonist Last edited 57 months ago
The Best-Smelling Street In London?

Screen Shot 2013-08-12 at 13.32.42

Adam MacLean champions a corner of SW3 as London's most fragrant. Do you agree? Or can you think of somewhere of more pleasurable bouquet?

Beauchamp Place in Knightsbridge is barely 200 metres long, yet I think it ought to be awarded a prize as the most aromatic street in London.

It begins, and it ends, with shisha. If you were to associate just one smell with the street, it would be that. The mix of apple, strawberry and more exotic flavours wafts from cafes, delighting the nose. Spend a little longer, though, and many other smells linger in the evening air, commingling with English, French and Arabic voices.

Barbeque meats grilling in sumac mix with the outpourings from the perfumerie as it closes up shop. Cigarette smoke and aftershave hang over pub tables.

Absence, too, can be a good thing. There is no dust in the air here; exhaust fumes and road oil do not reach me. Freshness pervades, helped, in no small part, I am sure, by the plants. Hanging pots line the gables, reflecting the Mediterranean and beyond. Jasmine and lavender intoxicate me.

I admit, I ride the length of this street twice a day as a part of my commute, and with familiarity does come pleasure. Yet this place is still special. In the mornings the scene is quite different. With eating and drinking yet to begin, the smells are sharper. Mornings are cleaning times; windows scrubbed and floors sloshed. I taste detergent in the air. It reminds me of all that it not sweet; it reminds me of the other side. I come to anticipate the morning bitterness just as I do the evening sweetness. They balance one another.

“Shop where royalty and celebrities shop” promises the street's website. Go for that if it takes your fancy. But I urge you to go for the subtleties, the scents beneath the surface.

Sometimes, it is this quality of richness that London so possesses that overwhelms me. There’s too much of it all. But when I allow myself the pleasure of paying attention – it doesn’t matter to what – a new peace amid the vast diversity opens up, and I bask and wallow in it.

By Adam MacLean.

Last Updated 12 August 2013

Oliver Mattos

Not to be a party-pooper here, but it does smell faintly of sewerage on hot summer days... I even detour my cycling route sometimes to avoid the whiff...

David C

They don't look like much to walk along, but Old Paradise Street near Lambeth Bridge (home of the Costa Coffee roastery) and Culvert Street in Battersea (ditto for Nero's roastery) often have a quite distinctive coffee smell in the morning, I suspect it has a noticeable effect on local coffee sales.


Columbia Road on Sundays is the best!!!!!!


Great Castle Street in W1 usually smells great (something to do with Topshop I think). Langham Street (also in W1) always smells appalling due to the poor drainage form the Langham Court Hotel. Avoid.

Jo Brodie

Joiner Street inside London Bridge station always used to have an interesting smell coming from a grille on a wall next to the escalator entrance to the rail platforms. I think they've closed it off now during some work but the combination of the coolness of the brickwork and the smell was quite evocative.

Ian S

I lived on Brackley Terrace in Chiswick and if it was a bit foggy in the morning you got the smell of Fullers Brewery, but just the smell of the malt so it was like going to work in an Ovaltine haze . . .

Sure you could get the effect elsewhere nearby, but it was such a relaxing way to start the day.

Alice Bell

You should do a piece on lost London smells (apols if you already have!) - would love to read that. E.g. the Battersea stink, when bits of Brent smelt of biscuits...