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Fortnum & Mason

Fortnum & Mason in London

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A true London institution, the luxury grocery store Fortnum & Mason — or Fortnum’s to those in the know — is a chic and elegant stop that will delight food enthusiasts.

What’s on the menu? Endless varieties of tea, irresistibly delicious biscuits, an array of sweet treats, and picnic baskets brimming with diverse delights.

In short, Fortnum & Mason is undeniably a gourmet’s paradise!


Contents:
👉 A Brief History of Fortnum & Mason
👉 Visiting Fortnum & Mason (architecture, in-store delights, restaurants)
👉 Practical Information

💡 The Captain’s Tips 💡

Want to know more about the history of London? Captain Ulysses highly recommends this free guided tour of the capital. The tip you leave is entirely up to you!

Looking for a hotel in London? Be sure to check out the Captain’s article: Where to stay in London? Tips & Recommendations.

A Brief History of Fortnum & Mason

The Early Days of Fortnum & Mason

Let’s travel back in time, if you will, to the early 18th century. Indeed, it was in 1707 that Fortnum & Mason was established.

The royal family, known for their extravagant habits, demanded brand-new candles to be lit in the palace each evening. Reusing the previous night’s candle stubs was out of the question!

No problem! William Fortnum, then a footman in the service of Queen Anne, seized the opportunity to start a small business by selling the countless half-used candles discarded by the royal family. At the same time, Fortnum also opened a small grocery store and proposed a partnership to his landlord, Hugh Mason. Thus, Fortnum & Mason was born.

Expansion and Innovation

In 1761, William Fortnum’s grandson also entered the service of the royal family. The family grocery store leveraged these close ties with the royal palace to gradually establish itself as a true institution on the London scene.

Throughout the 18th century, Fortnum & Mason stood out for its innovative spirit. The grocery store was among the first to offer exotic and rare products from around the world, such as spices and tea, highly coveted by London’s elite!

Fortnum & Mason also embarked on genuine culinary experiments. Legend has it that the store invented the “scotch egg,” now a staple of British cuisine: a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat and breaded (…to each their own taste!).

The Victorian Era

During the Victorian era, Fortnum & Mason solidified its status as a premier London department store.

Fun fact: in 1886, the store became the first to sell a new product that would soon become a staple of British cuisine: baked beans, commercialized by the American Henry Heinz.

Picnic baskets (known as “hampers“) were also introduced during this time. These luxurious hampers, filled with carefully selected delicacies, became highly sought after by aristocrats for their countryside outings and train journeys. The Fortnum & Mason picnic hamper became a symbol of British elegance and an essential for outdoor excursions. It remains a true bestseller for the store to this day!

Fortnum & Mason, Official Purveyor to the Royal Family

In 1910, Queen Alexandra granted Fortnum & Mason a “Royal Warrant,” a privilege that confirmed its status as an official purveyor to the royal family.

This prestigious title, which allows the store to display the royal coat of arms, has been renewed several times over the following century, demonstrating the British monarchy’s continued trust in Fortnum & Mason.

To this day, the store holds “Royal Warrants” granted by King Charles and Queen Camilla.

The 20th Century: Changing Ownership and Expansion

In 1951, Fortnum & Mason was acquired by Canadian businessman W. Garfield Weston. Today, it is managed by his two granddaughters, Jana Khayat and Kate Hobhouse.

In the 1960s, Weston had the monumental clock installed, which still adorns the iconic facade of the department store.

Throughout the 20th century, Fortnum & Mason also diversified its offerings. The store now offers a wide range of products, from fine foods and beauty products to fashion items and home accessories.

In 2007, the store underwent a complete renovation, with the cost of the work amounting to no less than £24 million! A few years later, the store opened a new location at St Pancras Station, followed by another at Heathrow Airport, a restaurant at the Royal Exchange, and its first overseas store in Hong Kong!

More than three centuries after its founding, the story of Fortnum & Mason continues to unfold…

Fortnum & Mason - Store

Visiting Fortnum & Mason in London

To explore the iconic historic store of Fortnum & Mason, head to 181 Piccadilly in the St James’s district, right in the heart of London!

Architecture

Before stepping into this Aladdin’s cave, take a moment to pause outside the store to admire its elegant facade, adorned with its unmistakable monumental clock.

A true marvel of engineering and craftsmanship, the clock stands nearly 4 meters /13 feet tall. Every hour, the clock provides passersby with a delightfully poetic spectacle. Figures of the store’s two founders, William Fortnum and Hugh Mason, each standing 1.2 meters /4 feet tall, emerge from their respective niches to greet each other. This charming scene, accompanied by chimes, pays homage to the origins of the renowned store. A spectacle not to be missed!

Inside, the store blends classic and contemporary influences, with crystal chandeliers, exquisite woodwork, majestic staircases, and vintage elevators.

Fortnum & Mason

Fortnum & Mason: Floor by Floor

With its five floors — each dedicated to a different world, from gourmet foods and tableware to perfumery — Fortnum & Mason is a true temple of luxury and gastronomy.

Follow the guide: let’s explore the elegant aisles of this grand store on Piccadilly together!

🍏 Basement:

Here you’ll find the “Fresh Food Hall” of the store, including a butcher, fishmonger, cheesemonger, bakery, delicatessen, and wine merchant. In short, everything you need for princely shopping!

Fortnum & Mason - floors

The basement also hosts a wine bar, aptly named “The Wine Bar.”

🍪 Ground Floor:

This is your first impression of the department store, where you’ll discover Fortnum & Mason’s must-have products: tea, biscuits, coffee, pastries, jams, honey, and other sweet treats.

Be warned: the packaging is exceptionally beautiful — Captain Ulysses is particularly fond of the music boxes filled with cookies — and the prices are not exactly cheap…

So, it’s best to prepare yourself to exercise restraint if you don’t want to make a significant dent in your bank account!

The ground floor also houses a restaurant: FIELD by Fortnum’s.

🫖 First Floor:

Take the majestic staircase or the vintage elevators to reach the first floor. This level is dedicated to tableware, featuring porcelain dishes, silverware, and other accessories. It’s also where you’ll find the Christmas shop (starting in July!).

Additionally, the first floor hosts The Parlour Restaurant, perfect for a delightful break with ice cream and coffee.

💄 Second Floor:

Decorated in the purest Georgian style — named after Kings George I, George II, George III, and George IV who reigned consecutively from 1714 to 1830 — the second floor is dedicated to beauty products, jewelry and watches, perfumes, candles, and accessories for both women and men.

🧺 Third Floor:

What’s on offer on the third floor of Fortnum & Mason? Kitchenware, a bookstore, a distillery… and, of course, the essential picnic hampers.

The third floor also features a bar: the 3’6.

☕ Fourth Floor:

The fourth floor is entirely occupied by the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon: a true temple dedicated to afternoon tea. Be sure to make a reservation if you want to indulge in this quintessentially English experience.

☕ What is Afternoon Tea? ☕

A quintessential British tradition, Afternoon Tea is said to have been invented in the early 19th century by Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford, to satisfy her afternoon hunger pangs between lunch and dinner. This delightful break quickly became a social ritual.

A typical Afternoon Tea includes small sandwiches (such as cucumber, salmon, or chicken), scones served with clotted cream and jam, and an assortment of pastries and cakes, all accompanied, of course, by tea.

Fortnum & Mason - Counter

Visitor Tips

Getting to Fortnum & Mason

Head to the heart of London, in the St James’s district. Located at 181 Piccadilly, Fortnum & Mason is situated close to Piccadilly Circus, the Royal Academy of Arts, St James’s Park, and Buckingham Palace.

Fortnum & Mason Opening Hours

Fortnum & Mason is open:

  • Monday to Saturday from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM
  • Sunday from 11:30 AM to 6:00 PM

👉 Skip the lines: book your tickets and visits in advance!

👉 Find the perfect place to stay in London!

 

👉 Looking for recommendations? Here are all of Captain Ulysses’ top tips for London!

🛏️ Accommodation: Hotels.com + Captain Ulysses’ detailed article: “Where to Stay in London?”

🎟️ Activities: GetYourGuide | Civitatis | Tiqets.

🎫 Citypasses: London Explorer Pass | London Pass

🚐 Transfers : Airport transfers

🚌 Local Transportation: Hop-on hop-off buses (with audio guide)

✈️ Getting to London: by plane: Skyscanner | by train : Eurostar


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