Q: My sister and I are going to London in the fall. I wanted to see the places mentioned in my favorite Regency historical novels — Almack's, Hyde Park, Vauxhall Gardens — but my sister says they no longer exist. Are there any still around that we can visit?
A: In a city as historically rich as London, you can find plenty of landmarks relating to its past. But alas, modern buildings have replaced many highlights that made up the Regency England landscape.
A little background for readers unfamiliar with this time period: The Regency era lasted from 1811 to 1820, when King George III was declared unfit and his heir ruled by proxy as Prince Regent. Upon his father's death, the prince became King George IV in 1820 and reigned until his own death in 1837. The Regency period was marked by the social activities of the British aristocracy and distinct trends in fashion, literature and architecture.
Most prominent aristocratic families lived in the Mayfair district, which remains today but without most of the town houses from that era. Also gone are the famous Vauxhall pleasure garden, the social club Almack's and Newgate Prison.
Here are a few places that still stand:
St. George's in Hanover Square: Once the site of high-society weddings, the Anglican Church continues to hold services. Details: www.stgeorgeshanoversquare.org;
Rotten Row in Hyde Park: Visitors can still ride horses on what was once London's most fashionable bridle path. Hyde Park, along with neighbor Kensington Gardens, remains one of London's largest parks. Details: www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/hyde—park.
Hatchards: Established in 1797, the bookstore on Piccadilly hosts signings by high-profile writers such as Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. Details: www.hatchards.co.uk; 011-44-020-7439-9921.
Theatre Royal on Drury Lane: The four-tiered theater has seen plenty of renovations but remains wholly unchanged from its last major rebuild in 1812. Playing through February is the musical "Oliver." Details: www.theatreroyaldrurylane.co.uk/; 011-44-084-4412-4660.
White's and Brook's: The famous gentlemen's clubs continue to operate as private fraternities on James Street. But you'll have to view these from the outside — women still aren't permitted as members.
Bond Street: Since the 18th century, this has been London's fashionable shopping district. It runs from Piccadilly to Oxford Street and is home to Tiffany & Company, Cartier, Gucci and other high-end stores.
Seven Dials: A rough, impoverished neighborhood during Regency times, the West End area near Covent Garden is a junction where seven streets meet. At its center is a pillar that features six sundials. Why six? No one seems to know.