St James's takes as its borders Piccadilly, Haymarket, the Mall and Green Park. This part of London became the centre of fashion in the 1530s when Henry VIII built St James's Palace on the site of St James's Hospital, a former leper hospital. The palace was one of the principal royal residences for more than 300 years and continues to be the Court's official headquarters. Foreign ambassadors to the UK are still known officially as 'Ambassador(s) to the the Court of St James'.
St James's Palace (closed to the public) is now used by Prince Charles and various minor royals. Spencer House, just to the north of St James's Palace, was built in 1766 by an ancestor of the late Diana, Princess of Wales.
St James's, even more exclusive than Mayfair to the north, continues to be popular with the highest ranks of society. The area's historic streets have remained virtually unchanged for decades, perhaps centuries, but along with the exclusivity comes a certain amount of alooftness.
This is most obvious among the gentlemen's clubs of St James's. Mostly located in St James's Street and Pall Mall, these clubs evolved from coffee houses in the 17th century as meeting places for the gentry. Today the clubs still provide a haven for businessmen (and a few women). The oldest club, 'Whites', at No. 37 St James's Street, was founded in 1693 but most of the others date from the 19th century. Club members still patronise the shops and restaurants of Jermyn Street and St James's Street but these days most of their customers are well-to-do tourists.
Jermyn Street, one of London's most elegant thoroughfares, is lined with shops for the fashionable man. The retail establishments in St James's Street, with their charming old faades, include upmarket cobbler John Lobb at No. 6 and cigar retailer JJ Fox at No. 119.
King Street is known for it's art galleries, including Christies.