TikTok and Instagram are filled to the brim with aesthetic videos, promising whimsy, hygge and wonder. So when I came across multiple videos from creators touting Pasadena's Burlington Arcade as feeling like a little piece of London, I had to check it out. The location likely takes its name from the Burlington Arcade in London itself, and while not as large or grand in architecture, it does feel like a nice nod to the 1819 establishment. Arcade, I should clarify, is used in the traditional sense here, meaning a covered passageway with arches on one or both sides. The word derives literally from "arc" or the latin, "arcus" meaning bow. Which is kinda cool. Language evolving and all that--but I'm getting off track.
Most of the videos about the arcade, unsurprisingly, focused on a few key angles--which is understandable when you're trying to capture a particular feeling. The aesthetic is there--BUT if all you have to go on is the aesthetic, I personally feel you're likely to be a little disappointed. So let's talk about the meat of this location, shall we?
Most importantly--and I know you've been dying to know with baited breath--Burlington Arcade offers a parking lot with free 90 minute parking (then you're able to pay for an additional 90 minutes after). Yes, I know, all your questions have been answered, you're welcome. I think we're done here...
But I GUESS, if you wanted to know about what the arcade actually offers other than parking for some weirdo demented reason... then read on.
First, I will preface, that it does seem like the area is still recovering from the pandemic--so my notes here may be entirely superfluous in six months or less. There are a few storefronts looking for a new caretaker--and you'll also want to double-check hours before you go because quite a few of the shops do not run on a typical 7 days a week 9-5, or even M-F schedule. It would especially be a shame if you had your eyes on one shop only to find out it was not even open the day you decide to visit.
Because I am a self-admitted tea goblin, most importantly, I must outline that there are 3 different cafes in the arcade: Oink Moo (Boba Tea), The Mandarin Coffee Stand (Tea and Specialty Coffee from small roasters) and Float which has a full coffee and tea bar but bills more as a sandwich shop.
I was only personally able to try Float on this visit--which I will go into more detail later on in this article--but my lovely friend Joe, who lives a short walk from the arcade, assured me Oink Moo's Boba Tea was fantastic. In fact, prior to our excursion together, it was the only shop in the arcade they had frequented.
Among the other storefronts there is a tailor, a kimono shop, a high-end children's clothing boutique, a nail salon, a flower shop, and an aesthetician who specializes in permanent makeup. Unfortunately a few of them were not open on the Monday we visited, so we were only able to admire those shops from the beautiful Georgian window storefronts. What a divine thought though? Going dropping something off at the tailor and then getting your nails done with a tasty tea in an arcade that looks this whimsical and lovely.
It is worth noting: I adore a Georgian storefront--the great big windows feel so perfectly magical. I admit while I waited for Joe to arrive, I stared for far too long at the currently vacant #12. This is something those aesthetic videos never seem to highlight, and while I understand why, the mere possibility of what this could one day be had me buzzing.
Don't leave me alone with an empty store front. By the time my friend arrived I had dreamed up a cozy little bookshop with one of those windows refashioned into a pillow-piled reading nook. Plants hanging from the ceiling, warm amber lighting, and the soft sound of rain intermixed with music playing through the speakers scattered about the cafe. Pure hygge.
Ah, a fae can dream.
We popped into Float and cuddled up with our respective teas, and a succulent that I have decided to name Marleyborne. We caught up on each other's lives and we people-watched, admiring the sleepy bustle to and fro in the little lane. Allowing myself to sink into the moment, I confess, I did feel transported. The cloudy skies and chill-for-SoCal weather certainly helped that London feeling--so much that I couldn't help but order a London Fog specifically.
Some LA folks may loathe June Gloom, but it always makes me feel like I get a little autumnal treat before the heat wafts in for an oppressive and unceasing 5 months.
Float, appropriately named, has a light and airy feel inside. The windows allow a waterfall of natural light to pour in, giving very little need for light fixtures. The sun bounces off the soft cream walls, and light wood tabletops. A charming chalkboard menu hangs above the coffee bar, and a beautiful mural of a woman ties in the pops of color scattered about the café.
While it has no pile of pillows to sink into, I can't imagine a more pleasant place to grab lunch and either catch up with a friend, or your current book. The atmosphere lends itself marvelously to either.
I would also like to return to pay more attention to the flower shop. As we were adventuring, I did not feel confident a plant wouldn't wilt in the car while we were out and about, but the storefront does look straight out of a romantic comedy. While not the style of Flowered Up, you could almost imagine Lena Heady as Luce wandering out of the store front as you browse--offering advice on floral meanings. If you've no idea what I'm talking about, Imagine Me & You is an adorable sapphic romantic comedy, that despite when it was made, does not fall prey to the trope that all queer romances must end in death and/or tragedy. Also, befittingly, it takes place in London, so... thus we are continuing to pass the vibe check.
I have one thing to note, which may not matter to anyone else but me, but feels important to mention. The door to the iconic public London telephone does not open. I imagine, this is to keep it from being used as an outhouse or worse in the off-hours. Still, you can make a silly pose and stand beside it if you so chose and take a photo. Inside is completely empty, however, so if you're looking to attempt a photoshoot, you'll want to be careful to hide that this phone box is missing... well, a phone.
It's not terribly large, and you likely couldn't spend a whole day away in the arcade but with its proximity to the Shops on Lake Avenue, it's more than just an Instagram photo and a whimsical add to a day of shopping--and definitely to get a quick bite or get a little caffeine boosts from one of the three cafes.
If you're a coffee drinker, the smell of coffee beans coming from the Mandarin Coffee Stand was absolutely divine.