A national obsession enjoyed by locals and tourists alike, shopping in London is almost unavoidable. Whether you’re bargain hunting, exclusive label shopping or just out for some tacky souvenirs, London has it all. The capital is well known for its historical and traditional department stores, famous shopping streets, markets, delicatessens and vintage boutiques. Here’s our top 10 guide to shopping in London, with something to suit everyone…
Harrods is probably the most famous of the London department stores, frequented by many celebrities. It’s great for traditionally English gifts and it’s well-stocked luxury food hall is loved by all. Mainly fashion and beauty based, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols also should be on your list with Selfridges being a particular favourite with the locals. If you need help choosing, there’s a personal shopper service available at many of the department stores. With all the department stores in or around the West End open late, and many great theatre deals on offer it’s a great place to spend the whole day and evening.
Even if you’re not travelling with children, you’ll more than likely find an excuse to visit some magical toy stores of London. Ranging from the mammoth Hamleys (which spreads across 7 floors) to the independent specialist toy shops such as Puppet Planet, Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop selling theatrical and traditional toys, International Magic and the Science Museum store – there is plenty on offer. Hamleys is based in Regent Street, next to Oxford Street.
Covent Garden is a lively and attractive area (if you can avoid the crowds), with plenty of independent fashion and lifestyle stores, based around the Covent Garden Market. In the market you’ll find everything from hand made goods such as soaps, jewellery, toys, and gifts alongside fresh food. It’s a great place to visit at Christmas, as Convent Garden has always had great decorations and a range of unique gifts to choose from. If you’re a vegetarian or just appreciate healthy and organic food, Covent Garden also has many great vegetarian restaurants to choose from, try the famous Neal’s Yard for starters.
Shopping for food
Most department stores have their own food halls, with Fortnum & Mason being the most highly regarded as purveyors of food to HM the Queen. There are plenty of esteemed specialist stores, many of which started out as a small shop in the heart of London hundreds of years ago but are now nationally or internationally acclaimed as the best in their field.
Twinings Tea Shop on The Strand is a perfect example of such a historical retailer. The store incorporates a museum describing the history of tea and the chance to celebrate this typically English beverage. For local dining, there is a huge variety of choice and an exciting range of eateries to explore. Also try Borough Market for Artisan breads and specialists products – a market which is a must see for food lover’s.
Antique and vintage shopping
The largest of the vintage outlets is Alfies Antique Market in St John’s Wood. With around 200 dealers and 5 floors to discover, hours can be spent rummaging for a precious bargain at Alfies. If you like vintage shopping on a smaller scale, try Portobello Road market (which is heaving every Sunday), Carnaby Street and Covent Garden.
High Street fashion
To find the familiar high street shops on a much larger scale, take a trip to Oxford Street. Here you will find many flagship stores such as Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Debenhams, Marks & Spencer and H&M. Many of these will stock limited editions and celebrity designed ranges that you can’t find in regional stores. Mid Summer and January sales are a good time to visit to pick up a bargain but just remember it’s impossible to avoid the crowds here, especially on Saturdays.
If you’re searching for a sparkling gift for a loved one or looking to treat yourself, there are plenty of fine watch sellers and jewellers in London. Garrard, allegedly the world’s oldest jewelers, can be found in Albermarle Street, and were appointed official Crown Jeweller by Queen Victoria and created some of the monarchy’s greatest treasures. Another great place to visit is Hatton Garden in Farringdon. The area on the fringe of the city is close to Holborn and Clerkenwell and is otherwise known as London’s Jewellery Quarter. There’s plenty of shops to choose from ranging from the contemporary to the traditional and the quality of jewellery in this area is normally very high.
Camden is a great alternative area and one of the most eclectic districts in London. The North London town within a town also has one of the most famous of the London markets. Camden has a huge Victorian market hall selling crafts, gifts, clothes, food and music. It’s a colourful and quirky market next to the lock and is a great day out in itself.
A true gentleman’s shopping street, Savile Row – also known as the Golden Mile and worldwide as the home of British tailoring – is the place to go for handmade and bespoke tailoring. With tailors visited by the most important and prominent members of society, including royalty, Savile Row is one of the most prestigious shopping streets in the world.
To pick up some of the most desirable brand names such as Versace, Ralph Lauren, Vivienne Westward, DKNY and Tiffany & Co, head to Westfield London, the largest shopping centre in the capital. This new American style mall is huge and makes up-scale shopping very easy and convenient. Alongside the designer stores there are also the usual high street names, a spa, gym, cinema and lots of good restaurants – everything you need to make you a happy shopper!