A shopper’s paradise, London has the best anyone could ever want in Haute Couture, Tailoring, Designer Vintage and accessories, not to mention antiques and design.
The extravagant city centre shop windows, always striving to be the most best, the most spectacular are left in the capable hands of highly imaginative window artists and designers.
Department stores are a London speciality. There are dozens throughout the city, each boasting a wide variety of products, from fashion to furniture, food to jewellery.
Most department stores also have cafés, restaurants or bars, perfect for a relaxing break during a long day’s shopping. And if you are truly exhausted, some department stores even have beauty salons and wellness centres with Jacuzzis. Most of the larger centres also have large cosmetics and wedding departments. Shoppers are always impressed with the incredible assortment of hats. From the most classic models to true works of contemporary art, these hats are a favourite British accessory, a must for ceremonies and elegant events.
Oxford Street is certainly one of the best-known zones, boasting nearly 300 shops and department stores. Here you will find Selfridges, the famous and innovative luxury store, as well as more affordable superstores such as Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, House of Fraser, Debenhams or chain stores such as Urban Outfitters, Gap, Monsoon, Top Man and Top Shop (a favourite with British teenage girls). This is probably one of the areas with the highest number of tourists and non-tourists alike, looking to purchase the latest fashion and accessories at excellent quality-price ratios. It is even said that this is the busiest shopping street in Europe! Its chaotic dimension is what makes this street so fascinating.
St. Christopher’s Place and South Molton Street lie just off Oxford Street, are somewhat less crowded and may reveal interesting surprises with small shops, bars, and restaurants.
Here shoppers will find the boutiques of emerging stylists, small fashion and accessory shops, but also eco-toys, design objects, natural fabrics and many other interesting and original articles. For instance, in St Christopher's Place, there is a small jewellery shop specialising in amber jewellery from every part of the globe.
The legendary Carnaby Street is also near Oxford Street. It became popular with Mods during the 1960s Swinging London, due to its music shops, boutiques and workshops such as the Mary Quant atelier. Today Carnaby Street is decidedly less alternative, with large chain stores and restaurants but some interesting independent shops are still to be found.
From Oxford Street, visitors can access noisy and vibrant Piccadilly Circus through Regent Street, another iconic London shopping street.
Here is the largest Apple Store in Europe, a true children’s paradise, and Hamley's (five floors of toys!), and the historic Liberty department store. Created in 1875 by Arthur Lasenby, Liberty had such a strong impact on tastes of that period that the so-called “Liberty Style” has become synonymous with the term “Art Nouveau”. Liberty Style can also be recognised in accessories with classic floral patterns and in the elegant brand names selected, even among extremely innovative items that the store dedicates ample space to.
The nearby Jermyn Street is famous for its tailor-made men’s shirts, but even more acclaimed is the nearby and much quieter Savile Row, always a favourite with City gents, and home to the most important and best-known tailors in the world, including Anderson & Sheppard, Gieves & Hawkes, Davies & Sons, Henry Poole & Co and Norton & Sons.
Knightsbridge is known as “Harrod's zone”, the legendary luxury department store where every item in the more than 300 departments on seven floors, is spectacularly displayed. Its Egyptian-inspired decor and speciality food department are world-famous.
Harvey Nichols, a favourite with fashionistas, is also in Knightsbridge.
Bond Street is the most exclusive street in London, with the highest concentration of high fashion boutiques in the world and is the regular haunt of international celebrities.
In addition to top-notch “Made in UK” flagship stores like Mulberry and Burberry, it also has Prada, Louis Vuitton, Donna Karan, Armani, Nicole Fahri, Versace and Gucci stores, the distinctive Ralph Lauren building and other prestigious brand names such as Cartier and Tiffany.
In the nearby Conduit Street there are the boutiques of the most original designers such as Vivienne Westwood and Issey Miyake.
The main square of Covent Garden is another famous shopping area. Traditionally a fruit and vegetable market for the local convent, today it is crammed with food, jewellery and clothes stalls. It is an enormous showcase of British craftsmanship, with more than 200 artists and licensed craftsmen.
In the immediate vicinity, streets like Floral Street, Monmouth Gardens, Shorts Gardens, Seven Dials and Neal’s Yard also hold pleasant surprises.
However, if you want to browse unusual or vintage fashion, rare antiques and experience a vibrant, multi-cultural atmosphere, Notting Hill is a must. It offers a rich choice of eclectic and alternative shops, but is also famous for its huge antiques market on Portobello Road.
Speaking of markets, London has 83 in all! Although impossible to list them all, their unparalleled charm makes them all worth a visit.