London is well known for its huge, glossy high street stores, designer fashion boutiques and huge department stores, so it’s no wonder each year travellers flock to the city to indulge in some retail therapy. So, whether you’re a fan of high Street favourites like Topshop, Zara or Mango or whether you prefer something a little more upmarket and elite, London is the city that has it all. Whatever your shopping style, or budget, you can be sure of finding something that will wow your friends and family back home.
For a totally luxurious shopping experience, head to Knightsbridge where you’ll find flagship store Harrods. This is not just another department store, as it really does sell everything you can imagine, from stunning pastries and cakes, luxurious champagne and beautifully designed bears and toys; to doggy strollers and wedding gowns. However, don’t let the eclectic mix of items put you off, as luxury is tangible in the air from the minute that you step foot in the door. And, whatever you decide to purchase, don’t come away without a famous bottle green, branded carrier bag- they’re famous, and not just in London either. Another indulgent treat available at Harrods is afternoon tea- a sumptuous selection of finger sandwiches, cakes and fresh scones with clotted cream accompanied with a selection of loose leaf tea. It’s not cheap by any means, but it really is the epitome of spoiling yourself.
Make for Oxford Street if you’re a high street shopper, to find old faithful’s such as H and M, Marks and Spencer and the biggest Primark you’ve seen in a long, long time. There are also plenty of coffee shops and restaurants scattered throughout the shopping district too, so there’s lots of opportunity to refuel as you shop.
Providing a stark contrast to the super sleek towering shops of the high street, London’s markets offer an eclectic array of treasures all just waiting to be found. Camden market has over 1000 shops and stalls, so you’ll need a good few hours free to really get shopping for something vintage or quirky, and with a selection of both old and new items, there’s bound to be something that catches your eye. Camden market is easily reachable by public transport and is quick to get to from popular accommodation choices such as the Premier hotel Kensington London.
Brick Lane Market
This weekend market is in the East end of London, and makes for a wonderful family day out on a Sunday where you find yourself at a loose end. Amongst plenty of shopping stalls, you’ll also find lots of world cuisine street food too, so arrive hungry and ready to sample out a new dish or two. The vendors are passionate about what they serve and many will offer a try before you buy system too, so don’t be afraid to opt for something you’ve never tried before- you might be pleasantly surprised. Once you’ve decided on what to eat, it’s time to make your way over to the kerb, tray in hand, to enjoy lunch like the locals. All you need to do is find a space and perch down on the kerb to enjoy your food and indulge in a spot of people watching.
If you’ve travelled from overseas to be in London, you might start to miss a few creature comforts during your trip. Whether that’s your favourite can of soda, packet of TimTams or even veggiemite, keep your eyes peeled for little boutique stores that import overseas goods to sell in the throes of London. Australians will be pleased to know that ‘John bell and Croydon Ltd’ stock organic Australian bathroom essentials such as shampoo, body lotions, body scrubs and soap. As well as being able to restock your toiletries bag with things that remind you of home, you can also satisfy a sweet tooth craving with a violet crumble from the Cyber Candy store in Covent Garden. Or perhaps you’re an American looking for a flavour of dairy milk that isn’t stocked in the UK? If so, Cyber Candy is the store for you.
Getting to your preferred place to shop is relatively easy too, as all of the above districts are reachable by either bus or London underground, which means that you can even have a sneaky glass (or bottle!) of wine with lunch, as you don’t need to worry about having to drive back afterwards. Actually, even if you aren’t planning to sip something strong at lunch, you might still want to opt to use public transport rather than take your car along. Parking in the city is a nightmare for two reasons- one finding somewhere vacant that’s close to your chosen destination is hard work and two, the parking charges are extortionate. Perhaps it’s for these reasons that even the locals favour buses and tubes over cars any day of the week. Also, since many of the popular places to stay are all on major bus routes or have tube stations nearby, it makes getting all of your shopping bags back to your hotel a piece of cake.
In fact, after a hard day of shopping ‘til you drop, what could be better than heading back to your hotel room, dropping off your bags and having a quick shower to freshen up before heading out for a night to remember. Whether you prefer to sip on colourful cocktails or indulge in a luxurious gin and tonic, London has plenty of bars that will entice and seduce you.