Insiders guide to London Shopping
Department stores, gigantic malls, hole-in-the-wall shops, open-air street markets and opulent boutiques help make up the dynamic fusion that is shopping London style. Making sense of it all requires a steely disposition, and unfortunately something which not many visitors have when they arrive in London: ample time. London can certainly offer tourists everything they could wish to buy and more, yet finding the exact spot where the best of it is sold could easily take days on end.
To this end, we’ve compiled this insider’s guide to shopping in London to make your shopping expeditions in London an easy and hassle-free affair. We include our favourite places which offer a much more rounded shopping experience than most mono-branded streets.
Now head forth and indulge in some seriously wicked retail therapy.
Join a made-to-measure London shopping tour
Taking a shopping tour may seem almost ridiculous in a city like London; who on earth would need help shopping here? But there is an argument for quality versus quantity, most especially for tourists who may have a clear idea of what they want, but would waste hours trying to find out where to go. Companies like Urban Gentry offer quite priceless services, especially to the first-time visitor. They offer all sorts of tours and can custom-make them to your specific requirements. Whether it’s trendy, chic or haute-couture you’re after, the tours are concentrated on a certain specific area of London, maximising your precious holiday time and introducing you to unique boutiques most Londoners don’t even know exist. Tours last about three hours and cost £165 irrespective of how many are in your party. Get your family together, a bunch of fellow travelers at the local hostel or just pick a stranger off the street and take him/her along as your fashion-assistant. Just kidding about the last one.
Portobello Market Paradise, Notting Hill
Notting Hill’s Portobello Markets are world renowned and, while some consider it a bit touristy, we consider it the most comprehensive street market we’ve ever been to. And we’ve been to a lot. From traditional Moroccan clay tajines, to innumerable fresh Indian spices, Union-Jack tablecloths, hand-carved African talismans, Portuguese egg tarts and trendy street wear; this is London at its very best. The sidewalks are brimming with new and centuries-old shops, great pubs, delectable food stalls and more. If you could compress the very essence of London into a 1km long stretch of road…it would be Portobello Road, so don’t miss spending an entire day here.
Old Spitafields Market , East End
At first glance, some people think Spitafields is just an earlier version of Portobello, yet this most historic market is actually a better option if you’re in the market for seriously good antiques, artworks and curios as well as amazing bags and accessories from local craftsmen (and women). Of course, this being London and all, there are still copious food stalls to replenish that energy spent and more than enough pubs and cafes for treats of the liquid kind. This market is on every single day, but head here on a Sunday for a much livelier atmosphere and about twice as many stalls.
We’ll start by admitting that we have an aversion to department stores when out shopping and, normally, would never dream of adding one to our ‘insider’s list, especially not one named after an electrical appliance. But to be honest, London’s Selfridges was recently voted the best department stores in the world so, maybe, it’s not all bad…
First of all, we get the convenience. If you were ever dared to spend a hundred thousand bucks in one store in one hour, you may want to head here. From designer garb to street-chic stuff, jewelery, house ware, appliances, techno-everything, furniture, food, spa treatments, tattoos AND art galleries; this department store is more like a mini-cosmos than a shop. The mind boggles.
Head to the 540 thousand square feet store in Oxford Street if it’s raining, or if you happen to be wanted by Scotland Yard.
No way would they ever find you in here…
BabaSteve via Flickr
Garry Knight via Flickr
Garry Knight via Flickr