In the build up to London 2012, there has been plenty of exposure given to Westfield Stratford City and the East London area in general, and rightly so. However, when people visit the English capital, they will be looking to soak up all that the city has to offer, and there is certainly not a lack of stores elsewhere to whet the appetites of consumers.
From antique emporiums, to massive department stores and up-scaled versions of the world’s favourite high-street stores, London can cater for all walks of life, and all preferences. Taking a trip to Camden Market, followed by a tube journey to Oxford Street, and you may as well have caught a flight to a distant continent, for the amount of similarities you are likely to find.
In between the stunning buildings, and archaic tourist attractions, there are plenty of hidden treasures in the capital too, but for the purposes of nostalgia and claims to fame, the ten shops you must visit when in London can fit under one simple cliché: ‘the bigger the better’.
Where better to begin then, than an eye-opening trip to Harrods. Arguably the most famous store in the world, and certainly in the UK, this staggeringly large retailer caters for all, and is almost a tourist attraction in its own right. People who have enjoyed the experience of walking through the Harrods doors often refer back to the time they went there, despite never having any intention of purchasing an item. The pleasure of just being in Harrods is enough to entice most, and of course, if you do have the money to indulge a little, then the experience is made all the better.
If you are looking for a slightly more up-market, but smaller, alternative then Harvey Nichols presents a more-than-pleasant option. The eight floors, encompassing fashion, beauty and fine foods will once again leave you fulfilled and perplexed at the ranges available within one shop.
Selfridges is a third option for consumers attempting to fit in all genres of browsing in one location. While its fashion range is extensive, the homeware and beauty products available further intensifies the joy of visiting the store which celebrated its centenary in 2009.
Fashion and London go hand-in-hand so it would be remiss not to explore the best boutiques the city has to offer as part of a shopping weekend. Topshop is certainly not exclusive to London, but its flagship store on Oxford Street certainly creates a different atmosphere to any of its other branches. The sheer size of it generates an amalgamation of contemporary styles and trends unrivalled elsewhere. Topshop and Topman’s customers are very loyal to the brand, and Oxford Street’s outlet is a girl’s paradise.
Alternately, for something completely different, Late Night Chameleon Cafe (LN-CC) gives an insight into the more intricate and exclusive side of London, not necessarily accessible to all shoppers. When you have to book an appointment to even be allowed into a boutique, then you know you’re entering somewhere unique, and LN-CC certainly makes it a worthwhile appointment. Not only are you graced with stunning interior and fashion, but there is also an in-house disco and occasional events put on too.
Of course, not everyone wants to book an appointment to get into a boutique in order to find music, and this is why Rough Trade East was introduced. For nearly eight years the store has defied the latest digital trends in keeping the tradition of physical music alive. Vast arrays of vinyl records, as well as CDs are available, but the store is also adored for its extra services that can be enjoyed when visiting. A coffee shop, film screenings and acoustic sets are just some of these perks.
From a more practical and sedate shopping experience, Heal’s provides a consistently updated selection of homeware, photography, arts and crafts. Having opened in 1810, there are not many older shops you will step foot in that have the contemporary feel that it still maintains. Its ability to continuously reinvent itself and adhere to modern trends in an ever changing industry is second to none and well worth a look. Liberty is another spectacular combination of old and new, widely acclaimed by the people lucky enough to have witnessed it.
Elsewhere, Fortnum & Mason’s archaic fine food emporium more than suffices for an afternoon snack, recuperating some energy before the final leg of the retail journey.
Finally, for the younger shoppers, there is a particular wonderland catered just for them (and although they may not admit it, the adults still love it too). Any child would happily get dragged around homeware stores and fashion boutiques as long as they were promised a trip to Hamleys at the end of it. Widely regarded as the best toyshop in the world, Hamleys is not just for Christmas and the interactive nature of the store continues to be a huge hit with locals and tourists alike.
So there you have it: the ultimate guide to a spectacular, if not rather expensive, shopping adventure in London. From fine dining, to homeware, fashion, toys, music and the arts, England’s capital has it all, and this has merely scratched the surface.