One for every day of the week, of course.
Craig David has switched on the Oxford Street Christmas lights. The winter shopping season is kicking off, and literally millions of people are whizzing into town to obliterate their Christmas shopping lists and to have a little retail fun for themselves. Shopping in London is a thrill – well, in the sense that a little browsing can soon turn into a life-and-death battle of the bargain-hunters.
But you know what you have to do? Keep calm and carry on shopping. This insider’s guide will show you fantastic shops in London and where to find them.
1. Carnaby Street: Never Boring
No two shops sell the same style on Carnaby Street. It and its partner in crime, Savile Row, have been known for being the edgy trendsetters among shops in London since the 50’s.
A handful of highlights: ‘Irregular Choice’ is worth a look-in just for its rainbow stairs, and its eye-popping prints just shout KAPOW! ‘The Face’ is a modern outpost of that terribly British Teddy Boy fashion (ever wondered where the “Teddy” nickname comes from? The quiffs and suits are a throwback to Edwardian fashion). Even if you think you’ve grown out of animal jewellery, ‘Joy Everly’ will make you rethink that with its elegant and surprisingly unique designs. ‘Drop Dead’ brags versatile urban statements and timeless baggy/tight-fit combos that you could wear to a rave, hip hop, or goth concert.
2. Oxford Street: Indulge
It’s easy to spend a lot of money when shopping in London, but it’s also easy to find some bargains. Oxford Street is an A-Z of affordable high street brands, and even some department stores (Debenhams, John Lewis, House of Fraser & co.) joining in the British rendition of Black Friday madness. Yet a stroll along Oxford Street isn’t complete without a decent hour in Selfridge’s, the classy and lovable retail icon and a haven for high quality.
But Christmas shopping London style can be stressful. Luckily you’ll find spas at regular intervals, and often inside the shops themselves: the big department stores and Selfridge’s have their own, but the most ethical Oxford Street spa has to be Lush, famed for its hand-made, creatively titled, and downright fun cosmetics.
3. Knightsbridge: Expensive Taste
This is where you will make those memorable, life-changing purchases – or maybe just window-shop. The infamously luxurious Harrods is an encyclopaedia of everything money can buy. On the outside, Harvey Nichols looks like it’ll be the same, except inside it’s more like a giant photo studio, spotlighting brands at their best. It also has a stunning fifth floor cafe with suitably impressive views of the city.
If you want to escape the multi-level monsters, take a turn down Sloane Street where Dior, Chanel and friends have their own dedicated boutiques. But there are also new discoveries to be made: ‘egg’ does casual elegance with polka dots and blanket-like attire.
4. Brick Lane: Affordable and Artsy
If you’re young, cool, and maybe not too well off, Brick Lane is where to shop in London for you. The fashion here can’t decide if it’s looking back or looking forward.
The reliable Beyond Retro on neighbouring Cheshire Street stocks bargains that are bang on trend. Spitalfields itself is a renovated relic of the Victorian era, and it is covered market houses, not only vintage and art markets selling nothing but pure temptation, but also old-school tea dances and film screenings.
Meanwhile, graduates fresh out of design school are making a stab at selling their wares. Some of them wind up among international avant garde heroes on the rails of Shop 172.
5. Regent Street: Arcade Fun
The key to finding where to shop in London is also finding where to take a break from shopping. Regent Street is right in the heart of the retail district, next to Oxford Street, Carnaby Street, and the gorgeous Burlington and Piccadilly Arcades. Yet it’s easy to peel off into smaller streets to find great food and fine beverages, for example at Kingly Court, or to wind down with a classic or arthouse film at the Regent Street Cinema.
Regent Street has two of the most fun shops in London. Hamley’s “House of Toys” is rightly bumping at any time of year – which is good, because you’re never at a loss for playmates when trying out the demos. Inside its Tudor home, Liberty turns consumerism into spellbinding storytelling: this year it has woven Nutcracker motifs into its Oriental-inspired collections.
But the best of all the shops in London – in my very personal opinion – has to be Fortnum & Mason’s, a multiplex tea heaven just off Regent Street in Piccadilly, with bonus Gallery Restaurant and Wine Crypt.
6. Portobello Road: Throwback Thrift
Shopping in London can sometimes get a bit too tied up in fashion, which is easy to do when it is home to some of Europe’s biggest shopping centres – but what about plain old stuff?! For all your bric-a-brac needs and flea market fixes, there’s Portobello Road.
Alice’s bright red shopfront and circus font is unmissable, and sells everything you might expect Lewis Carroll’s heroine to encounter in her dreams. The Portobello Print & Map Shop sells exactly what you’d think. So does The London Antique Clock Centre. But Sisters Antiques are a surprise, as self-proclaimed “specialist dealers in military and marine binoculars“.
7. Camden Market: Anything but Normal
Really, you need an entire day out in Camden to sample every one of its weird and wonderful shops. Shopping in London doesn’t get much weirder than Cyberdog, whose brick cellar is a lair for rave animals and PVC demons. Or maybe it does: the colourful Mexican folk creations in House of Guadalupe are an unexpected next to all the British punk outlets.
Camden Market does like it scruffy, but it can also has twisted elegance in certain corners. Sai Sai is a Japanese gem for Gothic lolita fans of frills, frou frou and formidable fashion. For a less cutesy look, Dracula Clothing has some persuasive steampunk numbers – even mainstreamers would be fools to ignore its dignified brocade coats.
Now you know where to go shopping in London…
…all that’s left is to figure out how to get there.
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