Nothing beats a good course of retail therapy and when it comes to shopping, you’ve picked the best city of all! London is absolutely perfect for both splurging on designer brands and saving money in top high street stores. All that’s left to decide upon when you’re planning a london shopping trip is – what kind of London shopper are you? And where’s the most effective places to shop that suits you?
Whether they’ve been hitchhiking for six months or simply gone on a day trip to the seaside, this type of shopper is unable to leave his or her destination without picking up a trinket or similarly interesting souvenir for a loved one. Rubbers with I LOVE PARIS emblazoned upon them, rubber ducks painted in red white and blue… I pity the eventual recipient of their latest find.
Take a gift-obsessive to London, however, and a whole new world of goodies opens up to them. Covent Garden is a covered outdoor market just minutes from Charing Cross – a perfect place to visit if you’re heading for a matinee in the West End. From custom-made tee shirts to hand crafted jewelry, you are guaranteed to find a gift that’s truly unique and totally worth receiving.
Hipster tribes boast several main watering holes in London, Brick Lane (tube stop: Aldgate East) and Camden Town being among the most popular. Lovers of all things retro from clothing to vinyl records will be in seventh heaven after a visit to either of these central London destinations; the stores and market stalls are overflowing with goods. There’ll be some real antiques and unique treasures in there, if you’re prepared to rummage for them!
If charity shop hunting is more your cup of tea, why not look a bit further afield? Hop on the Northern line after your trip to Camden Market and try High Barnet for some high-end charity shops that are well worth a ride on the tube for.
The Dedicated Follower of Fashion
When it comes to London, even the fashion-obsessed among us are spoilt for choice. Head to the infamous Oxford Street (tube stop: Oxford Circus or Tottenham Court Road) for a road as far as the eye can see, jam-packed with high street stores and luxury brands. This stretch is normally pedestrianised around Christmas and is likely to get extremely busy, but boasts so much choice that it’s definitely worth a trip!
The Savings Strategist
High street stores are the best place for someone who loves to hunt for the best bargains. But if you prefer to be under a roof that’s far warmer than your typical high street (and has a dozen coffee shops within easy reach), head to Westfield Stratford City. Getting to this enormous shopping hub is easy: take a 5-minute train ride to Stratford International from King’s Cross St. Pancras and I can guarantee you’ll never want to shop outside again.
The Fast and Furious
For a shopper that’s in and out within 15 minutes and avoids talking to anyone but the first cashier he or she sees, you need somewhere with choice but largely crowd-free. Brent Cross is a much smaller shopping centre in North London that boasts the same good quality stores with less of the queuing and barging. All the big name brands are there including Fenwick and John Lewis, and parking is free all day (not that you’re going to need more than half an hour at best!).
Brent Cross is great for the indecisive shopper, too – there’s just the right amount of everything so you’ll find what you need without the stress of choosing between thousands of options.
Borough Market is of course the obvious choice for coffee cravers, cheese experts and other aficionados of all things edible. And let’s be honest, all that choice is hard to beat. However Borough Market is only open in full on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and tends to be on the expensive side, so where can you go besides? If it’s deli-style food you fancy, why not try Primrose Hill (tube stop: Chalk Farm)? Stores are laden with everything from cheeses to cupcakes, and if you happen to eat one or two while you’re there, a brisk walk to the top of the hill should work it off!
Looking for somewhere a little off the beaten track for your fresh fruit and veg? Take a trip up the Northern Line to Burnt Oak Broadway for a street piled high with fruit and vegetable vendors. And with both typical and international choices, there’s no excuse not to make the most mouthwatering curry or moussaka when you get home.
A lover of gizmos and interesting finds, the gadgeteer is a shopper that needs choice, but interesting choice. We recommend Spitalfields for this; a delicate mix of crafty market stalls and permanent shops and restaurants, Spitalfields is great if you want something unique but top quality. It also boasts a great location – your nearest tube station is Liverpool Street, meaning you’re right in the centre of town.
Of course, not all shoppers go willingly; with every shopaholic there is the uninterested friend, the husband or wife, the mum or dad who simply wants to leave as quickly as possible. If they do need something, however, they appear to prolong their own pain by being completely unable to decide what to get. If you’re unfortunate enough to get stuck with an apathetic accomplice (or they’re unfortunate enough to get stuck with you) there are a few places that might just cheer them up.
Once such place, in my opinion, is Greenwich Market. Greenwich is not very far away from the centre of the city (if you’re living or staying in London, why not take the Thames Clipper?) but is a refreshing breath of air after taking on somewhere like Oxford Street. Greenwich Market is undercover and boasts a grid of stalls with high end, handmade goods – perfect for even the most discerning customer. And if they’re still unimpressed, Greenwich does have a Waterstones with a coffee shop inside. Drop them there and enjoy yourself!
The Department Store Diva
For some, the hassle of finding separate shops for different items is simply too much effort. The Department Store Diva heads to the nearest – you’ve guessed it – department store, grabs an espresso and does everything in one go. Luckily anyone with this type of affliction needs to look no further than London, because the city boasts a stunning Harrods (tube stop: Knightsbridge) and a Selfridges (Bond Street) to boot.
Think you can’t afford to shop at Harrods? You probably can’t, and neither can we. But that doesn’t mean the place isn’t worth a visit, even if simply to marvel at thousand pound handbags and designer jewelry. In the food and toy sections especially, there are actually plenty of affordable gifts and delectable goodies – but if you really can’t splash out, you could always just buy a shopping bag.
Are you a London retail expert? Time to let those secrets slip: post a comment and talk about secret shops, perfect prices and treasure troves you’ve found up and down the city.