London is the capital of the small island of Great Britain
on the edge of Europe, but it's hardly an insignificant city.
The scene of major events throughout history and home to the
well-loved Royal Family - not to mention a host of talented
artists, musicians and designers - London's creative and political
influence is felt throughout the whole world.
Napoleon Bonaparte called England a 'nation of shopkeepers'
and even today shopping is something of a national pastime.
London may be one of the most expensive cities in the world,
but the unique culture of Britain, its history and traditions
of fine workmanship mean that you can buy many things here
that you simply won't find anywhere else.
Along with Paris, New York, and Milan, London is a contender
for the title of fashion capital of the world. Buy a new outfit
here and in a season or two everyone back home will be emulating
your trend-setting style.
Main shopping areas
Oxford Street is the ultimate High Street. Many of
the nationwide chains have their flag-shop stores here, though
on Saturdays it can seems like the entire population comes
here to shop.
Less run-of-the-mill are London's legendary markets. From
crafts at refurbished Covent Garden to hippy chic in
Camden, antiques in Portobello, Kensington
and Notting Hill to electrical goods in Brick
Lane, each has specialities and a certain character of
Though somewhat antiquated and crowded at peak times, London's
public transport system takes you pretty much anywhere you
would want to go in the city. The 'Tube' was the first
underground railway system in the world and is still one of
the most comprehensive.
Bright red London buses are something of a symbol
of London, and mean you can do a bit of sightseeing en route
to the shops, plus bus fares are typically half of the cost
of the exorbitantly priced tube, although one day cards are
a good bargain if you intend to do a lot of travelling and
allow access on all trains, buses and tubes within certain
Instantly recognisable London taxis, or black cabs,
are a more luxurious way to get from A to B. Fares are always
metered but you can't get far for less than about $20. Even
so, you can hail one with its light on almost anywhere, they
seat up to five and are fully licensed so you can be sure
you'll get to your destination safe, and British 'cabbies'
are the most geographically knowledgeable and clued up people
in the city. Mini cabs (taxis booked through firms)
are of dubious reputation and best avoided.
Most of the shops in the centre of London are open from 10am
to 6pm, though some (especially bookshops and record shops)
stay open late into the evening. Most shops are open on Sundays,
but usually close at around 4pm.
The UK has not yet adopted the Euro, the debated single currency
for Europe. Prices-tags are in pounds sterling, and tax is
included in the amount shown. Credit cards are widely accepted,
but it's a good idea to carry small amounts of cash as in
the heart of the shopping areas, banks and ATM cash points
can be thin on the ground. The value of the pound is often
strong compared to the US dollar, so check what you're getting
when you change your money - it may not go as far as you think.
& shopping districts of London
Portobello Road is the hub of a diverse multicultural community
and home to three markets, each of which has its own distinct
character. The daily fruit and vegetable market is the best
place in West London for fresh produce; the weekend street
market sells new goods, crafts and fashions; and the pick
of the bunch, the world's largest antiques market which takes
place only on Saturdays. The English antiques scene is legendary,
and if you know what to look for, you can source some real
The antiques market kicks off at around 7am on Saturday,
when between 10am and 3pm dealers set up stall along the street
and in the 10 arcades. The smallest arcade has just 5 dealers,
the largest as many as 200 - but whichever one you choose
to explore you can be sure that by mid-morning it will be
absolutely heaving. The range of antiques on sale here is
incredibly varied: from random bits of bric a brac to unusual
pieces of furniture or a $40,000 watch.
The Portobello Road Antiques Dealers Association (PADA)
is a voluntary organisation made up of and run by the dealers
themselves. Members pledge to abide by a code of conduct and
fair trading, and as not all the dealers are members, shoppers
should look out for the association's sticker to affirm they
aren't getting a raw deal.
The history of Portobello dates back to the Middle Ages,
when there was a market on Nuttynghull Street - that's Notting
Hill, as we now know it. However until the 1870s the area
was quite rural, serving as a market garden for the West End.
Portobello Road was born when the farm (named after national
hero Admiral Sir Edward Vernon, who has also given his name
to one of the arcades) sold off a tract of land. A fruit and
veg market began trading amid the shops that sprung up along
it, and in the 1920s the first licences were handed out to
street traders. The antiques market took on its modern form
after World War II.
Despite attaining international fame thanks to Hugh Grant
and Julia Roberts' blockbuster movie Notting Hill,
Portobello Road has managed to couple its quirky, grassroots
identity with its image as a hip hangout for the trendiest
For more information and for a free guide to the antiques
61 Portobello Road
Tel: 020 7229 8354
Fax: 020 7243 3419
Oxford Street and the West End
The premier shopping district in London is the West End.
Oxford Street in Soho and the surrounding streets are where
you'll find clothing chains such as Top Shop, Next and Nike
Town - but bigger and better than anywhere else in the country.
Once you've been shopping on Oxford Street you'll understand
the true meaning of 'shop til you drop'. It can be exhausting,
especially at the weekends when you'll expend a massive amount
of energy just elbowing your way through the crowds.
Nearby pedestrianised Carnaby Street rose to fame
in the Swinging Sixties and was where the wildest mod fashions
of the era first saw the light of day. It's a lot more mainstream
now though a few cools shops still remain amongst the obligatory
union-jack sequinned bikini and postcards of Prince William.
The West End is also a nightlife hub with some of the city's
swankiest bars and 'media dahling' hang-outs around here.
Just be aware that a pint costs a fair bit more round here
than it does outside of the centre of London.
When it comes to London department stores, it's not
so much a matter of what to buy as what can't you buy. These
massive, multi-story emporiums sell everything under the sun
all under one roof. They have a noble history of trading in
England's capital that goes back centuries, almost all having
started out as tiny, individual-run shops. Ranking amongst
the best are:
By far the most famous is department store in London is Harrods,
a must on every visitor's shopping list. It started life in
1894 as a local grocery store - now only the well-to-do Kensington
elite can afford to do their weekly shopping in the legendary
There's seven floors of luxury at Harrods covering everything
from ladies-wear to pets, toys to home décor and the
4,000 strong staff strive to provide whatever your heart's
desire: if they don't have it in stock they'll gladly order
it for you, just as long as its not illegal or immoral. Amongst
the most extraordinary items in stock are a $30,000 platinum
gold-club, a replica Egyptian tomb and a life-size wooden
horse, a snip- at $6,000. But if all this is a little out
of your league don't despair - there's always the famous twice-a-year
sales when you can add a little luxury to you life without
it costing the earth.
Since 1980 Harrods has been owned by eccentric Egyptian tycoon
Mohammed Al Fayed, who has made his mark on this English
institution. At the entrance to the Egyptian Room sits a golden
sphinx, and the gargoyles around the walls bear a remarkable
likeness to their owner. Each morning at around 11am, two
pipers parade around the shop floor and if he's on the premises
at the time Al Fayed makes a habit of following at a discrete
distance, greeting his staff as he goes.
Harrods is located in Knightsbridge. Nearest tube: Knightsbridge.
Tel: +44 20 7730 1234
Another of London's most remarkable department stores is
Liberty. The quaint Tudor building on Regent Street screams
Englishness, and the stylish and distinctive Liberty prints
- be they in the shape of scarves, handkerchiefs, bags or
lipstick cases - make elegant and easy to carry souvenirs.
Equally prized, though harder to fit in your carry-on case,
is the exotic imported furniture from the far-flung corners
of the world.
Visit Liberty on Regent Street
Tel: +44 20 7734 1234
In days gone by, no Englishman was considered properly dressed
unless he wore an impeccably tailored 3- piece suit, shirt,
tie and a well-polished pair of shoes. These days, this only
really holds true for City boys - other Londoners are a scruffy
lot, often getting away with wearing the full kit for weddings
and funerals only.
Even so, England boasts the best tailors and some very fine
gentlemen's establishments have been passed down through the
generation since the height of the British Empire. Off the
peg just can't compare to that made-to-measure fit, which
can compliment or conceal a man's individual build.
Saville Row is London's premier street for top-of-the-range-tailors,
and customers come to London specially to have a suit made
here. It isn't cheap, but the classic styles don't date and
the end result will look dapper for ages. Unlike the tailors
of the Far East, Saville Row is no rush job and you should
allow a couple of months for your new togs to be ready.
Shopping doesn't get more quintessentially English than Jermyn
Street. In 1664 Henry Jermyn, Earl of St Albans, was granted
a lease in 45 acres of Crown land in Pall Mall Field. He built
St James' Square and the surrounding streets, including fashionable
Jermyn Street. Because of its proximity to the court
of St James, this is where some of the capital's most elegant
specialist shops are located, including shirtmakers, perfumiers,
cheesemongers, barbers. Several establishments on Jermyn Street
are by appointment to Her Majesty the Queen, including her
preferred grocers', Fortnum & Mason.
The royal warrant is a mark of merit, which is strictly
regulated and highly coveted. Businesses must have supplied
a member of the royal family for more than five years, and
have impressed the regal client with their service and quality
to be allowed to print the coat of arms on their marketing
and packaging materials, letterhead and shop front. This is
the highest accolade a British business can receive.
Historically, Jermyn Street has been the epicentre of London's
bespoke shirt-making industry (while suits were centred on
Saville Row). Customers can chose the fabric and style of
their shirts, all made to measure to ensure an elegant fit
and monogrammed if required. The shirtmakers will even replace
the collar and cuffs should they wear out - so although a
custom-made shirt will set you back over $170, they look and
feel so much nicer than off the peg shirts, as they are specially
made to suit an individual's peculiar body shape.
For more information on Jermyn Street visit www.jermynstreet.org
The most traditional and historical shops on Jermyn Street
Geo F. Trumper
Excellent barber shop for the best shave in London. Since
1875 Trumpers has prided itself on providing the closest shave
in London. This exclusive barbers shop also sells a range
of men's accessories including shaving paraphernalia, cologne,
canes, natural sponges and a good deal more.
20 Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6HP
Tel: +44 20 7734 1370
It doesn't matter how finely suited you are - it'll count
for nothing if you're not booted too. Trickers is one of several
shoe-shops on Jermyn Street, but it's surely the most traditional.
Holders of a Royal Warrant, Trickers specialises in top-notch
brogues, demi-brogues and the most elegant house slippers
67 Jermyn Street
London SW1Y 6NY
Tel: +44 20 7930 6395
Harvie & Hudson
There are actually two Harvie and Hudson shops on Jermyn
Street - one is run primarily by the Harvies and the other
by the Hudsons in a unique business partnership that has flourished
through three generations. This is the only establishment
on Jermyn Street where the shirts are still actually made
on the premises. If you're in a hurry, they also have a selection
of ready-to-wear shirts.
77 & 96/97 Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6JE
Tel: 020 7930 3949
Email: info *at*
Makers of the most stunning brocade waistcoats you'll ever
lay eyes on - not to mention pure silk scarves, ties, kerchiefs
and cummerbunds. Bound to be a favourite with gentlemen and
55 Jermyn Street, London, SW1Y 6LX
Tel: 020 7491 2337 Fax: 020 7491 2334
Royal Memorabilia: Hope and Glory
You can buy cheap souvenirs of the esteemed Royal Family
all over London, but one shop stands out as selling the best
selection of genuine historic souvenirs.
Every milestone in the lives of the royals is commemorated
by a line of ceramics. Hope and Glory has a vast collection
of new and antique cups, places and pots - from the Golden
Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887 right through to that of
Queen Elizabeth II in 2002.
Kitsch they may be and not to everyone's taste, but die-hard
collectors are fanatical about the pieces of royal memorabilia
they hunt down in flea markets and antique shops. To them,
Hope and Glory is a real Aladdin's Cave and they're prepared
to part with some serious cash to add to their collection.
Prices range from $30 for a Queen Mother In Memoriam mug to
$6000 for a one-off Queen Victoria vase which was exhibited
on the French government stand at the Great Exhibition at
the Crystal Palace in 1851.
Hope and Glory
131a Kensington Church Street
Tel: + 44 20 7727 8424
Second Hand Clothes: Sign of the Times
Seen a slinky little Gucci number but the price tag made
you swoon? Fawning over a Favourbrook but your bank manager's
having none of it? Don't despair, you can still dress like
an 'It girl' even if you don't have the purse to match. Sign
of the Times is the oldest second-hand designer shop in London,
and is located in the heart of Chelsea, home of 'ladies who
lunch'. Owner Lorraine Fraser, who has an impeccable eye for
fashion, has been on hand to always on hand to advise her
regular clientele on colour, shape and style for the last
Lorraine receives new consignments of cast-offs daily, some
barely worn and still 'this season'. There's Valentino,
Betsy Johnson, Edina Ronay, Alberto Ferretti and Joseph
galore - all going for as little as a quarter the original
price. Thanks to Lorraine, no one in the neighbourhood need
look down at heel - as if they ever did!
Sign of the Times
17 Elystan Street
near Chelsea Gardens
Tel: +44 20 7589 4774.
Phillips Stained Glass
In the heart of Portobello, Phillips Stained Glass is one
of the most unique specialist antique shops in all of London.
In business for 30 years and now run by Edgar Phillips, son
of the founder, the shop has an impressive stock of antique
decorative glass sourced from all over the world. Much of
it is Victorian, but there are art nouveau and art deco pieces
too and even some dating from the 15th century.
In his workshop within the shop, Edgar will add to or reduce
any antique window to make it fit a customer's needs. He offers
a full restoration service, or, if you're after something
a little more modern, he'll custom design glass to suit your
taste and specifications. There are very few artists working
in the medium of stained glass and using traditional methods
today, and Edgar's work and fine reputation has brought his
commission in every corner of the world.
In addition to beautiful glass, you'll find some more curious
items in Phillips too. Unusual and gothic architectural items
find their way here, particularly if they have an ecclesiastical
theme, and at any one time there can be anything from church
pews to pulpits, elegant light fittings to rows of grizzly
Phillips Stained Glass
99 Portobello Road
Tel: + 44 20 7229 2113
Fax: + 44 20 7229 1963
Abbey Court Hotel
A 4-Star town house Hotel with just 22 rooms, the Abbey Court
offers luxury service in trendy Notting Hill. If you're coming
to town to trawl through the treasures of Portobello Market,
you could do a lot worse than stay at this luxury 4-Star town
house hotel, which has just 22 individually designed rooms.
The Abbey Court Hotel
20 Pembridge Gardens
London W2 4DU
Tel: +44 20 7221 7518
Fax: +44 20 7792 0858
This international chain has great value hotels in every continent
of the world, including 13 in central London.
22 Jermyn Street is a gem of a hotel just a stone's throw
from Piccadilly Circus and situated on one of London's most
exclusive shopping streets. This is the finest example of
the phenomenon known as boutique hotels. Quaint, cosy but
quite luxurious, this is where the upper crust put up when
they come to London.
Every visitor to London wants to get as close as they can
to the venerable Royal Family and at Heritage House you can
do just that. Every room of Margaret Tyler's Bed and Breakfast
is decorated with memorabilia relating to a member of the
family. Her collection is enormous, probably the largest in
the world, and she herself is a true fanatic.
Heritage House is open only at weekends.
77 The Fairway
Middlesex HAO 3TH
Tel:020 8904 2452
E Mail: info
London A to Z
Don't even think about venturing out onto the streets of London
without an A to Z, the comprehensive map of the entire city
which has a handy tube map on the back.
Time Out Shopping Guide
Top guide book publishers Time Out have come up trumps with
this London shopaholic's bible. A new, updated edition comes
out each year.
Born to Shop London, by Suzy Gershman. Published by
Hungry Minds Inc
One woman's honest guide to her favourite shopping spots in