Six Famous London Department Stores

When it comes to London department stores, its 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 which goes back centuries, almost all having started out as tiny, individual-run shops. Ranking amongst the best are the following: 

1. Harrods 

By far the most famous 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 Food Halls, which house hundreds upon hundreds of different types of cheese, bread and of course alcohol.  

There are 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 £17,000 platinum gold-club, a replica Egyptian tomb and a life-size wooden horse, a snip- at £4,000. 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. 

In  1980 Harrods was bought  by eccentric Egyptian tycoon Mohammed Al Fayed, who  made his mark on this English institution. Each morning at around 11am two pipers paraded around the shop floor and if he was on the premises at the time Al Fayed made a habit of following at a discrete distance, greeting his staff as he went .Al Fayed later sold Harrods to to the Public Investment Authority of Qatar, the current owners

 Harrods traditions remain .At night the building is still lit up like a Christmas tree

2. Fortnum and Masons 

Based at the bottom of Piccadilly Fortnum and Mason is heaven for cooks and has a feast of exciting and well packaged foods. Mostly English, it is great for hampers, but beware these are good quality . The cellophane itself warrants a big price. 

3. Liberty

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.

4. Selfridges

With over ½ million square feet of floor space and the biggest beauty hall in Europe, Selfridges is great as an everything under the sun department store. It does not go in for the unusual and unique, but is more geared towards high quality goods. The store is home to many of the biggest fashion designers in London including Vivienne Westwood, Amanda Wakeley and Miu Miu. At Christmas, the food halls are a weekend treat with loads of free nibbles to taste.

5. Harvey Nichols

A real sweety darling type of a place, Harvey Nics – as it is affectionately referred to by its shoppers – was made infamous by the television programme ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ and is now considered  a boutique of a department store for ladies who lunch. Plenty of designer shops, perfumeries and a top floor food hall and restaurant.

6. John Lewis

The largest branch of John Lewis is based on Oxford Street and is a more modern department store. There is another branch at Sloane Square.Selling  everything from household goods to gifts and clothes, this is a high quality but more reasonably priced store. The que dos for shopping here is not comparable with the other stores in the chapter, but then sometimes a lamp shade is just a lamp shade, wherever you buy it from.


Destination – England