London is one of the great shopping cities of the world, with an amazing array of fashion, gifts and souvenirs on offer. As home to many of Britain’s famous designers and artists, it’s never hard to find something uniquely English to buy in the capital.
You’ll find most large London shops and department stores open:
Rather than a stream of deals throughout the year, London’s stores hold two main sales, during December-January (often from 26 December through the second week in January) and June (generally the first week of the month). With an opportunity to save as much as 50%, crowds for these sales tend to be huge, focused and even aggressive; scoring a deal at a London sale can be similar to bringing a trophy home from battle.
While it may be impossible to hit all of London’s best places to get your shop on, this rundown should at least help you narrow your options.
Shopping in West London
With over 500 shops, this is the busiest shopping street both in London and in Europe. Featuring local stores like Selfridge’s and the Debenhams flagship to labels you’ll surely find back home, it runs 1½ miles between Hyde Park’s Marble Arch and Soho’s Tottenham Court Road.
Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus
Stretching between Kensington and Chelsea along the splashy Brompton Road and Sloane Street, this fashionable address is famous for the Harrods and Harvey Nichols department stores.
Nearest Tube: Knightsbridge
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Regent Street and Jermyn Street
Here you’ll find a mix of mid-range chain stores, upscale local boutiques, day spas and lots of restaurants. The star here, though, is the huge, Tudor-style Liberty of London store.
Nearest Tube: Piccadilly Circus
Bond Street and South Molton Street
These two Mayfair high streets are home to London’s most expensive and elegant shops. The place to find big-name designers (Gucci, Armani, Prada) and the impeccable Browns, as well as small art galleries, fine jewelers (Cartier, Asprey’s, Bulgari) and high-end perfumiers. Be sure not to miss the nearby, six-floor Dover Street Market near Green Park, a haven for unique fashion.
Nearest Tube: Bond Street
Long the home to the greatest custom (or bespoke) tailors in England, this is the birthplace of the tuxedo and the place to come for handmade suits, shirts and more.
Nearest Tube: Bond Street or Piccadilly Circus
A lovely maze of twelve cobbled streets, packed with mid-range apparel stores unique to the UK and London. Be sure to visit the three-story Kingly Court for fashionable items you’ll only find in London, and try a shopping break at one of the area’s historic pubs.
Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus
Covent Garden and Seven Dials
Arranged around a cobblestone warren of mostly pedestrian-only streets, this area is geared towards young, progressive shoppers seeking local boutiques and organic foods.
Nearest Tube: Covent Garden or Leicester Square
Starting at Chelsea’s Sloane Square, here you’ll find an array of top UK shops, including the Peter Jones department store (which always has a splashy display in its windows), the first Vivienne Westwood boutique and the world-famous Chelsea Antiques Market (135 Kings Road, SW3).
Nearest Tube: Sloane Square
Long ago the site of race riots, this neighborhood was made less infamous by an eponymous movie and a large array of unique clothing and gift stores. Usually pretty quiet and calm during the week, it’s mobbed on Saturdays for the mile-long funky melee of Portobello Road Market.
Nearest Tube: Notting Hill Gate, Ladbroke Grove or Westbourne Park
This dazzling outpost of a globally-famous Australian mall concept features 270 shops (including Debenham’s and Marks & Spencer department stores) and a whopping 50 cafés and restaurants.
Nearest Tube: White City or Shepherd’s Bush
Shopping in East London
In London’s Docklands, the area around the Canada Square office complex is also a vibrant shopping center with 200+ shops, most of which are unique to UK and European fashion. To have the most leisurely experience, avoid shopping during the weekday lunch hour.
Nearest Tube: Canary Wharf
Along and around Upper Street, you’ll find plenty of local brands and only-in-London boutique shopping, peppered with gastropubs and days spas. Here you’ll find the small N1 shopping center, which includes the O2 Academy music venue.
Nearest Tube: Angel or Highbury & Islington
Shopping all across London
For truly handmade and UK-specific gifts and souvenirs, check out any of the 30+ markets in London. Held at regular intervals around the whole city, these are both events and marketplaces, providing some great people-watching and selling clothes, jewelry, crafts — and much more.
If you plan to go shopping while in London, you’ll certainly want to check the current exchange rate, as well as save money on flights and accommodation. Remember that cheap flights to London and cheap hotels in London can be easy to find through BootsnAll.