So you’ve topped up your bank account, you’ve booked time off and all that’s left is to travel into London’s legendary city centre ready for a full day of retail therapy. But where do you start? Oxford Street, Regent Street, Camden Lock, Covent Garden, Mayfair, Knightsbridge, Shoreditch…every square foot of London seems to promise hours of high-end shopping with exclusive boutiques and flagship stores aplenty.
Of course, it would be impossible to ‘do’ London in one setting, but here is one of many different ways you could spend a day out shopping in London:
Breakfast in Camden Town
Camden Town can be heaving, especially on the weekends, but the earlier you arrive, the better chance you have of catching some of the market stalls before the throngs arrive. Explore the quirky and colourful wares of Camden Lock Village, Stables Market and the surrounding collection of markets, each with their own individual atmosphere, to stimulate your mind and get you in the shopping mood. From children’s clothes and vintage collectables to artwork, unique gifts and delicious foods there is plenty to capture the interest of even the most hard-to-impress shopper.
When you feel ready for some serious retail activity, make your way south through Regents Park to Tottenham Court Road. On the way, stop in at Gordon Ramsey’s York & Albany for some granola, warm pancakes or a leisurely bacon and egg roll. Alternatively, if you just want to get moving, take the tube from Camden Town direct (just over ten minutes on the Northern Line).
West along Oxford Street
From Tottenham Court Road, its west all the way along London’s famous lengthy shopping thoroughfare – Oxford Street. Think of it in three sections, as broken down by this handy guide.
Section one, from Tottenham Court Road to Oxford Circus includes American Apparel, the US clothing manufacturer; Japanese casual fashion store Uniqlo; familiar staples such as Next and Top Shop among many others, and finishes off with Nike’s flagship Niketown London, conspicuously placed on the corner with Regent Street.
Avoiding the temptation of heading straight down Regent Street for the exclusive designer outlets, keep going west towards Bond Street tube station where you will come across every department store you can imagine, including Swedish fast-fashion chain H&M; established British firm BHS and, of course, John Lewis which has graced Oxford Street since the opening of its original drapery stall back in 1864. You will also find Spanish clothing brand Zara along this second stretch of Oxford Street; Zara is part of Inditex, the world’s largest fashion company founded by Spain’s richest man: Amancio Ortega.
The final stretch leads from the junction with Bond Street station to Marble Arch, where you can reward yourself with a spot to eat at nearby Prezzos (or Pret a Manger if you prefer). Along this part of Oxford Street are situated Selfridge’s, the UK’s second largest shop; family-run shoe retailer Russell & Bromley; popular high street fashion stores River Island and New Look, and budget-friendly Primark for bargain buys.
An afternoon in Mayfair
Once at Marble Arch, head south east and prepare for some upmarket browsing – and possibly buying – at famous stores such as the five interconnecting fashion outlets at Browns, bursting with high-end designer names; Acne, the ultra-trendy Dover Street fashion and furniture retailer and grand old Gray’s Antiques with its labyrinthine corridors. If you have the time and money, consider one of Mayfair’s renowned spas or hair salons to refresh and beautify before more of the same.
When you meet Regent Street, it’s time to go designer crazy with the likes of Armani, Calvin Klein and Ted Baker. For a full list of all the shops on this well-known street, visit the Regent Street website. Regent Street shops have to blend in with the existing architecture, giving the shopping here a particularly classy feel. If you still have the time and energy, hop on a tube at Oxford Circus and alight at Covent Garden, a few stops along the Picadilly Line.
Tea at Covent Garden
There’s plenty for everyone at Covent Garden, as becomes apparent when you visit the Covent Garden website. If you still need your designer label fix then there is a Burberry and Chanel, while kids can get excited in the Disney Shop and Benjamin Pollock’s Toy Shop or get hands on in the Build a Bear Workshop. Other notable shops in Covent Garden include stylish footwear outlet Oliver Sweeney; an Original Penguin store; Ellis Brigham, the outdoor sports specialist and Cadenzza fashion jewellery from Swarovski. Fill up on some super-sized steak at the Hawksmoor Seven Dials (they also do vegetarian and fish meals), and maybe a cocktail or two, before one last splurge guaranteed to clean you out.
Head out to Harrods
You can’t say you’ve really shopped in London without taking the opportunity to join the 15 million annual visitors that pass through the doors of Harrods on Brompton Street. Catch another tube from Covent Garden to Knightsbridge and keep walking west until you see the unmistakeable green canopies to your left. Harrods has seven floors and four and a half acres of space to explore and the UK’s largest store opens until nine on most nights. Even if you only come out with one of the iconic Harrods carrier bags, you can at least prove that you have shopped in London.
Shopping in the East End
If the above had you thinking that all of London’s best shopping is in the West End, then make sure you pay Shoreditch a visit. Here you will find the unique pop-up Boxpark, a shopping mall consisting of fitted out shipping containers as well as a number of trendy boutiques and vintage outlets. Highlights include young denim brand Denham; Labour and Wait with its old-fashioned homeware and gifts and Present, a men’s fashion store designed with men in mind.