London is one of the European shopping capital! To visit London differently, follow us on an itinerary in eight stages combining classics and discoveries in a city where endless creativity does not escape the world of boutiques and concept stores.
1. Stroll Through the Broadway Market
Forget the Camden or Portobello markets; head east to Broadway Market, the main street of a market of the same name, much less well known than its cousins in the north and west London. Broadway Market connects Regent’s Canal with London Fields. Every Sunday, it fills up with stalls of all kinds: clothes, objects, flea markets, second-hand books, fruits and vegetables, slices of bread and pastries and other local products, mostly organic.
Equally exciting and pleasant are the shops that line the market. You won’t find any chains on Broadway Market, only unique boutiques, cafes, restaurants and independent pubs. Start by hunting in the market, then continue your Sunday stroll along the Regent’s Canal banks or in the alleys of London Fields.
2. Touching Luxury and Refinement at Liberty
A hundred meters from Hamley’s, it is in a universe marked by refinement that awaits you behind the pretty doors of Liberty. “There, all is order and beauty, calm, luxury, and voluptuousness” – This verse by Charles Baudelaire applies wonderfully to this department store created by Arthur Liberty in 1875.
Half-timbering on the outside, luxurious wooden panels on the inside, nothing is left to chance in this department store’s decoration. It includes perfumes, clothing for men, women and children, decorative objects and stationery, books on art, fashion, design and architecture and of course, textiles whose Liberty flower patterns are known around the world.
3. Hamleys, the World’s Largest Toy Store
On seven floors in Regent Street in London’s heart, Hamleys is a must for a shopping trip to the British capital. Founded by William Hamley in 1760, the store was then called “Noah’s Ark” – Hamley’s is the largest department store in the world and the oldest. More than 50,000 toys are on sale from one floor to the next, and cool young salespeople are there to give you all kinds of demonstrations. Obviously, the little ones will be fascinated, but the grown-ups will also be delighted.
4. Discover the Containers in Shoreditch or Brixton
Born from the concept of pop-up shops and other temporary stores, container-shops are flourishing in London. It all started in Shoreditch in 2011 when Boxpark opened its doors and defined itself as the world’s first pop-up shopping arcade. And yes, at the time, Boxpark was supposed to be ephemeral, but six years later, it took hold.
The concept of a park of stacked containers, each being a small store or a bar, is indeed a success. There are trendy clothing, design, objects of all kinds, beauty products, bookstores, stationery, and a travel agency! The concept is worth the trip, and if you can’t make it to Shoreditch, Boxpark has a little brother in the Croydon area, and in Brixton, a similar development exists.
5. Shopper like an Englishman, from Charity Shops
The British love it: every high street in every city in the UK has its fair share of these types of stores whose profits go to charities. They sell what they are given at low prices: clothes, shoes, objects, books, records, toys, which can be real gold mines, especially in the most upscale neighbourhoods. Hampstead’s main street has plenty of them: books at Oxfam, designer clothes at Mary’s Living and Giving, more clothes and knickknacks at Cancer Research UK and at Octavia on South End Green. And since you are near one of London’s most beautiful parks, Hampstead Heath, climb it for a 180-degree view of London.
6. Transform into a Gentleman (or Woman) on Jermyn Street and Saville Row
Do you want classic “Bowler Hat and Leather Boots” or “James Bond” style clothing? Shop Jermyn Street for shirts, pants, shoes, hats, ties and other cufflinks. Accessories stores complete the look: 100% British beauty products, top-of-the-range shaving kits. Although more geared towards men, some Jermyn Street stores offer women’s collections just as elegant as their counterparts. Further north, across Piccadilly, Saville Row is the street of London’s most fantastic tailors and undoubtedly from the whole kingdom! For a fee, we will concoct a tailor-made suit, often in tweed. If you can’t afford it, just browse the windows and enjoy the unique and charming atmosphere of this mythical street.
7. Walk Marylebone High Street
It stretches quietly from Oxford Street to Marylebone Road and offers an excellent array of shops to explore at a much cooler pace than its larger neighbours. There are designer boutiques, including the famous Conran Shop and Divertimenti for quality kitchen utensils, Cath Kidston for textiles, clothing, accessories with very English shabby chic floral patterns, and Paul Smith.
For a break, Marylebone High Street has no shortage of cool cafes and restaurants. Seafood lovers will appreciate the FishWorks restaurant, which also serves as a fish market. Also, stop for Lebanese mezze or just a coffee in Fairuz, on the terrace, to watch the passers-by. You will get a chance of seeing a celebrity pass by, the area being very popular with them. If you stroll on a Sunday on Marylebone High Street – the shops are open on Sundays – do not miss the Farmers Market in the morning, where excellent organic and farm products are sold on about 40 stalls. Go beyond your preconceptions and taste the cheeses, entirely at the level of their cousins from across the Channel.
8. Getting Lost in Westfield Stratford City, Europe’s Largest Shopping Centre
Built for the London Olympics in 2012, Westfield Stratford City is almost a small town with 250 shops, 70 restaurants, cafes and bars and cinemas. Located near the former Olympic village, it is the largest shopping centre in Europe. There are all the major flagship brands: Apple, Nike, H&M, Zara, Marks & Spencer, Hollister, etc. In short, it is a chain paradise for clothes, shoes and accessories, as well as for restaurants and cafes.
And since you are on edge, stop by Queen Elizabeth Park, the Olympic Park that connects Westfield. Modern and spacious, its design is delightful and makes you want to play sports. You will discover the famous sculpture, the “Orbit” by Anish Kapoor, among other things.
So what you are waiting for… Let’s explore these places and make every shopping memorable and delightful.
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