So, how was your meal? Delicious? I told you it would be! After having covered Things to See, Things to Do and finally What to Eat in Part 4 of London Calling, it’s time to get to get shopping. Let’s be honest. If you can’t blow all your cash on holiday, when can you eh? Don’t fret! I know we’re not all high rollers, so below you’re going to find some of the best places to shop in London, no matter your budget.
Visit Harrods Department Store
From food and wine to men and women’s clothing, Harrods proudly offers it all, and fully decorated with union jacks from top to bottom. Despite it’s modest beginnings, this iconic department store has become associated with luxury and fine taste and is known for showcasing well known fashion and beauty lines, and is a hot spot for celebrity signings and spotting. The store offers everything from British souvenirs like Paddington Bear and Harrods own tinned tea to chocolate covered crickets (trust me, I bought them). Even if you don’t end up buying anything, it’s worth a trip inside Harrods to get a feel for where the upper crust of London society spend their hard earned money. The building is beautiful inside and out and you can enjoy 7 floors of shopping fun.
Lovingly referred to as “Marks and Sparks” by lovers of this British chain, Marks and Spencer offer delicious treats for all to enjoy including my absolute favourite indulgence: Battenburg Cake – a light sponge cake that is checkered in pink and yellow and covered in a delicious layer of marzipan (and I don’t even really like marzipan!) Besides having delightful snacks that can intrigue any visitor, Marks and Spencers also has a (relatively conservative) line of clothing that features, according to my father, the most comfortable underwear in the world. Men, act now! Women, you also might find something of interest. This will most likely take the form of hot cross buns or Rowntree (now owned by Nestle) candies like fruit pastilles. Delicious. Go ahead, indulge.
Take a Walk on Oxford Street
Warning! If you don’t want to leave with a suitcase full of new clothing, shoes, accessories and beauty products, skip this and move on to… well, another blog to be honest. Grab a coffee (you’ll need the caffeine to get you through the day) and do some shopping on Oxford Street. Oxford Street, smack in the center of London runs from Marble Arch Tube Station all the way to Tottenham Court Road and features British and American brands. Be sure to explore British brands like Top Shop (from whose website I ordered my all time favourite jeans. Tall women, see their “Elle” collection, and then read this post for a chuckle), Monsoon and Primark, stores you won’t find anywhere else. Then be free to move on towards Gap, American Apparel and so on. On Oxford Street, there really is something for everyone and I can pretty much guarantee you won’t go home empty handed.
Notting Hill and Portobello Road Market
Famous for having been features in the romantic comedy “Notting Hill” being a great place to spot celebrities strolling the streets of London. Even I, someone who struggles to recognize a celebrity when they’re thrown across my doormat, once spotted Bill Nighy (played Billy Mack in “Love Actually”) walking along Notting Hill with a woman who looked thirty years his junior by his side. Once you’ve walked the quaint streets and maybe grabbed a bite (lots of delicious cafes and restaurants around here) in Notting Hill, head over to Portobello Road Market where “the riches of ages are sold” (reference “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” circa 1971 – great movie). Portobello Road Market is a shrine for antique collectors (and book collectors) and a great pit stop for any tourist looking to bring home an unusual souvenir from London. Of course, if you’d prefer a T-Shirt along the lines of “My Uncle went to London and all he brought me was this crummy T-Shirt”, you can do that too. But not in Notting Hill.
London is FULL of markets. From clothing to food to antiques and beyond, there is something for all to enjoy. No matter where in London you’re based, these markets are easily accessible by tube and are all unique in what they have to offer.
Streetsensation.co.uk offers a detailed map of all markets in London and includes short descriptions, opening times and nearby tube stations for each. My personal favourites include:
Camden Lock: Walk around a fascinating display of vintage clothing, jewelry, crafts and nick-nacks in an alternative venue that is guaranteed to stimulate and provide a very unique experience. While you’re there, take a stroll by the water and snack on some scrumptious (and affordable) foreign food. Mainstream shopping not your thing? This is the market for you.
Borough Market (pictured right): Enjoy some delicious food at the historical Borough market, accessible via London Bridge tube stop. From enormous pots of curry to smelly cheeses aged to perfection, this market is the place to stop for anyone looking to indulge their taste buds before carrying on with a tour of the nearby attractions.
Covent Garden: One of my favourite places in London, Covent Garden is a great place to grab lunch (See Part 3, Where to Eat), do some shopping and stroll into Soho for a night on the town. The Market Hall in Covent Garden is also a great place to buy gifts for loved ones before heading home. More than once have I purchased unique earrings featuring hand carved stones by artists in the area as an upcoming birthday or Christmas gift. Around the Market Hall are some great stores and Spas including the famous Sanctuary Spa for any women needing to rest their aching feet. With its cobblestone walkways and its truly British feel, Covent Garden should not be missed.