Since its heyday in the ‘60s, London has long been renowned as one of the shopping capitals of the world. Whether your tastes run to fine art or haute couture, London has plenty to offer you.
Where to Shop in London for Famous British Brands
The best of British heritage brands are of course available at London’s coterie of famous department stores such as Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Liberty, and Selfridges.
Pro tip: for a more peaceful shopping experience, visit either early in the day or in the hours before closing, when the stores are least likely to be overrun.
Staying & Shopping in Central London
As a bonus, the central location puts you in close proximity to Sotheby’s and St. James’ Park.
If you’d like to be closer to the heart of the city’s hustle and bustle, you’ll want to stay in Mayfair. Here you can find stores for luxury brands both British and international: Burberry, Chanel, Hermès, Alexander McQueen.
Independent Shopping, Antiques & London Vintage Style
If your taste skews towards the cutting edge and independent designers, staying in East London will give you the most bang for your buck. Boutiques such as The Mercantile (conveniently located at the edge of Spitalfields Market) and the exclusive, by-appointment-only LN-CC (smack dab in the middle of hipster enclave Dalston) present carefully curated selections of chic clothing, accessories, and homewares for a unique shopping experience.
Meanwhile, Brick Lane’s renowned vintage stores such as Beyond Retro, Rokit, Absolute Vintage, and Blitz hold hidden gems for those who are prepared to do some digging through the rails, whether you’re in search of a Jazz Age fedora, a sequined evening gown, or some ‘can you believe ‘80s fashion is cool again?’ acid-wash denim.
The area becomes even more exciting on weekends when the underground vintage market on Brick Lane is open for business.
A stay in lively Shoreditch puts you in a prime location for shopping, food, and nightlife, and the opportunities for street art photography and people-watching here are second to none. You never know what you might find during a wander through the rabbit warren of stalls down there.
You can find equally exciting repositories for indie designers, homewares, and antiques in any corner of London, with stores such as Wolf & Badger (Notting Hill and Mayfair), Dover Street Market (Piccadilly Circus), Merchant Archive (Notting Hill), twentytwentyone (Angel), and Alfies Antique Market (Marylebone).
Visiting London Markets
No whirlwind shopping trip to London would be complete without taking a few hours to visit at least one of the many historic and eclectic markets scattered around town.
Although some of these markets are open seven days a week, the busiest and the best time to visit a London market is on the weekend since some merchants and food stalls trade exclusively on Saturdays and/or Sundays.
Some of the markets are covered and thus ideal for a rainy day activity, while others are best experienced on those rare, idyllic sunny days that make London feel like a different city altogether.
To the West, we have Portobello Road Market and the lesser-known Golborne Market, both notable for their antiques and collectables in addition to their offerings of food and kitschy souvenirs.
In the East, there’s Old Spitalfields Market, Brick Lane Market, and Broadway Market, all bustling with artwork, vintage clothes, local crafts, and food vendors. Take a trip to Columbia Road Flower Market if you want some greenery or some fresh-cut blossoms, and don’t forget to check out the charming little indie boutiques along the way.
Head North to Camden Lock, particularly if you’re travelling with older children or teenagers, for everything from cheap sunglasses to vintage furs, and take a break for some food with a canalside view while you’re at it.
Further South, Borough Market and Maltby Street Market are a must-visit for gourmands—watch out for the weekday lunch rush, though—and Southbank Market is a treasure trove of used books.
While it’s easy to dismiss as a hub for tourists, Covent Garden Market is not only architecturally stunning and historically significant, but it also conveniently consolidates a wide array of shops and food options: from Ladurée macarons to Shake Shack burgers and milkshakes, from Penhaligon’s to The Moomin Shop, there’s something here for your every whim or gift-giving need.
Whether you stick to the classics in Knightsbridge and Mayfair, wander further afield to East or North, or make offbeat discoveries on a market Sunday, the biggest challenge when it comes to shopping in London is simply making sure that all your new purchases fit in your luggage on the way home. Then again, if they don’t, you can always buy a bigger suitcase!