Out of town shopping malls may well have started the decline of the traditional British high street over the last few years, and it’s easy to see why. However whilst London doesn’t offer any of these – it doesn’t need to!
London literally has it all. From market stalls to the world’s biggest department stores, from inexpensive bric-a-brac to extortionately priced cutting edge fashion from the world’s top designers, everyone is catered for by London’s many and varied shopping areas.
As convenient as malls are, they don’t even scratch the surface of what London is able to offer the shopper in terms of diversity and wherever you are in the city, it’s all just a short tube or bus ride away. With the chance of seeing some of the world’s most famous landmarks as well, the London shopping experience cannot be beaten.
Britain’s busiest high street and London’s best known shopping area is chock-a-block full of the nation’s most popular shops – over 300 in fact. Many of the biggest high street names have their flagship stores here and the street also boasts the oldest record shop in the world (HMV at number 363). Also home to the world famous Selfridges department store, Oxford Street is 1 ½ miles of shopping utopia for those that don’t mind the experience being a little on the hectic side.
Nearest Tubes: Marble Arch, Bond Street, Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road
Knightsbridge is the home of classy fashion boutiques and quality department stores – the jewels in the crown being the absolutely fabulous Harvey Nicholls and the world’s most famous corner shop, Harrods. Big name fashion designers can be found in Sloane Street and equally chic but smaller outlets at Beauchamp Place.
Nearest Tube: Knightsbridge
Kensington High Street
Kensington offers a bit of everything to those shopping in London. It features all of the well known chain stores, plenty of one-offs, department stores (the main one being Barker’s), an array of antique shops (in nearby Kensington Church Street) and numerous restaurants. It’s less busy than the West End and certainly a touch classier.
Nearest Tube: High Street Kensington
Regent Street, running the ¾ of a mile between Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus, certainly provides the most visually elegant shopping experience in London as all the shops conform to the same ornate architectural style. It features department stores, fashion boutiques, restaurants and well known high street names and is also home to the world’s best known toy store, Hamley’s.
Nearest Tubes: Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus
If you’re looking for a London shopping experience with a touch of class – and you don’t mind paying for it – then Bond Street is for you. Full of the biggest designer names including Armani, Calvin Klein, Gucci, Cartier and Tiffany & Co, the street boasts more suppliers to the royal family than anywhere else in London. A world away from the ‘every man for themselves’ experience of Oxford Street, many stores have their own doormen. The street is also home to the world famous Sotheby’s auction house.
Nearest Tube: Bond Street
Tottenham Court Road
If you’re shopping in London for electrical items or home furnishings then Tottenham Court Road is well worth a visit. The backstreets of the area offer an array of interesting pubs and specialist shops and nearby Charlotte Street features a wide variety of restaurants.
Nearest Tubes: Tottenham Court Road, Goodge Street, Warren Street
Soho & Chinatown
Soho has cleaned up its act over the years and no longer has the seedy reputation it was once known for. If it’s sex shops you’re looking for in London, you’ll still be well catered for but its reputation nowadays is built just as much on the many cafes, bars and restaurants, all of which make the area an extremely popular attraction 24 hours a day. It’s an incredibly diverse area racially and culturally, has a thriving gay community and has also become the media capital over recent years. Soho is busy and untidy but well worth the experience.
Nearest Tubes: Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square
London’s fashion Mecca of the swinging 60s has today become almost as famous for souvenir shops cashing in on tourists who are drawn to the street by its iconic name, however it is now starting to regain something of a cutting edge reputation, particularly at the southern end of the street. Newburgh Street (which runs across Carnaby Street) features the shops of a number of top designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier and John Richmond and nearby Kingly Court has 3 floors of concept shops set around an open courtyard offering items not sold anywhere else in London.
Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus
The road gained a reputation for cutting edge fashion back in the 1960s and 70s which perhaps it doesn’t quite have nowadays, however it still features many independent clothes and shoe shops. There are also a number of contemporary furnishing stores and a huge array of bars and restaurants. The large Peter Jones department store is at the Sloane Square end of the road and opposite is the new Duke Of York shopping precinct. The road has always had something of a glamorous reputation and as well as providing a great London shopping experience, is also a top place to go celeb spotting.