British fashion is iconic and shopping in London is intoxicating. Vibrant shopping centers, high-end designers and quirky independent stores can be found across the capital, rewarding those who venture beyond Central London with exciting and unexpected delights. There's something for every style and every budget, with the latest fashions and new lines being added constantly. It's a must-visit destination for festive shopping, as the diversity of shops means you can usually find anything you're looking for. Here is an introduction to the city’s distinct shopping areas and streets, and a few of the top shops to check out.
This world famous street has been Europe's top destination for shopping since the 19th century, and is now home to more than 300 shops and flagship stores.
Top shops: Beloved British department store John Lewis, legendary Selfridges near Marble Arch, and the huge flagship Primark store near Tottenham Court Road is heaven for bargain hunters. Trend-conscious shoppers flock to sportswear giant Nike Town or the colossal Topshop/Topman Oxford Circus, famous for its extensive collections of up-to-the-minute fashion.
Arching from Oxford Circus to Piccadilly Circus, this elegant street is home to some of London’s oldest, most famous shops.
Top shops: Luxury British heritage brand Burberry’s 4-floor flagship store is visually stunning. Britain’s most famous toy shop Hamleys has been trading for more than 250 years and sells every toy or game imaginable across seven floors. Founded in 1875, one-of-a-kind artsy department store Liberty, right next to Regent Street, is famous for its floral prints and large selection of pieces by young British designers.
Step under the iconic arched Carnaby Street sign to this funky area between Regent Street and Oxford Street with more than 100 shops – a mix of boutiques, shoe and denim brands and heritage brands like Dr Martins. This area is also notable for its incredible lighting displays, making it an extra special visit over the Christmas period.
Top shops: Get expert make-up advice or a makeover at the Benefit Store. Check out distinctive ‘Rock & Roll Couture’ jewellery at The Great Frog, where every piece is hand crafted on site. Clientele since 1972 include actor Johnny Depp, rock legends Metallica and supermodel Kate Moss.
One of London’s prettiest, most diverse shopping areas. Most notable for its tourist-attracting neo-classical market building, Covent Garden houses a series of cafes, shops and pubs, in addition to a daily craft market called the Apple Market.
Top shops: Check out arts and crafts at Covent Garden Market and then head to neighbouring King Street for classy brands like Sandro and Jo Malone London. Deviate from the mainstream in bohemian Neal’s Yard, a brightly painted courtyard lined with vegan cafés and home to ethical beauty brand Neal’s Yard Remedies for the last 30 years. Also in the area, Seven Dials is a network of seven atmospheric streets lined with international fashion brands stores, boutiques and beauty salons.
Portobello Road Market, Notting Hill
An unmissable London shopping experience and one of the most famous street markets in the world. It’s easy to spend hours browsing along this mile of shops and stalls selling vintage clothing, rare antiques, gifts, souvenirs, and street food. The market is in full swing on Saturday – arrive by 11:30am to avoid the crowds.
Top shops: Saddle up in Wild West style at Jessie Western – a visual feast of cowboy boots, Stetson hats, fringed suede jackets and Navajo turquoise jewellery sourced by its sister owners. Just a few shops down is Alice’s Antiques, a fascinating emporium of rare, out-of-the-ordinary vintage finds. You won’t miss it – the outside of the shop is painted bright red!
This glitzy area of West London is found just south of Hyde Park, and is home to Europe's biggest department store - Harrods.
Top shops: World-famous Harrods is a spectacular emporium of prestigious brands and all things luxury, including its dedicated Shoe Heaven department, and Toy Kingdom for little shoppers. Harvey Nichols also has a flagship store in the area, and several designer boutiques can be found on Brompton Road, just down from Harrods.
Actually a series of adjoining markets, you’ll find a maze of stalls and some of the most unusual shops in London here, with punk clothing and tattoo parlours aplenty. Full of atmosphere, the markets are open every day and busiest at the weekends. Browse home decor, boho fashion, crafts and trinkets, jewellery, books and vintage in the original Camden Lock Market. The adjoining Stables Market, a former horse hospital, has 700 stalls selling wares ranging from antiques to alternative fashion. Make sure to take a break and grab a bite to eat from the numerous street food stalls in the area too.
Top shops: Clothing clubbers for over 20 years, Cyberdog is a Camden institution. This neon-lit, three-floor wonderland specialises in dancewear and fluorescent futuristic fashion. You can’t miss it - two giant robot statues flank the large doorway.
Now a shopping destination in its own right, Shoreditch is renowned for mixing vintage outlets alongside big brands, designer boutiques, indie labels and eclectic gift shops. The area is also home to Boxpark, an innovative 'pop-up' mall made out of repurposed shipping containers, featuring top class street food and chic independent creators and shops.
Top shops: After browsing indie labels like Wondaland and Knowledge Cotton in Aida, shoppers can get their hair and make-up done at the store’s vintage beauty salon. At Boxpark, visit The Gold Gods for a curated selection of beautiful jewellery by various designers, chosen by the store’s owner. Then, be inspired by quirky, bright home accessories, creative books, artwork and funky stationery at The Gift Box.
This buzzing area has become as famous for its shopping as its curries! The UpMarket in the Old Truman Brewery every Sunday is a mélange of 140 creative traders, and lauded as one of London’s best markets for new designers.
Top shops: Pam Pam caters for ‘girls who aren’t girly girls’, with a room dedicated to women’s trainers. Rough Trade Easton Dray Walk is arguably London’s best independent music shop and stages in-store gigs. Just off Brick Lane on Hanbury Street is Atika (formerly known as Blitz), the world’s largest vintage department store, with racks of classic rock tees, Japanese kimonos and vintage knitwear.
London is known historically for its markets, and Old Spitalfields Market is regarded as the oldest in the city. A vibrant hub for creative traders, on Saturdays and Sundays the site is packed with stalls, including new designers and mouth-watering street food.
Top shops: Inspitalfields is a colourful shop for humorous gifts, cards, and unique homecare, while stylish independent boutique The Mercantile London sells selected pieces from affordable European labels – and even has a cute shop dog called Robert!