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London Shopping

London is one of the world’s great shopping cities with over 30,000 retail outlets dotted across the capital. Typically for London, particular areas of the city have their own shopping characters. The King’s Road in Chelsea, SW1, has a long-standing reputation for fashion. Old and New Bond Streets, W1, harbour some of the city’s most exclusive designer outlets and high-powered art galleries. Saville Row and Jermyn Street, W1, remain the homes of bespoke tailoring. Knightsbridge, SW1, boasts world-famous Harrods, with its legendary sales and heavenly food hall.

Oxford Street and Regent Street, W1, attract swarms of shoppers to well-known high-street clothing shops and megastores, including the immense and exclusive Selfridges department store and Hamley’s toy emporium, which now offers the unique chance for children to ‘sleep over’ for the princely sum of £10,000.

Nearby Tottenham Court Road, WC1, is lined with electrical shops, while directly south, Charing Cross Road, WC2, has long been the centre for bookshops in London, with enticing second-hand shops and bigger chains, while London’s largest bookshop, Waterstones, is situated at Piccadilly, W1.

Covent Garden is one of the most popular areas of town. The Piazza, WC2, once the site of the fruit and vegetable market, is now filled with specialist shops, cafés and craft stalls, while street performers and musicians entertain the crowds. Shoppers on the lookout for trendy clothes and shoe shops should head for Neal Street, WC2.

Malls are not favoured in the city centre, where High Street shopping still dominates. However, out-of-town malls are becoming increasingly popular due to the difficulty of parking and traffic congestion within London. The massive Bluewater (website:, one mile off the M25 ring road, is the biggest of this new type of shopping experience.

Visitors looking for a gift that is representative of London need look no further than the number of tacky shops and souvenir stalls that line Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus and other tourist-attracting areas. Passers-by are assaulted with all manner of kitsch, cute and colourful souvenirs, toys and clothes (mostly sporting a Union Jack or member of the royal family). More upmarket gifts can be found at the luxury department stores, such as Harrods and Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge, Selfridges and Liberty in Oxford Street and Regent Street, and Fortnum and Mason in Piccadilly.

Visiting one or more of London’s markets is a way of combining shopping with a cultural experience. The vast weekend market at Camden Lock, Chalk Farm Road, NW1, is one of the city’s top attractions (daily but primarily Saturday and Sunday 1000-1800). Visitors also flock to the Friday and Saturday (0800-1500) antiques and flea market on the Portobello Road, W10. In the East End, Sunday markets – selling everything from fruit and vegetables to jewellery and junk – are held on Petticoat Lane and Brick Lane, E1 (open 0900-1400 and 0600-1300 respectively), while Columbia Road, E2, also on Sundays (0900-1300).

Spitalfields Market, E1, is under threat, but continues to thrive, with its Sunday market (1000-1600) having expanded from organic produce to arts and crafts, antiques, records and clothes. Antiques are available from Camden Passage (in Islington) N1 (Wednesday 0800-1600, Saturday 0900-1700), and Greenwich Market, SE10 (weekends 0900-1700). For foodies, Borough Market, SE1, is still the best (Friday 1200-1800 and Saturday 0900-1600), while, Brixton market on Electric Avenue, SW9, offers the biggest selection of Caribbean food in Europe (open Monday-Thursday, Saturday and Sunday 0900-1800, Wednesday 0900-1500).<