If you’d rather spend your money on the latest issue of Vogue than food ala Carrie Bradshaw, London is your perfect city. Without question, London is one of the fashion capitals of the world. Whether you are a young woman getting ready to look her best for a night out in Shoreditch or a gentlemen searching for the perfect suit, there are a range of fantastic shops where you can scoop up effortlessly chic apparel with a touch of British class. Even if you aren’t ready to splurge on high fashion clothing or upscale brands, London is home to several secondhand stores, charming markets, and budget shopping destinations locals frequent. The following are just a few of the best places to go shopping if you want to add British style to your wardrobe.
If you only get the chance to visit one shopping destination in London, it should be Oxford Street. In the Mayfair-Marylebone district of London, Oxford Street has been the prime shopping location for more than a century. While there are all kinds of boutiques and shops lining the street, the main attractions are the major British department stores, most of which are flagship stores with decades of history. Selfridges, opened in 1909, is the second-largest store in United Kingdom, and it boasts a stunning food hall as well as every kind of clothing, makeup, or accessories you can imagine. Just a few minutes walk from Selfridges is John Lewis, another major British department store that first opened its doors in 1864 in the same location it stands today. While you can certainly shop in these department stores, they also serve as attractions in their own right, and visiting them can be a chance to explore the history and culture of London’s past.
For nearly 200 years, British men with impeccable taste have gotten their suits from Saville Row. A street running through the heart of Mayfair, Saville Row is now synonymous with upscale style and bespoke tailoring. Although you can have just about anything made or tailored at the various shops along Saville Row, there is no doubt that the number one item for purchase is the suit. When dinner jackets and tuxedos came into fashion in the mid-19th century, they were first sewn and sold on Saville Row. When well-known British men as varied as Jude Law and Winston Churchill needed to be outfitted for a formal function, their suits generally came from a shop on Saville Row. To get a pair of high-quality shoes to match your custom-made suit, pop into Wildsmith Shoes, also on Saville Row, to have a handmade pair of shoes designed specifically for your feet.
Rounding out the incredible shopping experience in Mayfair is Bond Street, a destination long associated with luxury apparel and high-end clothing. This is one of the most expensive stretches of property in the world, and the tenants, primarily boutique and couture clothing companies, pay a small fortune to have a sliver of the famed street. You might already be familiar with Bond Street thanks to its references in classic literary works like Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility or Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Even if you don’t have the cash for indulgent purchases at places like Gucci, Prada, Burberry, DKNY, Graaf Diamonds, Cartier, Bulgari, and Armani, window shopping can be a delightful experience.
Camden Town Markets
If the upscale shops in Mayfair have made a serious dent in your shopping budget, heading to the Camden Town Markets can be a much more reasonable place to splurge. Although the district of Camden is actually home to many distinct markets selling different items, their continual growth has caused them to converge, and many people simple refer to the whole area as Camden Town Markets. The Lock Market, located by the Camden Locks just like the name suggests, is the best place to go if you are looking for music and clothing. Many of the shoppers are tourists, but this is also a popular place for students and young professionals to mingle and look for bargains. The nearby Stables Market in Camden is an even more eclectic mix of wares, and it is easy to spend hours browsing through the unusual items for sale. Whether you are looking for vintage furniture, African art, or handmade clothing from up and coming designers, Stables Market is a great place to start your search. Like much of Camden, these markets offer prices much lower than on the high street, and many vendors are willing to bargain with you as well.
Founded in 1843, Harrod’s is a quintessentially English department store that also happens to be one of the biggest tourist attractions in London. Found in Knightsbridge, Harrod’s takes up more than 93,000 square metres of space, and boasts a whopping 330 different departments. With a motto like Omnia Omnibus Ubique, which means “All Things for All People, Everywhere,” it makes sense that this store truly has just about everything. As a high-end luxury department store, there is a dress code in place, and you’ll want to look your best to gain entrance into the magic wonderland that is Harrod’s.
Known best for theatres, Covent Garden is also home to some spectacular shopping. For most shoppers, this is a kind of middle ground. You won’t have to spend a fortune, like you might in Saville Row or Bond Street, but there is considerably less bargaining than in Camden Market. There is a more traditional high street, which is where everyday shops are found, and the area is incredibly pedestrian-friendly. If it is shoes you’re after, walk to Covent Garden’s Neal Street, which is lined with shoe stores and more temporary stalls where vendors sell a range of shoes at a variety of prices. Covent Garden is a great place to spend the day, and there are a number of outdoor cafes where you can refuel with tea, coffee or an al fresco meal.
While there is no end to the things to do, see and explore in London, shopping is definitely a popular way to spend a few hours or even an entire weekend. These top shopping destinations will have you embracing British style in no time.
Which shopping destination are you looking forward to the most in London?