London: Department Stores

Oh, how we love the shopping. There’s poking around for vintage clothes at the best London markets, getting something you could never afford otherwise in the January sales, spending legitimate hours in toy shops looking for a birthday present (ahem), almost crying in bookshops that you don’t have several thousand pounds to spend, choking with sheer covetousness when confronted with shoe displays, getting intimidated by those orange women who work on makeup counters and who eye you askance as if wondering under from just which rock you’ve suddenly crawled…And then the sitting down afterwards for a coffee or a drink, surrounded by shopping bags, all tired and happy and looking forward to getting home so that you can a) plot your night out wearing the new clothes you’ve just bought, or b) lock yourself firmly indoors with that pile of new books and not be seen for days. Yup, shopping is great.

You can buy almost anything in London, even a lion from Harrods in 1969 (here’s the full story on that, which will make you sniff and declare you have something in your eye. Again), and there are so many little independent and quirky shops that it would take you years to get round them all. But there’s also the big famous London department stores, which are also a must. Here’s our Six of the Best.

Harrods: Purveyors of lions, hampers and everything in between, Harrods claim to be able to get you anything you want to buy, from a toy helicopter to a real one. It’s probably the most famous London department store, starting off as a grocer and tea merchant in 1834 to the seven floor, 330 department shopping experience it is today. Check out the Egyptian Hall, pet department and Terracotta Palace with its luxury merchandise, or go along for one of the specialised services including personalised shopping, piano tuning and dog coat fittings.

Fortnum & Mason: Fine foods from the West End is a phrase that should be on your shopping list at least once in London, so head to Fortnum & Mason, grocer to the Queen, for luxury food, teas, hampers and wine. Fortnum’s has been selling food, luggage, homeware and clothes in London since the start of the eighteenth century, and there’s now also an award winning wine bar and a tea salon among its five restaurants.

Harvey Nichols: We can’t say the name of this famous fashion shop without hearing Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous throatily refer to it as ‘Harvey Nicks’, but there are other reasons to visit – Harvey Nichols is the place to go if you want top-end designer clothes, accessories, cosmetics, food and shoes. There’s Dolce & Gabbana, Jimmy Choo (sob), Space NK and Burberry among many others in the flagship Knightsbridge store, all over eight floors in a shop going strong since the 1880s. Once you get too tired, or have just too many designer bags to carry, head to the fifth floor which is dedicated to food and restaurants.

Selfridges: The phrase ‘one stop shop’ can be applied to a few London stores, but is particularly relevant for Selfridges, where there are six floors covering ten acres of shopping heaven. It’s the second biggest shop in the UK – after Harrods, natch – and opened in 1909 in Oxford Street where it still is today (Selfridges also now has two branches in Manchester and another in Birmingham.) You’ll be able to find all the latest designer gear here, as well as luxury food, wine, gifts and homeware.

Liberty & Co: Based in Regent Street, Liberty was founded in 1875 and offers quality and luxury goods that are a bit more original than many other high-end shops. There’s designer fashion from the likes of Vivienne Westwood and Chloé, homeware and haberdashery, with the shop well known for stocking creations from new designers, its Liberty print fabric, and William Morris inspired arts and crafts. Keep an eye out for its innovative window displays from the store’s own team of window dressers, especially around Christmas.

Fenwick: Fenwick of Bond Street started out as a hair accessories shop in 1891, and is still the to-go place for beauty and cosmetics, with many exclusive products on the cosmetics counter. There are five floors in total at Fenwick, with designer clothing, homeware, shoes, bags and jewellery alongside the beauty and cosmetics items. And, just so you don’t say it wrong and make a show of yourself, the name of the store is pronounced Fen-ick, not Fen-wick. But we’re sure you already knew that.

Got any other London shopping spots that you love, posh or otherwise? Let us know in the forums!

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