This is an excerpt from the Shopping chapter of Lonely Planet's guide to London.
Napoleon famously referred to England as a nation of shopkeepers. That was more than 200 years ago, but London is still one of the best places to go shopping. London’s main shopping attractions are its sheer variety and number of shopping opportunities. The big-name emporiums, such as Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Hamleys, Fortnum & Mason and Liberty, are both sightseeing attractions in their own right and temples to shopping devotees; the side-street boutiques – the capital’s true delights — also sell just about anything, from clothes to old-style British homewares..
There have been talks of turning Oxford St into a traffic-free paradise, with breezy trams going up and down, but until that becomes even a remote reality, the street’s ocean of consumers and stagnant traffic is likely to feel simultaneously overwhelming (in terms of its crowds) and underwhelming (regarding its offerings). This is where, however, you’ll find the chain ‘headquarters’ with massive H&Ms, Zaras, Urban Outfitters and large department stores such as John Lewis, Debenhams and Selfridges.
Camden Market at weekends is just as likely to make you want to flee rather than spree, so try to visit during the week, unless you enjoy crowds. Better central areas to head to are listed below.
Clerkenwell, Shoreditch & Spitalfields
This is London’s trendiest shopping area, home to Sunday’s fabulous Spitalfields Market where young cutting-edge designers display their creations; Brick Lane, Dray Walk and Cheshire St are full of quirky shops, vintage dens and cool household havens. Come here if you want to see London at its hippest and to search out small boutiques for something unique.
Visit, but don’t shop at the touristy old market hall. Instead branch out into the little side streets for a whole lot of cool fashion, and hit Long Acre and Neal St for less hectic high-street chains. The Thomas Neal Centre on Earlham St is packed with urban/skate/surf fashions from the likes of High Jinks.
High Street Kensington
The less crowded, more salubrious alternative to Oxford St, this has all the high-street chains, plus trendy stores, such as Miss Sixty (No 63) and Urban Outfitters (No 36). Snap up antiques along Church St.
A far cry from its 1960s mod heyday, well-heeled King’s Rd is now strong on household goods, with the Designer’s Guild (No 269), Habitat (No 206) and Heal’s (No 234). Children are well catered for at Trotters (No 34).
Harrods is a national institution, so go and witness the exuberant food halls and dramatic Egyptian Hall of gifts at least once. Harvey Nichols is within easy reach, and there are many nearby stores for cashed-up fashionistas.
Marylebone High Street
You’ll feel like you’re in a small town of its own along this quaint and elegant street, where homeware stores such as Cath Kidston are plenty. But food is the neighbourhood speciality, with London’s best butcher Ginger Pig (8-10 Moxon St).
More shopping tips can be found in the Shopping chapter of Lonely Planet's guide to London.