The capital deserves its reputation for retail excellence; London shopping is among the best in the world. Many of the most popular businesses have flagship outlets in the city and it’s the place to look for new trends both in the UK and abroad.
Amid the big name brands, however, London has some of the most interesting and innovative independent stores and local shops. For both dedicated shoppers and those looking for something just a little bit different these are the first places to look for perfect gifts, outfits and anything else you can imagine.
Without a shopping guide London can seem overwhelming at times, with so much variety and such a large area to cover. Thankfully there are some really great guides, both online and in physical copy, some with specialities, so be sure to take one with you or grab one in town to help you make the most of your time.
This is especially true when clothes shopping. Thanks to the thriving fashion industry in London, many people associate the city with the fabulous offbeat boutiques that it boasts. For great British fashion try ‘A Butcher of Distinction’ on Dray Walk, which highlights preppy fashion with a butcher themed shop, meat hooks and all! Highly unusual and great fun.
If you’re in London shopping for books then you’re in for a treat, with some of the best bookshops in the country. You can explore a range of specialist book sellers, from quirky second-hand shops to speciality children’s literature shops, stopping at science fiction on the way with a detour to cook books and Gay and Lesbian interest books shops.
Charing Cross has long been associated with book shops thanks to the bestselling book and subsequent film ’84 Charing Cross Road’. While there are relatively few remaining, they include some lovely shops such as the delightful ‘Any amount of books’, with staff who seem to know everything – or at least how to find it – and its carefully selected range of affordable books.
Food shopping will always be important and in many ways the food shops in a place define the culture of it. It’s no surprise then that foodies in London can choose from a vast range of independent food retailers, from delicious takeaway food from all kinds of cultures to organic grocery shops and specialists in a variety of foodstuffs.
You can also decide to shop with your conscience, with some superb fair trade and eco-friendly shops based in the Capital. ‘Unpackaged’ in Amwell Street is a good example, with mouth-wateringly presented fresh produce and organic food for sale but no bags or packaging in sight. Customers are instead encouraged to bring and reuse their own containers with Tupperware being a popular choice.
You’ll need to take the weight off your feet after a hard day’s shopping. The Capital has a surprising number of independent coffee shops, despite the ever growing presence of the American chains. There are some really interesting examples, such as ‘Shoreditch grind’ with its own bean blend, coffee geek (in the best sense) staff and funny slogans. True aficionados can enjoy the ‘Coffeehouse tour’, wherein a guide takes you through the social and economic history of coffee drinking and coffee houses in the city.
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