‘England is a nation of shopkeepers’, as Napoleon may or may not have once said. Whoever you attribute the quote to, there is no disputing the country’s retail attraction is world-class, especially in the capital.
With so many shops and specialist districts to go at in London, we’ve picked out the best right here…
This is one of London’s most comprehensive and tourist-friendly shopping districts. From food lovers to fashionistas, there’s something for everyone here with globally recognisable brands happily co-habiting amongst small independent traders.
The central hall in the indoor market building contains around 90 independent business selling everything from teddy bears, sweets and candles to handmade jewellery, fine art and antiques. There is also the Jubilee Market, which is held every day on the south side of the square, flogging household goods, clothing, food and gifts through the week, then arts and crafts on weekends.
The market hall is surrounded by high-end names across fashion, gifts, and technology with flagship stores from Kurt Geiger, Size?, Paul Smith, The Natural Shoe Store and travel book store Stanfords. There’s also an impressive Apple outlet, based in a beautifully-restored 1876 building, spread across multiple floors.
The nearest Tube stop is naturally the Covent Garden Station on the Piccadilly line, but not much further is the Leicester Square Station (for Northern line users) and Temple (Circle and District line).
Perhaps the most famous of all the districts in this list, Oxford Street is home to more than 300 shops, five million sq ft of retail space and any high street name worth its salt is here.
This 1.2-mile stretch of retail heaven attracts over 200 million visitors a year, supporting its claim to being London’s busiest street and Europe’s favourite shopping area.
Bookending the street are two Primark stores, with one at Marble Arch and the other at the junction with Tottenham Court Road, but in between them, you’ll find everyone from Ann Summers to Zara. Most shops are open between 10am and 6 or 7pm.
Due to its length, Oxford Street is served by many Tube stations with Bond Street and Oxford Circus situated around the halfway mark. Marble Arch Station and Tottenham Court Road Station are also nearby options for those using the Central line.
You may recognise this Soho street from the front cover of Oasis’ 1995 album ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?’.
That’s not the street’s only musical significance though; it features some of the best independent record shops in all of London. Phonica Records, Sounds of The Universe, Sister Ray, and Mr Bongo’s are just some of the standout stores.
Berwick Street boasts a vibrant mix of bespoke tailors, textile merchants, pubs and cafes as well as its own outdoor general market.
The street is virtually equidistant from four Tube stations – Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus – so getting there is fairly straightforward.
With 150,000m² of retail space – the equivalent of 30 football pitches – the Westfield shopping centre in White City dethroned Croydon’s Whitgift Centre as the capital’s largest covered shopping complex when it opened in October 2008.
Built at a cost of £1.6 billion, the original Westfield was once branded one of Britain’s ugliest buildings by Building Design magazine. Inside though, there are 265 high-end shops and 50 restaurants as well as a luxury spa and a 14-screen cinema, upgraded to 17 screens in 2010.
Come late 2011, another humongous mall sprung up under the Westfield name in Stratford, 13 miles east of the original Westfield, as part of east London’s redevelopment leading up to the 2012 Olympics. Again, it boasted hundreds of shops, another 14-screen cinema, three hotels and, as if that wasn’t enough, the UK’s largest casino.
Tube stations serving the original Westfield include Shepherd’s Bush (Central line) and Wood Lane (Circle and Hammersmith & City lines), while its younger sibling is closest to the Overground’s Stratford station.
Even if you don’t end up buying anything from London’s unique and charismatic markets, their rich atmosphere make them worth a visit alone.
For serious foodies, there’s the Crystal Palace Food Market, which sells 100 per cent organic or biodynamic produce, as well as a busy and constantly shifting schedule of farmers’ markets.
You’ll almost certainly have heard of Camden Market. It is London’s fourth most popular tourist attraction, pulling in 100,000 people every weekend. But what you might not know is that the name is actually a collective term encompassing six individual markets.
When people refer to Camden Market, they usually mean Camden Lock Market which stands out with its iconic painted train bridge, arguably the area’s most recognisable asset. But there’s also Stables Market, which boasts some brilliant food stands and vintage clothing stalls.
Completing the set is Inverness Street Market, Buck Street Market and the Electric Ballroom, which between them offer an eclectic mix of souvenirs, t-shirts and scrummy lunchtime snacks.