London doesn’t do anything by halves. From its world-famous tourist attractions to its stellar offering of theatre in the West End, the UK capital is up there with the best, and it’s no different when it comes to retail.
London’s shopping centres are without doubt some of the best in the country and we’re about to tell you about the ones you should consider visiting.
Brent Cross Shopping Centre
(Postcode: NW4 3FP – Tube: Brent Cross)
Located in Barnet, North London, Brent Cross Shopping Centre became the capital’s first enclosed shopping centre when it opened in 1976. It is often erroneously referred to as Britain’s first shopping mall, but it was preceded by Birmingham’s Bullring in 1964 and Leicester’s Haymarket Shopping Centre in 1973.
Still, at the time of Brent Cross’ opening, many people were sceptical over whether a shopping centre would work in central London. However, fast forward four decades and it boasts one of the largest incomes per unit area of retail space in the UK, beating higher profile centres like Bluewater and Westfield.
More than 2,000 leading designer brands are represented in Brent Cross across 120 stylish stores. Bizarrely, there’s also a man-made beach, comprising over 350 tonnes of sand, 100 palm trees and a water area for those who want to dip their toes in the ‘sea’.
Getting to Brent Cross Shopping Centre is fairly straightforward. For Tube users, it’s just a short walk away from Brent Cross Station on the Northern line, while those based further afield can get the train to Hendon Station. There’s also free parking and late night shopping to help sweeten the deal.
One New Change
(EC4M 9AF – Bank, Mansion House)
Built at a cost of £500 million in 2010, this high-end shopping complex is one of the youngest on this list. It is also the only large shopping centre in the City, London’s financial district, which competes with New York City as the financial capital of the world.
One New Change isn’t a particularly typical name for a shopping centre but its origin is surprisingly simple: it’s the mall’s address, located on a post-war road that replaced Old Change.
The mall houses 60 shops and restaurants from Accessorize to Zizzi, while Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsey each have an eaterie here (Barbecoa and Bread Street Kitchen respectively).
Strangely for a shopping centre, it has a roof terrace, offering spectacular views across the capital. It is open every day from 6am until midnight and hosts a number of outdoor events on throughout the year, from yoga classes to free screenings of Wimbledon.
Located right next to St. Paul’s Cathedral, One New Change is served by two major Tube stations over five lines: Mansion House (Circle, District) and Bank (Central, Northern, Waterloo & City).
(W12 7GF – Shepherd’s Bush)
You can’t talk about shopping in London without making some sort of reference to either Westfield mall – there’s another 12 miles east in Stratford City, adjacent to the Olympic Park.
Westfield London opened as the capital’s largest covered shopping centre in October 2008, after a £1.6 billion development; so grand is Westfield London that it occupies 46 acres and covers nine different postcodes.
Some 372 stores including 50 eateries are spread over five floors and 150,000 sq m of retail space. Pick any high street name and it is most likely that they’re represented here somewhere and new brands are moving in all the time, most recently Jack Wills, Patisserie Valerie and Bentley Motors have opened stores here.
Westfield Stratford City
(E20 1EJ – Stratford)
We may as well tell you about that other Westfield mentioned a moment ago.
Going off the amount of retail space (some 177,000 sq m), it is Britain’s third largest shopping centre, behind Gateshead’s Metrocentre and Manchester’s Trafford Centre.
However, taking the surrounding shopping area into account, it is the largest urban shopping centre in the EU, in terms of size.
This Westfield has roughly 280 stores and 70 restaurants including a 22,000 sq m John Lewis, a 12,600 sq m Marks & Spencer and a 17-screen digital cinema, as well as a 267-room Premier Inn hotel, another hotel with 350 rooms and enough parking space for 5,000 cars.
Tube travellers could take the Central or Jubilee lines to Stratford Station.
Duke Of York Square
(SW3 4LY – Sloane Square)
A less mainstream fixture now with Chelsea’s Duke of York Square – one of London’s chicest open-air shopping centres.
That’s not to say it’s toned down, it is home to one of Europe’s biggest Zara stores, flagship stores for Richard Ward and Liz Earle and one of the capital’s finest artisan food markets.
Aside from retail therapy, the Duke of York Square offers punters the chance to indulge in beauty therapy, embrace their inner foodie at one of six restaurants or enjoy a spot of contemporary culture at the iconic Saatchi Gallery.
Tube passengers should take the Circle or District lines to Sloane Square.
(W1B 5PW – Green Park / Piccadilly Circus)
This three-storey al-fresco food and dining destination in the heart of London’s West End is a bit of a secret spot. It brings together 21 restaurants, cafes, bars and food operators in a vibrant open-air courtyard, which is covered in the winter.
Kingly Court carefully selects which restaurants open here to offer a unique dining experience that can’t be found anywhere else in London.
Rather than retail, Kingly Court celebrates quality gourmet food but there is a kooky mix of independent shops and established chains here too, such as Henri Lloyd and Vans, as well as vintage shoe sellers Marshmellow Mountain, Lazy Oaf menswear, and a few vintage clothing stores.
You’ll find it just two-minutes’ walk from Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus Tube stations.
St Martin’s Courtyard
(WC2E 9AB – Covent Garden)
Sitting in the heart of Covent Garden, this gorgeous open-air courtyard offers an array of unique shops, with 20 fashion, beauty and lifestyle stores, such as Banana Republic, Pretty Ballerinas, The White Company, Jack Wolfskin, L.K. Bennett and COS.
As you’d expect, there’s also a range of delicious restaurants including Bill’s, Suda, Jamie’s Italian, Dishoom and the newly opened Department of Coffee and Social Affairs – each with al-fresco seating or terraces.
The nearest Tube station is Covent Garden on the Piccadilly line.
(W2 4YN – Bayswater)
The original Whiteleys was London’s first department store when it opened on Westbourne Grove in 1863, but after a fire in 1887, it was shifted round the corner onto Queensway.
Today, it is home to more than 30 stores including typical high street names such as Marks & Spencer, HMV and Starbucks, but there’s also a food hall, an eight-screen cinema and a bowling alley.
Whiteleys is housed in a Grade II-listed building and many of its original features remain in place, including the sweeping La Scala staircase and the tiered atrium, windows and marble floor.
To get there, hop on the Circle or District lines to Bayswater Tube Station.