One of the best things to do in London is shop. While prices may be steep, as £10 currently equals $14.92 (as of writing, via Google), there are a number of unique districts and stores you simply won’t want to miss — and a number of bargains at any price. In this article, I’ll talk about a few of my personal favorites — feel free to add more of yours below!
Carnaby Street and Newburgh Quarter
Carnaby Street is a legendary Soho street which showcases cutting-edge fashion artists from all over London and around the world. The address itself basically means “one of the next big things.” Naturally, a street grows into an area, and I’d include the Newburgh Quarter as part of the experience — it’s right there, so you’re a fool to do one and not the other. There’s also amazing food on nearby Ganton Street and several big open-air courtyards in the vicinity for hanging out and watching the trendy people go by.
The best way to do Carnaby Street and the Newburgh Quarter is to window shop and go inside when you like what you see. I’d recommend a visit to The Great Frog, the jeweler who has designed bespoke pieces for everyone from Aerosmith to Metallica as well as the Harry Potter movies, the quirky and delightful (and very stylish) Beatrix Ong, who hand-draws Alice in Wonderland characters on the walls of her eclectic shop, the promising generation of designers at Beyond the Valley (above) where neck ruffles rule and the mind-bending photography shop Lomography. If you’re thinking about buying at Lomography, keep in mind that they have a New York store, and it might be best to wait until you’re home to order, currency-wise.
Shoreditch is a hot area in London for many reasons, but to me, there are two things you must see:
1. Robots. ‘Nuff said.
2. Laden. Laden is a carefully curated showroom for young designers. The Brick Lane store, founded by Barry and Adele Laden, makes a point of not just selling clothes, but nurturing the up-and-coming designers. It’s a trendy place to have your clothing sold; even celebrities come and dig through the racks like the rest of us. Anna Friel was recently spotted in one of the designer’s vintage-style dresses. My verdict was that some designers were better than others, but the store definitely held surprises at every turn. You’re certain to find new, unique pieces at Laden.
Camden is London’s own little Amsterdam, where everything goes. Known especially for its goth scene, the Camden Market is full of strange little themed shops with all tights, all leopard print, all this, all that. If you’ve watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer more than twice, get thee to Camden Market, where ye shall find thy broheim. There’s a burgeoning steam-punk influence, as well, and a dash of Harajuku — all for rock-bottom prices.
Fortnum & Mason
Everybody talks about Harrods, but if you want to be a little cooler than that, consider Fortnum & Mason as your luxury food and gift shopping destination. Located right in the heart of Piccadilly Circus, Fortnum & Mason is a relatively small department store, but what they lack in quantity they make up for in quality. For example, it’s the only English-speaking store in the world (except for one other in Australia, which is far away) where you can purchase tights by Les Queues Des Sardines. If the style doesn’t get you, the history will; they’ve been there since 1707. Video here!
Even if you’ve never been to the UK, you’ve probably head of Portobello Market. Well, there’s a reason for that. The reason is: it’s awesome. I spent a whole day just meandering down through the stalls, each one offering unusual things — a lot of it junk, much of it treasure. I ended up walking away with these two Antiques Roadshow candidates for £5 for the pair.
Even if they’re worth nothing, I couldn’t say no to the reproach on those faces. I also had a decidedly lovely lunch, including the most elegant-yet-true-to-its-roots serving of fish and ships I’ve ever had at Ground Floor, part of First Floor Bar & Restaurant, a cozy hideaway in the middle of the market madness.
Where in London do you like to shop?
This trip was paid for by VisitBritain, but the ideas and opinions expressed in the article above are 100% my own.