Shopping in London

Without a doubt, London is a true shopping mecca – both within the United Kingdom, Europe, and even worldwide! In London, there is literally something for everyone – whether you prefer top notch branded goods or something more bohemian in fashion, or whether you want something truly antique or whether you want the latest gadget - there is something to suit all tastes and budgets.

For those who are searching for gifts and souvenirs to bring back home after such a fantastic trip, there are plenty of shops and stalls around London. The best places to get these souvenirs and gifts for friends and family members are at Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Street, Camden Market, Knightsbridge, Alfie's, and Regent Street. Great things to get include a London teddy bear, magnets, a British flag, postcards, antiques, vintage aprons, and other collectible items that are uniquely British.

There are many great streets and areas to go shopping at. These include Chelsea, Bond Street, Knightsbridge, Covent Garden, Oxford Street, Regent Street, High Street, Soho, Piccadilly, and Beauchamp Place.

King's Road, also known as The KR, is a well known street in Chelsea. It is associated with vintage 1960s style, as well as classic fashion figures such as Vivienne Westwood and Mary Quant. It is definitely a place where you can get cool retro gear.

In Mayfair, Bond Street is home to some of the most expensive and elegant shops in the city. There is more art, designer clothing labels like Armani, antiques, and suppliers to the British Royal Family (also known as Royal Warrant holders) located on Bond Street than anywhere else in the city of London.

If you like your department shopping, Knightsbridge is excellent. This area is well known for its Harvey Nichols and Harrods department stores. On Sloane Street, you can find famous designer stores. However, if you prefer small and chic elegant shops, then head over to either Walton Street or Beauchamp Place.

Shoe lovers and those who love independent fashion should definitely head over to Covent Garden's Seven Dials. However, you can also prefer a Marks and Spencer here if you prefer a bit of departmental shopping.

Spanning 1.5 miles, Oxford Street is well known for its department stores and is said to be Europe's busiest shopping street. Shops open from 10 am to about 7 pm, while on Sundays they open from 12 – 6 pm. It is known for being the home of Selfridges as well as many global big name stores.

As the dividing line between the swanky Mayfair and trendy Soho, Regent Street is a main shopping street that lays between Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus. The operating times on Regent Street are similar to those on Oxford Street. Shops here include Austin Reed, the Apple Store, Hamleys toy store, the Liberty department store, and more.

Although High Street is now a name used for strips in cities or towns where a particular street is a main centre of commerce, the best High Streets in London is in Kensington. It is one of the most popular shopping areas in London, with upmarket shops serving this wealthy neighbourhood.

Soho is north of the famous Piccadilly Circus. At Soho, travellers can find trendy designer clothing, as well as boutique shops. There is also a Top Shop, H&M, Zara and Mango.

Beauchamp Place has a number of fashionable clothing shops, mostly for women. These shops include bridal-wear, Paddy Campbell, a cashmere fashion shop, jewellery, and much more.

If you prefer to go shopping in areas that do not require as much cash, why not head to the markets or the factory outlets? There are numerous factory outlets just minutes away from London. The Burberry Discount Outlet is in Hackney, and opens from Monday to Saturday. Over in Oxfordshire, you will find 48 outlets at the Bicester Outlet Shopping Village. Great discounts can be found on brands such as Jaeger, Jigsaw, Kurt Geiger, Benetton, and Aquascutum.

Foodies or those who are simply hungry should head down the Borough Market. This market located in Southward which is in London's south-east specialises in both retail and wholesale foods. This market has been featured in many television shows as it is one of the world's largest specialist food markets which sell a variety of multicultural food.

Without a doubt, the Camden Markets need no introduction. These are some of the world's most famous markets, and actually comprise of several markets so hard core shopaholics or window shoppers will never get bored of shopping in Camden! There are 6 markets which actually adjoin each other, and they all offer various different items which make this area rather unique. The main day to visit all of these markets is Sunday, although it is open throughout the rest of the week. Next to Regent's Canal is the Camden Lock Market. This popular area is where shoppers can find books, clothes, fashion accessories, as well as arts and crafts. The Stables Market is the largest area within the marketplace, and has a mixture of shops. However, most of these are furniture, household goods, antiques, and clothing. This area is popular with many social sub-cultures such as Goths. The Buck Street Market focuses on clothing and many of these are original designs by the stallholders themselves. When the Buck Street Market is closed, they head off to the Electric Ballroom. Finally, the Inverness Street Market sells fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables.

Originally a fruit and vegetable market, Covent Garden is a historic market that has been redeveloped into a popular tourist destination. This area now contains small shops, pubs, cafes, and a couple of market areas. These market areas include the Jubilee Market, as well as the Apple Market where art and crafts are sold.

The Dover Street Market was created by the Japanese fashion designer, Rei Kawakubo. Located in Mayfair, this street market contains several levels of fashion stores.

The Greenwich Market is a historic market that has operated since the 1300's. However, the current Greenwich Market consists of two markets that operate on Wednesday to Sunday. However, the rest of the market which includes pubs, bars, restaurants, cafes, and shops are open every day. On Wednesday, stallholders sell home-ware and food. On Thursday and Friday, art, antiques, collectibles, and crafts are sold. During bank holidays and the weekends, there is a variety of art and craft stalls to browse through.

If you are the type of person who prefers shopping in air-conditioned comfort, there are many department stores that are worthy of visiting. After all, who can forget the famous Harrods department store? This upscale department store in Knightsbridge occupies a whopping 5 acre land space, with over 330 individual stores inside. It is a bit uppity, as people not wearing 'appropriate clothing' are turned away. Shops inside Harrods include jewellery, clothes, electronics, pets, health, sporting goods, bridal gear, toys, furniture, and more.

Harvey Nichols, or “Harvey Nicks” to the locals, is another upscale department store. This store bizarrely attracts younger shoppers than Harrods despite the fact it is actually more expensive. This shop was originally just a linen shop, but it has expanded to include some of the most prestigious fashion, accessories, food, and beauty brands in the world.

Selfridges department store is the second biggest shopping area in London. This place is known for its amazing visual merchandising at the many shop windows – so shoppers can browse both outside and inside without getting bored! Shops here include fashion and beauty-related stores, both own-brands and luxury designer ones as well.

Formerly the largest toy shop in the world, Hamleys Toy Emporium is fantastic for kids and adults young at heart. The flagship shop is located in Regent Street. There are 7 levels here and Hamleys sell everything from Lego, stuffed animals, jigsaw and other brain building games, action figures, model toys, toy cars, novelty games, Hello Kitty, and more.

The second largest shopping centre in the entire United Kingdom is the Bluewater Mall in Kent. The major stores here are Marks and Spencer, John Lewis, and House of Fraser.

Liberty is open 7 days a week. Located at Regent Street, you can find all sorts of fashionable items here ranging from designer wear, fabrics, bath, stationery, and more.

Fortnum & Mason, or “Fortnums” to the locals, is situated in central London. It has been a Royal Warrant Holder for over 150 years, so you can be sure that the products here are top quality. Although it is a basic department store, it has continued to focus on basic, exotic, and speciality provisions. It is a famous tea shop, and is also well known for its fabulous hampers.

Located at Shepherds Bush/White City, Westfield London has 265 speciality shops from all over the world. It is open every day, including bank holidays. Shops here include fashion, electronics, furniture, home-ware, and pretty much anything else that you can find at a regular shopping centre.

Brent Cross Shopping Centre is the original stand-alone mall in the United Kingdom which opened in 1976. The main anchor tenants here are Fenwicks and John Lewis.

With so many shopping options around London, you may be wondering if there are any incentives for tourists to take advantage of. There is tax free shopping available, however most of these are not eligible for those whose countries are members of the European Union such as France and Germany. There are actually 2 companies that people can claim VAT refunds from, and they are Global Refund and Premier Tax Free.

Global Refund is offered by many major retailers including most of the shops on Regent Street. In order to get a refund, you must meet or surpass the minimum purchase amount that is set by that particular shop. To find out more, visit http://www.globalrefund.com.

Premier Tax Free is more lenient, in the sense that the minimum spending amount is quite low as it is set at only £30. Purchases eligible under this particular scheme exclude vehicles, business goods worth over £600, free mounted gemstones, gold bullion that weighs over 125 grams, mail order or internet order services, and more. More information can be found at www.premiertaxfree.com.