Although London is one of the world's best shopping cities, it often seems made for wealthy visitors. To find real good values, you can either wait for sales or search out discount stores.
American-style shopping has taken Britain by storm, in concept – warehouse stores and outlet malls – and in actual name: One block from Hamleys, you'll find the Disney Store. The Gap is everywhere, and Tiffany sells more wedding gifts than Asprey these days. Your best bet is to concentrate on British goods. You can also do well with French products; values are almost as good as in Paris.
Some of London's most fashionable and trendsetting shoppers are trekking over to the famous old Brick Lane in the East End of the city. Brick Lane is the main drag along "Banglatown," known for its low-cost curry restaurants and sari stores, catering to London's burgeoning population from India. Almost overnight, funky little boutiques and home furnishing stores started moving in, no doubt attracted by the low rents. Today you can seek out such shopping delights as Beyond Retro, 110 Brick Lane, where the managers keep the displays interesting by adding 300 new vintage pieces daily; Mar Mar Co, 16 Brick Lane, where you'll find Scandinavian ceramics and china boxes glazed with retro wallpaper designs, along with dozens of other delights, and Work Gallery, 156 Brick Lane, with its collection of quirky jewellery. Dozens of other shops await your own discovery.
As a neighbourhood, the West End includes Mayfair and is home to the core of London's big-name shopping. Most of the department stores, designer shops, and multiples (chain stores) have their flagships in this area.
The key streets are Oxford Street (in either direction) for affordable shopping (start at Marble Arch Tube station if you're ambitious, or Bond Street station if you care to see only some of it), and Regent Street, which intersects Oxford Street at Oxford Circus. The Oxford Street flagship (at Marble Arch) of the private-label department store Marks & Spencer is worth visiting for quality goods. Regent Street, which leads all the way to Piccadilly, has more upscale department stores (including the famed Liberty of London), chains (Laura Ashley), and specialty dealers.
Parallel to Regent Street, Bond Street connects Piccadilly with Oxford Street and is synonymous with the luxury trade. Divided into New and Old, it has experienced a recent revival and is the hot address for international designers. A slew of international hotshots, from Chanel to Ferragamo, to Versace, have boutiques nearby.
Burlington Arcade, the famous glass-roofed, Regency-style passage leading off Piccadilly, looks like a period exhibition and is lined with intriguing shops and boutiques. Lit by wrought-iron lamps and decorated with clusters of ferns and flowers, its small, smart stores specialise in fashion, jewellery, Irish linen, cashmere and more.
For a total contrast, check out Jermyn Street, on the far side of Piccadilly, a tiny 2-block-long street devoted to high-end men's haberdashers and toiletries shops; many have been doing business for centuries. Several hold royal warrants, including Turnbull & Asser, where HRH Prince Charles has his pj's made. A bit to the northwest, Savile Row (between Regent Street and New Bond Street) is synonymous with the finest in men's tailoring.
See more information on the next page... (next)