Do not expect London to be the shopping paradise that the brochures and magazines would have you believe. Most things are more expensive in Britain, especially brand names, which are held artificially high by a cartel. Various hypermarkets are trying to break this cartel, and the legal battle is only just commencing. The only things cheaper in Britain than elsewhere are books (but not academic), theatre and concert tickets and ethnic art (African masks sculptures, Persian rugs and kelims). However the 'Shopping Experience' in London ranks quite highly. There are certain things that the British excel in (for example top Savile Row suits, Jermyn St shirts benchmade shoes) and it is worth paying for the quality and durability.

The Shortlist

1) Camden Market

2) Portobello Road Market

3 ) Harrods' Food Hall & Knightsbridge

4) Jermyn Street Savile Row

5) Soho

Other Markets

Sunday afternoon, the approach to Camden marketCamden Market Camden Market, held north of Camden Town tube at weekends is quite an experience. A few years ago it looked like it was going downhill as Camden got a reputation for drugs, but it's cleaned itself up to become a top attraction. It's a huge vanity fair, virtually everything is on sale here, clothing, music, antiques, collectibles, ethnic art, rugs and kelims, food and drink. It does tend to get a bit crowded on Saturdays. Although the quality of the goods can at times be a bit disappointing, if you dig around there are real bargains to be found. Recently it's become a haven for emerging fashion designers - the latest club wear is to be found here. More normal stuff is better found at Spitalfields Market. Weekends from about 09:30 to 17:00. Their Website 

Tube: Camden or Chalk Farm (Northern Line) Bus: Camden Town


Portobello Road market on a crowded Saturday afternoonPortobello Road Market We remember this market in the late 1960s when people dressed in Sgt Pepper costumes, and antiques could be picked up for a song. Sadly the stallholders have got wiser, and the prices steeper, but if you're after something special you'll find it here - remember to haggle. The South end of the street is mainly antiques, the middle is vegetables, and the end bric-a-brac. As it's held in ultra-fashionable and expensive Notting Hill it's also great for just hanging out. Beautiful rows of white stucco'd houses abound. Saturdays from about 06:00 to about 16:30. A good website 

Tube: Notting Hill Gate (Central, Circle) Ladbroke Grove (Hammersmith City) Bus: Notting Hill

Harrods The food halls are the reason to visit Harrods, which otherwise is just like any other department store (only more so) - they've retained their Victorian splendour, tiled with marble and with an astounding variety of foods knowingly displayed. Otherwise the decor is a bit naff. The 'eat all you can' cream teas are annually exploited by rowers after the Oxford v Cambridge boat race when as many as 20 huge cream cakes can make amends for months of watching your weight. The sale is the only time the prices descend to earth.
Its great rival 'Harvey Nicks' a short distance down Knightsbridge is a better place to shop, its food hall is ultra modern and the cocktail bar next to it is meant to be one of the best places to pick up millionaires. Great rooftop restaurant. Around Knightsbridge it's assumed that money is no object so the price tags are high, but window shopping is free. 
Bus: Knightsbridge

Jermyn Street & Savile Row The area comprising Jermyn St, Piccadilly, Burlington Arcade Savile Row is where the English Gentleman and Lady shop for their clothes, shoes and accessories.
Jermyn Street shirts have a reputation the world over,Turnbull and Asser - where Prince Charles buys his shirts Turnbull & Asser are the choice of Prince Charles (and the present author), though most of the principal makers are not far behind. Harvey & Hudson have a reputation for daring tiger stripes and Hilditch & Key for comfort and durability. Hawes and Curtis have been bought out by an Italian company and the quality has gone way downhill - they're still trading on (and blackening) the name though. Most shirt shops will make shirts at a minimum order of 6. Taylors barber shop - shaves Royal beardsFosters, and Trickers shoes shops along with Lobb round the corner on St James' Street are essential for footwear and briefcases. Taylor's shaving shop is the place for shaving gear, they will also shave you with a cut throat (they have the royal warrant, which means they shave royal throats as well as commoners). Floris was London's first parfumers, and they still make excellent soaps and colognes, but their presence next to Paxman Whitbread's cheese shop (London's smelliest shop) is a case of opposites attracting.

Street PropagandaBurlington Arcadeis similarly famous for accessories - it has its own police force - a beadle who still wears the Victorian uniform. At its top is Savile Row, an area rather than a street. Huntsman, Anderson & Sheppard, and Boateng (his brother is a cabinet minister) will kit you out in a splendid suit, if you've got the money. Prince Charles' tailor John Kent is surprisingly cheap - if you want to spend £600 on looking superb in an English tailored suit you won't beat them on price - and with Prince Charles' recommendation... their premises in a cellar don't give away their royal clientele. A hidden secret. More HERE. Bond street continues north from here with exclusive shops selling jewelry, clothes and bags, but they largely reproduce what most capital cities have already. Halfway along Bond St is the famous 'Park Bench' statue of Churchill & Rooseveldt.  

Tube: Piccadilly Circus (Piccadilly) Green Park (Jubilee, Victoria) Bus: Piccadilly Circus

Soho Square, on the northeren fringes of Soho provides a welcome patch of greenSoho Once the Royal Hunting grounds (hence the name, a hunting call) now the most lively part of town, bordered by Chinatown to the south, Oxford Street to the north, Regent Street to the west and Charing Cross Road to the east. The southeast corner, centering on Old Compton St is full of bars and cafes and is the centre of London's gay scene - but the capital's most lively heterosexuals are to be found here also. To the west is Carnaby St, which was the centre of 'swinging London' in the 60s is nowadays quite tacky, but the area just to the east and south of the street itself is very pleasant with interesting boutiques, restaurants and record shops. Rents are high so apart from one or two exceptions food is not good value here - that doesn't stop it having one of the capital's highest concentrations of restaurants. It's also the centre of the capital's rapidly shrinking sex trade and the theatres along Shaftsbury Avenue are the epicentre of theatreland. 

Tube: Leicester Square (Northern) Piccadilly Circus (Piccadilly) Oxford Circus (Central, Bakerloo, Victoria) Tottenham Court Road (Central, Northern) Bus: Shaftsbury Avenue.

See our markets page for a round up of the top markets.


South Molton Street - actually a whole area just south of Bond Street tube that combines antiques and fashion, and with the recent opening up of Lancashire Court adds in a very pleasant place to eat. South Molton street is lined with fashion shops featuring the best British designers - often as good as Versace, but at a fraction of the cost. As you go further south the mood becomes more international and less idiosyncratic.

Chelsea The King's Road is a long, long street that starts off at Sloane Square and runs into tubeless territory before resurfacing at Fulham. Either start at Sloane Square and go west, or Fulham Broadway and work your way east. The west end of the street - from 'World's End' to Fulham Broadway is full of top-end antiques and designer furniture, from World's End to Sloane square is more fashion. But the days of the King's road as fashion epicentre are long gone.

The parallel Fulham Road, which starts off at South Kensington tube, is more lifestyle: high-end furniture and fabrics interspersed between the restaurants. Fulham Road almost meets the King's road at Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea football club, and you can make a circuit from Sloane Square tube to South Kensington tube, via Fulham Broadway tube. Plenty of buses run down both roads.


Antiques: Portobello Road, Camden Passage (strangely enough, it's in Islington, near Angel), King's Road, Chelsea ( near the football ground there are lots of big antiques shops - the top end of the market - and auction houses) Grays in South Molton Lane (south of Bond St Tube) see HERE for details of Kensington's antiques markets and shops.
Books, antiquarian  and modern: Charing Cross Road, Skoob Books (Brunswick Centre, Russell Square)
Electricals/Computers: Tottenham Court Road (south end)
Furniture: Tottenham Court Road (north end) for antique and high-end designer see Chelsea, above.
Records: Vinyl - Rock: Camden, Soho especially Berwick St, Jazz :east end of Monmouth St, Ray's Jazz in Foyles, Charing Cross Road Reggae/Carribean/dub: Peckings, Chiswick.
Pop/Classical CDs: HMV, Oxford St (two shops), secondhand, Berwick St Soho.
Excellent poster-size prints of London:
THIS EXHIBITION , which is on Hungerford Bridge (Charing Cross - South Bank) over summer 2003 offers them for sale. Some really excellent pictures and well worth a visit to the site or the bridge to have a look.
Strand, Holborn.
Fashion: Kensington High Street, Christopher's Place, King's Road Chelsea, Covent Garden
Gifts: Covent Garden/Neal St
Cheeses:   Jermyn St/Neal's Yard
Fine Wines:St James' Street (lower end)
Toys: Regent's St.
Presents, quintessentially English: Gent's shaving gear from Taylor's, Woman's scarf from Turnbull & Asser, for an Aunt/Mother: soaps and fragrances from Floris. For father/Uncle: a Stilton from Paxton & Whitfield - all on Jermyn Street. For children - visit the Science or Natural History museum shops (South Kensington). 

Guidebook to what to see and do in London

Search this site:

Match:  Any word All words Exact phrase