Shopping in London is one of the top three most popular activities with visitors to the United Kingdom.
That’s not surprising, given the city’s unofficial status as global fashion capital. From the swinging 60s (the miniskirt was reputedly invented here), to 70s punk and the Britpop influences of the 90s, London has defined fashion trends for decades and continues to offer shoppers almost unending choice.
Here’s a guide to the best places to shop in London.
Central London: Soho, Mayfair and Knightsbridge
World-famous Oxford Street is London’s main retail hub, and with over 500,000 visitors daily, it’s also the busiest shopping strip in Europe. Start at the Soho end where you’ll find the flagship stores of a multitude of high profile fashion labels. International brands like Zara and H&M sit side by side with home-grown favourites including Next and River Island. Discount fashion chains Primark, Forever 21 and Miss Selfridge offer well-priced on-trend accessories.
While Topshop has struggled to establish itself in Australia, its flagship store at London’s Oxford Circus is a fashion mecca, and is much-loved by models, fashion editors and other ‘cool girl’ cliques. It offers a dizzying array of affordable ‘runway to rack’ collections, and collaborations with London Fashion Week designers.
Guys, for a dose of Britannia style, check out cool Carnaby Street. Tees from Ben Sherman, Fred Perry’s signature polo shirts and anything from iconic designer Paul Smith will satisfy your sartorial needs.
Once you’re done in Soho, take a stroll along Mayfair’s Mount Street, which is fast overtaking Bond Street as the epicentre for elite designers. Peek into Marc Jacobs, Christopher Kane and Balmain, and perhaps try on a pair of red-soled skyscraper heels at the Christian Louboutin shoe boutique.
From there, slip down to Knightsbridge where famous department stores Harrods and Harvey Nicks are essential retail ports of call. Top luxury labels like Chloe, Dior, Hermes, Prada and Tom Ford congregate just around the corner on Sloane Street.
West London: Notting Hill and Westbourne Grove
Notting Hill was immortalised in the Hollywood movie of the same name starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. It’s frequented by fashion royalty, including designers Stella McCartney and Victoria Beckham, and supermodel Claudia Schiffer. The famous Portobello Road Market (held Fridays and Saturdays) is one of London’s best street markets and offers a treasure trove of vintage and pre-loved fashion.
For French fashion without having to cross the channel, head to Westbourne Grove and browse the chic daywear on offer at Sandro or The Kooples. You’ll find getup fit for a rock-star at Zadig & Voltaire.
East London: Shoreditch and Spitalfields
The grungy East End is the place to be for one-of-a-kind fashion finds. Shoreditch is home to BOXPARK – the world’s first pop-up mall. It’s constructed entirely of refurbished shipping containers and filled with cafés, galleries and an eclectic mix of fashion brands. Swing by the AllSaints flagship store on nearby Commercial Street. It’s a very cool native brand with strong music ties.
While you’re on this side of town, a visit to Old Spitalfields Market is a must. London’s oldest market offers vintage and current fashions. You’ll have great fun rummaging for bohemian bargains.
Five tours we love
Street markets have always played an important role in the daily lives of Londoners. Join a three-hour walking tour of three distinctive markets. You’ll meet the vendors and taste some delicious local specialties along the way.
Explore two of London’s two most popular markets — Borough and Camden — with a local guide. Borough Market offers a cornucopia of culinary delights, while Camden Market is the place to go for amazing street fashion, gifts and souvenirs. You’ll travel on the London Underground between the two.
Cool Britannia is alive and well in the East End of London. Vibrant street art, cutting-edge fashion boutiques and a diverse range of delicious ethnic cuisines make this part of the capital a must-visit. Experience it all on a relaxed guided stroll.
This full-day independent shopping tour offers a completely flexible itinerary. Shop ‘til you drop in London’s key retail precincts and world-famous department stores, including Harrods, Fortnum & Mason, Liberty and Selfridges.
Indulge your passion for fashion on a full-day shopping trip to Bicester Village outside London. The centre is home to more than 130 outlet stores and offers savings of up to 60% all year round.
Do you have any tips for the best places to shop in London? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock/Photodune
About the writer
Cindy Bingley-Pullin considers herself a writer, wanderluster, corporate bee and happy homemaker. In between analysing spreadsheets in the office and washing cot sheets at home, she pursues her combined passions of travel and freelance writing. Her work appears in publications such as Virgin Australia’s Voyeur, International Traveller and Fitness First magazines, and the Sydney Morning Herald. To date, her travels have taken her everywhere from the ancient Angkor Wat temples at dawn to the soaring skyscrapers of NYC at dusk, and from sleeping under the stars in central-west NSW to dining at Michelin-starred restaurants in the south of France. She has volunteered at an orphanage in India, bathed elephants in the river in remote northern Thailand, waved glow sticks at an underground rave in San Francisco and cautiously navigated an active volcano in Hawaii. The first thing she does when she comes home to Sydney is pop by her local cafe for a decent flat white.