10 Unique Shopping Experiences in London

London’s famous department stores each have something different to offer. Here’s our guide on where to go for Christmas shopping and more. 

Whether you love shopping or are just looking to pick up gifts for loved ones, England’s bustling capital is a fantastic place to be.

Home to famous department stores such as Harrods, Selfridges and Marks & Spencer, these shopping havens are more than just a place for a spot of retail therapy. Many are stunning buildings in their own right, especially this time of the year when their Christmas lights and window dressings are dazzling. 

Even if you’re visiting after Christmas, you’ll be able to bag some fantastic bargains as London department stores usually start their sales from Boxing Day until mid-January.

Get ready to slip on some comfortable shoes and make sure you’re staying in a great location that puts all these shopping destinations within walking distance!

Oxford Street

1. Selfridges & Co

Christmas lights at Selfridges department store, London at night

Selfridges is the ultimate one-stop shop for the fashion-savvy and the Oxford Street store is where it all started. At over 50,000 sqm, its flagship store is one of the largest stores in the world.

Fun fact: When the Shoe Galleries at Selfridges opened in 2010, it was billed as the world’s largest shoe department, with more than 5,000 pairs of shoes displayed!

While the grand exterior dates back to 1909, the interior is contemporary and stylish. The music is always loud and the events and dining are just as important as the fashion purchases.

This Christmas, check out: The underground Ultralounge Cabaret Club. Love rock ‘n’ roll? Grab a table or bar stool, and get ready for a night of fun with some of the UK’s most exciting comedians and musicians.

2. Marks & Spencer

Popular with overseas visitors staying in west London and with Londoners who adore the brand, M&S offers ‘everyday luxury’ with its own brand of goods, which are known for their reliable quality and affordable prices. 

Possibly the most well-known department store across the UK, the flagship store at Marble Arch (the western end of Oxford Street) is always busy.

The whole family will find something to take home with its wide range catering from young to old. Fun fact: M&S is where many British buy their underwear from! Its food hall is also well-loved by locals.

This Christmas, check out: #MyMarksFave on Twitter and Instagram. This social media campaign has customers and staff discussing their favourite M&S Christmas foods, and with so many options it might be a good idea to be prepared before visiting the store!

3. John Lewis & Partners

Christmas displays on Oxford Street during Black Friday sales

Known for its “never knowingly undersold” price promise, the flagship store of popular chain John Lewis started in 1864 selling haberdashery. But with half a million products spread over seven floors now, it’s a good choice for fashion, beauty and technology too.

While here, we recommend stopping for a photo at the Winged Figure on the corner of the building at Holles Street. An artwork by British sculptor Barbara Hepworth, it has become such an iconic part of the Oxford Street landscape over the last 50 years.

This Christmas, check out: The Quality Street pick-and-mix booth on the ground floor, where you can create your own bespoke tin with your favourite chocolates. To escape the crowds, head to the rooftop garden to have a leisurely skate at the Sipsmith rink and a G&T later.

4. Debenhams

Fashion is where it excels, with plenty of British designers such as Matthew Williamson, John Rocha and Jasper Conran producing exclusive well-priced ranges just for Debenhams.

The well-known high street store has hundreds of branches in the UK, and its light-filled and stylish flagship store is an enjoyable place to browse. There are seven floors here, including a huge beauty hall on the ground floor.

This Christmas, check out: The indoor Debenhams Christmas Market. With the entire fourth floor dedicated to Christmas gifts, picking out presents for your loved ones will be easy.

5. House of Fraser

What began as a drapery shop in Glasgow in 1849 now has branches across the UK catering to shoppers who are after neither a high-end nor low-end option ­─ House of Fraser sits right there in the middle.

The flagship store’s fashion and beauty departments are always popular. There’s also a delightfully quirky English tea room on the top floor, which is a lovely place to enjoy some tea and cake.

Although there were talks about the uncertain future of its flagship store, the new owner has plans to transform House of Fraser into “the Harrods of the high street”.

This Christmas, check out: The really cute beauty gift sets from Benefit and Molton Brown. You’ll also be able to shop for lovely Christmas decorations here without breaking the bank.

Knightsbridge

6. Harrods

Harrods on Knightsbridge during Christmas

Fun fact: It takes around 12,000 light bulbs to illuminate the famous facade of the store!

While the reputation of the world-famous Harrods might make you think it’s too expensive to set foot in here, you’ll be happy to know that there are shops that cater to those not in the millionaire bracket.

Opened in 1849, there are still some original features on the building so take time to look around, especially in the food halls. Over time, there have also been interesting additions, such as the Egyptian escalator. With over 300 departments across seven floors, it’s easy to spend a lot of time and money here.

This Christmas, check out: The Meri Meri Dressing-Up Pop-Up on the fourth floor, where your little ones can be entertained while you shop! Kids can help themselves to the many costumes and accessories available, while imagining themselves as unicorns, fairies, lions and more.

7. Harvey Nichols

Don’t be fooled by its nondescript signage. Inside this Knightsbridge department store is all about expensive glamour.

Named “Harvey Nicks” by the BBC comedy Ab Fab, Harvey Nichols holds a dominant position on the corner of Knightsbridge and Sloane Street. There are eight floors of fashion, beauty and home collections, with the fifth floor dedicated to food and restaurants.

The emphasis here is on designer women’s fashion for well-heeled fashionistas who love to shop and are not in the habit of checking the price tags.

This Christmas, check out: The giant snowglobe on the fifth floor, where you can pose for a picture with the London streets as the backdrop. This Christmas, Harvey Nichols also celebrates the whimsical world of Mary Poppins ahead of the release of the new Disney film in December.

Regent Street 

8. Liberty London

Liberty London at Christmas

Famous playwright Oscar Wilde once remarked that “Liberty is the chosen resort of the artistic shopper.”

Opened in the 1920s, many come to see this Tudor-style building’s timber frontage, which is salvaged from two ships. The wood panelling and smaller rooms inside also give an intimate feel, making you feel like you’re in a luxurious home rather than a store.

But all is not as old as it seems as. Liberty might well look traditional, but it actually sells cutting-edge designs and continues to serve the luxury end of the shopping scale with its celebration of fine craftsmanship.

It’s easy to get lost in here, but it’s not a bad thing as it gives you plenty of time to enjoy the famous Liberty prints in the textiles department and the gorgeous oriental rugs.

This Christmas, check out: The hand-drawn 2D animals that can be found throughout its Christmas displays, from its storefront windows to its central atrium, where a stunning hot air balloon will take your breath away.

Piccadilly

9. Fortnum & Mason

Quintessentially English and popular with the royal family, Fortnum & Mason has been on Piccadilly for more than 300 years since 1707. Tea is the most popular item sold here and many make this their stop for afternoon tea. Yes, it’s all about high standards, but it’s also surprisingly welcoming.

The doorman still wears a top hat and the ornate clock on the front of the building has miniature figures of Mr Fortnum and Mr Mason who appear on the hour to bow to each other, before turning around to go back inside. The antique wooden cabinets are also still in use, along with original fireplaces and the carved wooden staircase.

Fun fact: Did you know that there are beehives on the roof of Fortnum? Five to be precise. The honey is harvested once a year in September, and there’s a waiting list for these highly prized jars!

The Food Hall takes up two floors and above the ground floor, you’ll find menswear, womenswear, cosmetics, homeware and luggage spread over many levels.

This Christmas, check out: The extensive festive collection from the Masters of Merry, who pride themselves for being synonymous with the season. Think beautiful handwoven wicker baskets bursting with gourmet delicacies, unique wooden advent calendars and Christmas crackers filled with all sorts of treats like champagne truffles and tea.

Bond Street

10. Fenwick

Shoppers on Bond Street where you can find luxury store Fenwick

Aimed at the more mature shopper with a bohemian edge, the Bond Street store of Fenwick (pronounced ‘Fennicks’) has five floors of luxury retail on one of the most exclusive shopping streets in the world.

If the designer ranges are out of your budget, the hosiery department is among the best in London, while other departments of note are cosmetics and costume jewellery. This is most certainly the place to buy a hat should you need one.

Also recommended is Bond & Brook on the second floor where the afternoon tea is fun and well-priced.

This Christmas, check out: The Paul Smith pop-up, which allows you to personalise your gifts. Available are a selection of Paul’s hand-drawn doodles or up to three initials in gold foil monogrammed embossment.

Want to stay on the doorstep of these shopping attractions so that you can easily retreat to your apartment when it all gets too much? A stay at any of our properties in London offers fuss-free access to London’s famous department stores and will make you feel right at home in the heart of London.

Prefer markets to malls? Hop over to our top 10 recommendations for London markets!

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