London is a shopping mecca, with a high street in every borough
By Emma Wallis
London is full of shopping gems, you can't walk more than a few paces without popping in to a shop. Two of the biggest shopping malls in Europe are situated at either end of the Central line, Westfield-Stratford City in the East, and Westfield at Shepherd's Bush in the West. In between you've got the big old favourites of Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street, in the centre, but just near there, if you want a quieter experience, you can swan around Marylebone High Street, and stop for a genteel cup of coffee before continuing with your purchases. Markets are also a great bet in London, Broadway Market in Hackney, Portobello Road in Notting Hill, and Camden and Spitalfields market near Liverpool Street all pull in their fare share of punters. Department stores too give you a bit of everything, and a beautiful sense of Britishness, choose from John Lewis, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, or Harrods, and many more to satisfy all your shopping needs. If it's designer clothes you want, then Bond Street, and more upmarket high streets like Hampstead or Islington are your best bet. For quirky independents, head to the North or East of the city, where smaller high streets and slightly lower rents mean that they can afford to stock smaller producers, and there's plenty of creativity there too.
10 Camden Markets
Camden Market is a great place for browsing, and favoured by teenagers, who like to browse for hours the various stalls selling jewellery, bags, clothes, records and books. The food on offer throughout the market is also tasty, and mostly portable, so you can wander and nibble and shop all at once. From Camden Town Tube, right down to Chalk Farm, there are a myriad of shops and market stalls to choose from, from antiques, and old army jackets, to some beautiful old fourties and thirties silk dresses. Silver jewellery and all the things that you would buy in India or Thailand if you visited are arrayed on many of the stalls, if you haven't gone further East then London is a great pitstop which brings the world straight in to your shopping bag.
9 Camden Passage Islington
This quiet street becomes a hub of antique-hunting activity on Wednesdays and Saturdays, when specialists and dealers gather in stalls and arcades. The long strip keeps visitors occupied for hours and turns up treasures no matter what you're looking for. With Georgian Village on one side, The Mall on the other, and several unique arcades in between, the area provides London's largest selection of antiques. While cheaper goods, old books, and clothes can be found near the Georgian Village, the more expensive and upscale Mall side has paintings, Edwardian furniture, Victorian objets d'art, and much more. Around the Angel, are all the high street shops, and down Camden Passage market, even on week days, lots of independent shops have opened up, with some great, but expensive, stock. TUBE: Angel (20-7359-0190)
8 Portobello Road Market
Although markets have sprung up in the area for centuries, they've only taken true organized form since the mid-20th century. This is also when antiques dealers started gathering here. Their presence is why many folks come to Portobello, scoping out goods in a broad range of prices and time periods. The antiques market is held on Saturdays, when you'll also find an abundant array of fashion; the surrounding shops and restaurants are open Monday-Saturday, and vendors congregate to sell everything from produce to clothing. The area's dwindling multicultural population adds a bit of diversity to the available merchandise. TUBE: Notting Hill Gate or Ladbroke Grove
7 Westfield Stratford City Shopping Centre
Westfield Stratford City is Europe's largest shopping centre. It compliments its sister shopping centre, Westfield at the other end of the Central Line in Shepherd's Bush. There's a John Lewis, a Marks and Spencers and just about every other high street store you could wish for. Large food courts and some lovely speciality food outlets mean that you could literally spend all day here without leaving the centre's warm, if busy embrace. Right by Stratford rail, tube and bus station, this shopping centre has fast connections to the rest of London and concentrates most of the shops you'd see on Oxford Street, or Kensington High Street in a more tiered space. (020 8221 7300)
Kensington, located beyond Knightsbridge heading west from central London, has as its main streets Kensington High Street and Kensington Church Street to the north and Cromwell Road to the south. Lovely Holland Park extends to the west. The district includes several of London's top museums just a stroll away, including the Victoria and Albert and the Natural History Museum. It's also a walker's paradise, complete with churches, historic buildings, parks, and a young, hip crowd. Kensington Church Street features antique shops, while Sloane Street is known as Designer Row. High Street Kensington has a great whole foods market, and lots of high street chains that are much less busy than the centre of town. TUBE: High Street Kensington
5 Brixton Market
Brixton was home to the first purpose built department store, and its vibrant market has been around since the 19th Century, when the borough became a bustling hub for London. The market has evolved along with Brixton's eclectic and ever changing population. In recent years it has become even more of a foodie paradise, but the prices and chi chi-ness have shot up in line with its popularity. It's still a place where you'll find a pig's head nestling near some vegetables you'd previously only ever seen on a trip into the Vietnamese jungle; and a whole host of Caribbean, African, Thai, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Chinese food stuffs. Along with the market are some great stalls, cafes and restaurants to eat at, or buy your own fresh ingredients and take them home for a culinary tour of the world. (011111111)
4 Broadway Market
Broadway Market attracted visitors long before the rest of Hackney was somewhere to hang out. London Fields (the name of the park and surrounding area) became an island of creative cool in the midst of housing estates and takeaway shops, all thanks to the gourmet market that sets up shop every Saturday. They have a good selection of food, crafts and farmers' market goods, as well as stalls catering to locals with the likes of gluten free brownies or hand cured smoked salmon. Such is the popularity, that the market has now spread down the side streets, spawning new market (such as that in Netil House) with street performers keeping the crowds entertained. And crowds there certainly are. Come early if you have low tolerance, but otherwise shuffle along patiently, and admire the fine facial hair and fashion on display. (07872 463409)
3 Marylebone High Street
Marylebone High Street has been voted best high street in London by BBC Radio 4's listeners. This highstreet manages to combine high class London style with a villagey feel, and is definitely worth a visit. The high street names that are there, tend to be in the slightly higher price category, but that way you can purchase without fear of too many crowds and there are some delicious independent shops too. Once the shopping is finished, you can relax in some of the great local pubs, brasseries, bars and restaurants that line both the high street and the surrounding area. (02070000000)
2 NW3 Shopping District, Hampstead
You thought London was a mega city? You thought wrong. It's really a collection of lots of different villages, and you can't get much more villagey than Hampstead. It's a brilliant place to shop, with small quiet independent stores, and the most exclusive high street brands too. Friendly service, and some great coffee shops and restaurants to take breaks, in between flexing your credit cards mean that shopping here is a brilliant experience. Like Covent Garden and many of the other "villages" in London, this high street does upmarket chain stores, independents and cool designers on a smaller, calmer scale than some of the bigger London shopping streets.
1 Covent Garden
Originally a monastery garden and then a fruit and vegetable market, Covent Garden has been reinvented in recent decades as a shopping and tourism attraction. Saved from demolition, the main, glass-covered market building serves as the centerpiece of a revitalized piazza. These days, crowds wander the streets, browsing for clothing, antiques, crafts, books and souvenirs. Plenty of bars, restaurants and cafes cater to visitors, and talented buskers add lively ambience to the whole district. Covent Garden is great for small British designers like Paul Smith, quirky independent shops, and the main high street chains like Oasis, French Connection, Gap and Muji. LK Bennett has a big presence too and newer brands like Kos. TUBE: Covent Garden
About Emma Wallis
London gives Emma a warm fuzzy feeling every time she gets back to her home city. As a writer and broadcaster she travels extensively round Europe and the world, but is always happy to return to London town. All that travel means she knows what she looks for as a visitor to a new city: insider knowledge, tips, and the feeling that she's found something that few travellers get to experience. Emma enjoys keeping her fingers on the capital's pulse, in order to make sure that everyone enjoys her favourite city, as much as she does.
Read more about Emma Wallis here.