Specialty Shops

Specialty shops present items of a similar nature - themed merchandise, if you will. Foods, cigars, collectibles, toys - they're just a sampling of what you'll find on the list we've put together. These London shops rank among the city's top specialty shops, and they're ideal stop-offs when you need a souvenir for friends and family back home or when you want a special remembrance of your own from a trip to London. Among the options we note are popular shops like James Smith and Sons and unique entries like Cologne and Cotton.

10 Whole Foods Market
Whole Foods Market has chains right across London, but one of the newest branches was opened in Soho, at 20 Glasshouse Street, in a new development called the Quadrant.. Just like in the States, this is an expensive but delicious way of shopping if you want high quality organic produce and a range of different products and brands. Also in the store is a great cafe with in house chefs, and a brilliant beauty range with every supplement, delicious smelling creams, lotions, potions and shampoos that you could ever imagine. They have about 100 different kinds of tea, chicory coffee, organic hot choolate and more than 20 types of muesli, and that's just for breakfast. Fresh fruits, salads and vegetables call you from one part of the store, and rival the delicious baking smells coming from the stacks of bread, cakes and biscuits just next to them. Best quality cheeses, meats and fish glisten in the refrigerated sections, and packets of spices, nuts, dried fruits, Japanese delicacies, miso, dried pulses pasta, rice and grains jostle for attention in neighbouring aisles. Their chocolate range is to be seen to be believed, and it's particularly good at holiday time for people looking for a gourmet organic treat for their loved ones. (020 7406 3100)

9 Lulu Guinness
Lulu is known in all the chic fashion circles for purses and bags. Some style-setters even collect the small accessories that have made a name for both the store and the woman who designs the items. The shop is fun to browse even if you don't intend to buy - magazine clippings featuring Lulu bags decorate the space. Elegant decor and friendly staff. TUBE: Sloane Square (020-7823-4828)

8 Smythson of Bond Street
Smythson is the royal family's official stationer, and the elegant store offers an impressive array of leather items, paper goods, and gifts fit for a king. Handmade, leather bound notebooks and diaries, delicate personalized cards and envelopes, and sophisticated desk accessories are just a few of the offerings. TUBE: Bond Street (020-7629-8558)

7 Dragons of Walton Street
With a copyright on all Beatrix Potter designs, Dragons offers toys, bed linens, and adorable outfits for kids. The shop is a perfect place to buy a gift for an expectant mother or a family with a young child. It specializes in handpainted children's furniture, but also offers a tasteful selection of bassinettes, toy boxes, clocks, and accessories for a child's room. TUBE: South Kensington (020-7589-3795)

6 James Smith and Sons
If you're in London, chances are you'll need an umbrella. Why not buy the best from this famous shop that has been selling umbrellas since 1830 and remains a family business? Though the store looks traditional, thanks to a Victorian storefront, the owners take pride in their umbrellas, using the latest frame technology and water-repelling fabrics. They also offer a wide variety of formal and casual styles, umbrella repairs, and an assortment of finely carved canes and walking sticks. A legendary store with unique ambience and high-quality products. TUBE: Tottenham Court Road (020-7836-4731)

5 Foyles bookshop
Foyles is an institution. A huge rambling building on the Charing Cross Road, in the heart of London's theatre district. It became a tourist attraction in the past, partly because it made the Guinness Book of Records as the world's largest book store, in terms of shelf space, and partly because at times it was so eccentrically run. You could get lost for hours amongst the books, sit down to read in a dusty corner, and not leave until you'd finished. Many of the assistants in the store shared their clients love of books and could find you rare, used and out of print titles amongst their vast stock. Today it's been modernised, and what will greet you is a light modern book store with an online presence too. Some of the eccentricity may have gone, but it's still a great place to spend hours browsing. (020 7437 5660)

4 Spymaster
If you're in the market for surveillance equipment, look no further. You may not need a transmitter watch, night vision goggles, falconer equipment, or a bulletproof vest, but it's fun to browse Spymaster and pretend you drink martinis shaken not stirred! It's a great place to look around, but the staff take customers seriously, offering training and guaranteeing confidentiality. The perfect place to find a gift for the gadget-hound on your list. TUBE: Marble Arch (020-7486-3885)

3 Alfred Dunhill
If you are going to buy a cigar or anything related to cigars while in London, do it at Alfred Dunhill. The store has rare and vintage cigars and a large selection of gift items, such as etched boxes and cigar cutters. In fact, you'll find everything for the man about town here, including swish clothing and suave luggage lines. TUBE: Green Park (020-7730-1159)

2 Cologne and Cotton
This cool, clean store offers can't-miss gifts to enhance comfort. Fine bed linens, handmade blankets, every bath accessory you can imagine, a great selection of plush bathrobes and towels, and sweet-smelling beauty products such as orange flower shampoo are all artfully arranged in bookcases. Service is friendly, and bedroom displays look so fresh and comfortable you'll want to lie down and sleep — or at least make a few purchases to recreate the look at home. TUBE: High Street Kensington (20-7376-0324)

1 Rococo Chocolates Belgravia
Rococo chocolates was founded way back in 1983, quite a long time before foodie businesses became mainstream, but in areas like Belgravia, Chelsea and Knightsbridge where Rococo functions, this kind of specialist store is emblematic of the area and the people who shop there. As the name suggests, these are deliciously decadent chocolates, think gold leaf, fine ingredients and velvety textures. They go perfectly with the area itself, Knightsbridge is all about luxury and fine living but it doesn't forget to support fair trade chocolate and cocoa farmers too. There are all sorts of interesting flavours here, but one of the new arrivals is rosemary and seasalt suspended in an artisan milk chocolate. There is also a summer pudding, white chocolate with mixed berries, and salty caramel balls disguised as seagull eggs. Makes the perfect present or special treat for oneself. (020 7245 0993)


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Maps and Directions

1
Whole Foods Market 10Best List Arrow
Type: Food / Gourmet Stores
Neighborhood: Soho
2
Lulu Guinness 10Best List Arrow
Type: Shoes and Accessories, Specialty Shops
Neighborhood: Knightsbridge
3
Smythson of Bond Street 10Best List Arrow
Type: Specialty Shops
Neighborhood: MAYFAIR
4
Dragons of Walton Street 10Best List Arrow
Type: Furniture / Home Decor, Specialty Shops
Neighborhood: Kensington
5
James Smith and Sons 10Best List Arrow
Type: Specialty Shops
Neighborhood: HOLBORN
6
Foyles bookshop 10Best List Arrow
Type: Bookstores
Neighborhood: Theatre District
7
Spymaster 10Best List Arrow
Type: Specialty Shops
Neighborhood: Marylebone
8
Alfred Dunhill 10Best List Arrow
Type: Clothing Stores, Men's Clothing, Specialty Shops
Neighborhood: ST. JAMES'S
9
Cologne and Cotton 10Best List Arrow
Type: Specialty Shops
Neighborhood: Kensington