London is a great city for shopping and is home to some of the world's greatest department stores. We love to visit these mini-cities of commerce, filled with floor after floor of the world's most fabulous products. More than just a place to buy new clothes and new bed sheets, London department stores are true shopping destinations, offering things to fill your closet, your home, and even your refrigerator. Here are my five favorites, all within the central area of London:
When listing London's best department stores, I have to start with Harrods (87-135 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge), as I think they represent what the London department store should be. Even as the world changes outside, the inside of Harrods remains a London institution. Aside from the best shopping in the world, more than 30 cafes and restaurants await Harrods visitors, providing a real destination where you can spend an entire day or two without running out of things to see and do.
More so than the other stores listed, the Harrods experience is a worldwide brand, and the store is filled with tourists from around the globe all seeking that same feeling. The London flagship store is in Knightsbridge and should be visited at least once on any London shopping excursion. Insider tip: Harrods offers high-end day tours of London (and beyond) in their classic open-top bus. The four-hour tour is $52.
Maybe because it was founded by an American, Selfridges (400 Oxford St., Oxford Circus) has always been my favorite London department store. It has the full range of products, from clothing to housewares, along with an incredible food court and market area, but seems to take itself a bit less seriously than some of the other stores. Selfridges always feels more customer-oriented than the other department stores, and I get the feeling items are presented for me to buy, not to make the store look important.
The flagship store is on Oxford Street in the heart of London's Oxford Circus shopping area. The store is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
Always a bit too rich for me, Harvey Nic's, as the locals call it, is like Beverly Hills condensed into a single store. Harvey Nichols (109-125 Knightsbridge, Knightsbridge) is also a collection of the world's top designers and manufacturers, and the store is more contemporary than my other choices. For fashion and related shopping, I think this is the best place, with a more stylish attitude than Harrods or Selfridges. For me, this is the best place to buy gifts, since they have a good selection of unique luxury items only available there. Their Foodmarket and London Wine Shop are also well stocked with unique (and sometimes pricey) vintages and selections.
The Harvey Nichols London flagship store is in the heart of Knightsbridge at Knightsbridge and Sloane Street. The store is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
Marks and Spencer
M&S is a bit lower down the scale, but the brand has improved over the past few years, and stores now carry all the top luxury brands. Marks and Spencer (458 Oxford St., Marble Arch) is the most accessible (both price-wise and attitude-wise) of the giant London department stores and has a food hall and all the other amenities. The chain started in the northern England city of Leeds and has always catered more to the common man than the fancy stores like Harrods. I think a visit here is a good counterpart to the higher-end stores and provides a more accurate glimpse into the lifestyles of ordinary Brits.
The main London store is in the Marble Arch area and is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Another one of my favorite London stores, John Lewis (300 Oxford St., Oxford Circus) is a classic London store with a good range of products, from clothing to housewares. They are very strong in housewares, electronics, and consumer products. John Lewis also has an excellent food hall with a wonderful range of British products. I like to shop at Harrods but actually buy all my British favorites here, as they are less expensive. John Lewis has also been around for more than a century, having been established right there on Oxford Street in 1864. I think John Lewis is the most British of my London department store shopping choices; they have other locations, but none are outside the U.K. A John Lewis visit will also be refreshingly tourist-free, as this store caters to upscale Brits.
The London store is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
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