Top Shopping Destinations in London for Visitors
London is a major international shopping destination competing with cities like Paris, New York City, Dubai, Hong Kong, and Singapore. The city is home to many major shopping destinations, each with its unique character and specialty. The shopping scene here includes an array of independent stores, retail chains, classy boutiques, shopping centers, and large department stores.
There’s no doubt that London is one of the best places in the world for retail therapy. The city offers an endless range of merchandises from trendy fashion to the latest in electronics. Central London is the main destination for most visitors to London, where many of the city’s attraction are located. The central area is also home to several notable shopping streets and districts to add on the list of attractions.
The following are snapshots of the major shopping destinations in Central London. This article does not cover markets, which is in another article titled London’s Popular Markets You Have to Visit.
VAT Refund for Non-EU Residents
There is a Value Added Tax (VAT) of 20 percent on most sales in the UK. Visitors living outside the European Union or EU (UK is still a member) can claim a VAT refund for purchases from stores displaying the “Tax-Free Shopping” sign. Stores in London usually require a minimum purchase of £35-50 to get a refund. To claim, complete the VAT407 form given by the store and attach the receipts. Then submit the form to customs before leaving the EU such as at London’s Heathrow Airport.
Shopping on Oxford Street
Nearby London Underground stations: Marble Arch, Bond Street, Oxford Circus, and Tottenham Court Road Stations.
Oxford Street is a major road and busy shopping street passing through London’s West End. The stretch is one of if not the busiest shopping destination in the city. Oxford Street is London’s mecca for shopping with over 300 stores and half a half million visitors passing through each day. Merchandizes here are synonymous with major British and international brands including fashion, accessories, shoes, bags, jewelry, watches, cosmetics, and perfumes. A great time to be on Oxford Street is during the Christmas shopping season, when colored lights twinkle the night.
Selfridges is a huge six-floor department store offering a wide range of quality merchandizes by major brands ranging from fashion to electronics. Debenhams is another huge department store and like Selfridges offers an extensive range of quality merchandizes. British retailer Marks & Spencer operates two stores on Oxford Street with its flagship store near the London Underground Marble Arch Station and another near Oxford Circus Station. Marks & Spencer offers quality clothes, home products, and foods.
Topshop is an upmarket retailer offering fashion, accessories, leather goods, and cosmetics. John Lewis is another upmarket retailer devoted to fashion by British labels. Dorothy Perkins is a women’s fashion retailer that includes dresses, nightwear, coats, jackets, and knitwear. Niketown comprises of four floors devoted to all sorts of sportswear and gear under the famous Nike brand. Primark is a major clothing and accessories retailer offering fashion at more affordable prices.
Shopping on Regent Street
Nearby London Underground Station: Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus Stations.
Regent Street gets its name after the Prince Regent, who would later become King George IV reigning from 1820 to 1830. It’s another major shopping destination in London’s West End, popular with shoppers searching for clothes, accessories, handbags, shoes, jewelry, fragrance, and even toys. However, Regent Street is more upmarket compared to nearby Oxford Street with its fashion houses offering designer brands. Like Oxford Street, Regent Street is a beautiful sight during the Christmas season when colored lights decorate the night.
The Hamleys flagship store on Regent Street is the oldest and largest toy store in the world. The seven-floor toy store is a paradise for kids offering from soft toys to science kits. The Apple Store here is the second largest in Europe while the largest is at Covent Garden. Liberty is a department store specializing in luxury items including men’s and women’s fashion, accessories, home products, fine jewelry, and beauty products. Burberry is a British fashion house and other designer stores include Calvin Klein, Armani, Karl Lagerfeld, Hollister, and Jaegar.
Shopping on Bond Street
Nearby London Underground stations: Green Park, Bond Street, Piccadilly Circus, and Oxford Circus Stations.
Bond Street has a long history associated with the rich and upper class. Today it is a prestigious shopping street where the rich, famous, and international jet sets flock. Shopping on Bond Street is all about luxury. It’s synonymous with designer stores, exclusive brands, and prices that go along with it. Beyond shopping, the street is also home to some of London’s most exclusive hotels and restaurants. Bond Street actually comprises of Old Bond Street and the adjoining New Bond Street but Londoners often refer both as Bond Street.
Bond Street is the shopping playground for the serious fashionistas with extravagant tastes. There are around 100 designer stores here offering luxury including fashion, accessories, bags, shoes, watches, and fine jewelry. Prada, Chanel, Armani, Versace, Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, and Donna Karan are just some of the exclusive brands on Bond Street. British fashion houses Mulberry and Burberry have their flagship stores here. Exclusive jewelers here include Cartier, Tiffany, and Asprey. If your budget doesn’t go far on Bond Street, window shopping makes a great alternative.
Shopping in Knightsbridge
Nearby London Underground stations: Knightsbridge, South Kensington, and Sloane Square Stations.
Knightsbridge is in charming corner of London where many of the city’s affluent make their home. It’s also a fashionable shopping district with its celebrated department stores and fashion houses mainly located on Brompton Road and Sloane Street. British fashion retailer Topshop and Burberry as well as fashion houses Gucci and French are on Brompton Road. However, most of the luxury stores are on Sloane Street including Armani, Roberto Cavalli, Prada, Jimmy Choo, Christian Dior, Fendi, Versace, Cartier, and Tiffany.
Knightsbridge is home to two famous department stores that attract thousands of tourists from around the world each year. Harrods is a huge department store that began as a small shop in the 1850s. Today the department store occupies seven floors comprising over 300 departments offering a wide range of quality merchandizes. Another huge department store is Harvey Nichols with a history that began much earlier in the 1830s. Harvey Nichols is more upmarket offering brands such as Gucci, Valentino, Ralph Lauren, and Givenchy.
Shopping on Carnaby Street
Nearby London Underground stations: Carnaby Street, Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus Stations.
Carnaby Street is a pedestrian only shopping street occupying three blocks in London’s Soho neighborhood. The streets nearby Carnaby Street including Kingly Street and Newburgh Street are a continuation of the shopping scene. During the swinging era of the 1960s, it was a popular destination for the mod and hippy fashion sought after by young shoppers. The fashion styles of the swinging era are no longer around but Carnaby Street remains popular with young shoppers searching trendy clothes at more affordable prices.
Carnaby Street and the nearby streets are home to mainly independently own stores and fashion boutiques. The fashion styles are from emerging and established British labels, which are often on par with the international labels but at much reduced prices. British labels here include Baracuta, Paul Smith Soho, Barbour Heritage, and Ben Sherman. However, retail chains and international brands have slowly gained an entry. During the Christmas season, colored lights decorate Carnaby Street and many stores offer discounts.