Shopping in London
Cutting out shopping from the Indian traveller’s itinerary is like cutting his lifeline to the world. Whenever we return home after a much envied foreign jaunt, the first gleeful words we usually hear from family or friends are “What did you buy?” Let’s face it. Indians love to travel, love to shop. Just look around at the airports; the people struggling with extra luggage is usually us, Indians.
We start off on our round up of popular shopping destinations across the world by putting the spotlight on London.
Although shopping in London can be relatively expensive, specially for those from countries like India, few tourists can resist the urge to shop here. The grande dame of shopping destinations, London, has a terrific array of shops which attract shopaholics from all over the world through the whole year. Every season is shopping season in London. The massive annual sales season starts the day after Christmas and lasts for most of the month of January. London has fantastic shopping areas: The West End district, the famous Knightsbridge – home of department stores Harrods and Selfridges, and the buzzing high street retail areas of Bond and Oxford streets and Kensington High Street. The stylish Kings Road in Chelsea and Fulham Road further south provide a more luxurious experience.
Shopping centres in London
The West End includes Mayfair and is home to the core of London’s big-name shopping. Most of the department stores, designer shops, and multiples (chain stores) have their flagships in this area. The Oxford Street flagship store of Marks & Spencer is worth visiting, for quality goods. Another key street for shopping is Regent Street, which intersects Oxford Street at Oxford Circus. Regent Street, which leads all the way to Piccadilly, has more upscale department stores (including the famed Liberty of London), chains (Laura Ashley), and specialty dealers. Parallel to Regent Street, Bond Street is famous for its luxury brands. It is the hot address for international designers like Donna Karan, and international favourites from Chanel to Ferragamo to Versace are based in this location. The West End theatre district is also worth a visit because of Soho and Covent Garden – a district full of fashion, food and books.
Burlington Arcade the famous glass-roofed, Regency-style passage leading off Piccadilly, looks like a period piece and is lined with exquisite shops and boutiques. Lit by wrought-iron lamps and decorated with clusters of ferns and flowers, its quaint stores specialize in fashion, jewelry, Irish linen, cashmere, and more.
Check out Jermyn Street on the far side of Piccadilly, a tiny 2-block-long street devoted to high-end men’s haberdashers and toiletries shops. Several hold royal warrants, including Turnbull & Asser, which HRH Prince Charles patronizes. A bit to the northwest, Savile Row is synonymous with the finest in men’s tailoring.
Knightsbridge & Chelsea, the home of Harrods, London, is the second-most-famous London retail district after Oxford Street. Next door, Sloane Street is filled with designer shops. Brompton Cross is another hip area for designer shops. King’s Road the main street of Chelsea, will forever remain a symbol of the Swinging ’60s. It’s still popular with the young crowd. King’s Road is a lineup of markets and department stores, antiques markets and household wares. Kensington, Notting Hill & Bayswater are the hangouts of the classier breed of teen.
Affordable shopping in London
But besides these designer-label places, London also has many famous markets that budget travellers will find worth visiting. For instance, Oxford Street has many retail outlets for comparatively affordable shopping in London. Camden has world famous markets which attract more than 100,000 visitors every weekend making it one of London’s top attractions. Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill is one of the most famous street markets in the world. The Saturday antiques market is the most popular, but there is a street market six days a week. Portobello Road itself is a long, narrow street which stretches over two miles, and the Portobello Road Market is a magnet for budget shoppers.