I don’t live in London, but because I have worked there for so long, I do feel part of it enough to understand the attitude that all “touristy” places are negative. Yes, no one likes to pretend to be cool and edgy more than a London dweller or worker who thinks they are too good for a little trip to Covent Garden or Harrods. The trouble is, this stuck-up attitude means that you do ultimately miss out. Do I love Selfridges? Yes. Does that make me a basic bitch? Probably. Do I care? Nope. After everything we have been through in the last few years, the pandemic, wars, and Chinese spy balloons knocking about up there in the sky freely like a Peppa Pig balloon that has slipped the grasp of a now-crying toddler, I am currently a fan of just letting people do shit they enjoy if it is not harming other people. You might be a seasoned Londoner, and still enjoy some of the shops on this list, or you may be a tourist that thinks every single one of them is abysmal, but I’ve put the list together anyway because if one person, somewhere, reads it and finds it useful, then that thought makes me happy. And these shops will be busy at times, and you will bump into other tourists, but ultimately they are fun and the great thing about the majority of the rich-people shops is that you do not need to spend anything because they are like museums, very very expensive museums full of beautiful clothes and bags. If window shopping is your thing, here is my ultimate list of London shops that are just fun to visit.
If you haven’t heard of Liberty London, then it is worth looking up its fascinating history. It’s one of the oldest shops in London and in my opinion, one of the prettiest. When they started trading, they sold ornaments and fabric, but now you can find pretty much anything in there. You can shop online, but it isn’t about the products here, it’s about the shopping experience. One of my favourite times to visit Liberty is at Christmas when it truly is magical. Liberty is handily nestled within Regent Street, which is a convenient location if you are going on a trip to London to make the most of the shopping, due to its proximity to Oxford Street, which is arguably one of the most famous shopping streets in the world.
My favourite shop in the entirety of London. Fit in, I do not, but that doesn’t stop me and you’ll often see me in there on Christmas Eve doing all of my Christmas shopping, last minute, in one trip. Understandably this thought panics people but it is my favourite way to shop. Admittedly, Selfridges is a touch bit more accessible to the ‘non-rich, non-posh’ crowd (which is most of us), but I did still get a fair few funny looks when I dropped my phone top to bottom from the escalators one day, picked it up at the bottom, held it up and loudly exclaimed: “Yes mate, didn’t smash”. There is just something I love about this shop. The space is probably one of the best draws for me. It never feels too crowded, even during busy periods like Black Friday and Christmas. Staff are super-helpful, and if you want to go just for a wander without spending, you’ll probably still manage to nick a few samples, especially of make-up, if you ask very nicely. Selfridges is also a lot more affordable than many other shops on this list. You’ll find it fairly easily at the top of Oxford Street. Or the bottom, depending on which way you fancy looking at it.
A little bit further down the spectrum, Harrods is the ultimate rich-people shop. The minute you enter you are surrounded by opulence. The store also has the luxury of space, which considering its location on prime real estate in Knightsbridge, is probably pretty pricey. If looking at designer bags and watches is not your thing, the Harrods Food Halls are something to behold. There are a few different ones for different foods, and if, like me, eating is a significant part of your lifestyle, then you could probably fill up a good couple of hours in here alone. Like Liberty, Harrods is even more magical
Ok, I’ll admit, I have thrown a bit of a curveball in here. This isn’t a fancy department store or a shop that is ridiculously luxurious inside, but it is one of my all-time favourite finds in all of my years working in and visiting London. Mei Leaf is a traditional Chinese tea shop. The tea is very authentic, and the actual owners of the shop travel around the East themselves to PERSONALLY approve any tea sold. One of the best things about Mei Leaf is the teahouse in the back. They have a HUGE tea menu, and you will get served your tea on a traditional Chinese tea tray. It’s also not often jam-packed, which makes it a lovely place to relax after a day in the office. Mei Leaf is on Camden High Street.
No matter how old you get, Hamleys is ALWAYS fun. You can seriously visit as a kid, with a kid, or just as a fully-grown adult and have a good time. First of all, it’s huge, which makes it a decent place for a good wander. Secondly, they tend to have ‘toy demonstrations’, not just in store but also out the front, which will keep little ones entertained for a bit (I don’t have kids because refusing to reproduce is my gift to humanity, but knowing what I do of them I have always thought Hamleys is a great place to fill up a bit of time and wear them out at the end of a day trip to London). There’s also usually a good bit of nostalgia for us adults. Last time I went I purchased a Tamagotchi, which I swore blind I would look after and keep alive, and now I don’t even know where it is. I suspect you now all understand my reasoning behind not having children a lot more.
Another one that’s for the adults just as much as the kids. It’s just as much of an ‘M&M’s museum as it is a sweet shop. You’ll find giant M&M’s statues (which are kind of creepy if I am being honest), M&M’s walls, London buses, and interactive games. The only issue is, there are so many M&M’s kicking about, staring you in the face, daring you to leave without experiencing the taste of childhood. I am going to be honest with you, the M&M’s in their shop are not cheap. The good news is, Chinatown is in the street next to it, so take the family there first and fill them up with incredible Chinese food so that they want less M&M’s #TopMoneySavingTip.
Fortnum & Mason
Fortnum & Mason are probably best known for their hampers. I would suspect, like me, a lot of people that work in London have an empty F&M hamper that is currently being used to store clothes (or maybe this is a middle-class thing which confuses me because I grew up VERY working class, but someone on my Lorraine TikTok the other day called me a “middle-class woman version of a football hooligan”, which to be brutally honest I did enjoy). If you enjoy the Harrods Food Halls, then you will enjoy Fortnum & Mason. They have such a varied choice of food and tea products, and they also do an in-store afternoon tea. You’ll notice a few smaller Fortnum & Mason stores in certain train stations and stuff, but nothing beats visiting the original store.
If you are looking for a hotel for your London trip, visit my travel section to see some ideas.
Love to know your thoughts guys?