The 100 best shops in London by type: culture vulture

Going shopping in London? Plan where to head with our round-up of the city’s finest retailers, from cheap vintage shops to world famous department stores

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Now you’ve seen which are the 100 best shops in London. But where will you find something cheap to buy, or a piece of cutting-edge fashion straight off the catwalk? Somewhere with an in-store café or a family friendly set-up?

We’ve applied 25 handy labels to the 100 shops in our list – here you’ll find London’s best shops with a focus on books, music and educational or cultural gifts. The numbers in the yellow hexagons denote the shop’s position in our full list.

Are we missing something? Tell us your favourite shop in the in the comments below.

The 100 best shops in London by type: culture vulture

3

House of Hackney

Best for
Bold, printed home accessories and clothing

Don’t miss
The printed fine bone china

How much?

 

In many ways the natural successor to Liberty, House of Hackney is a print-based lifestyle brand with Britishness running through every stitch and flick of a paintbrush. HOH first start as an interiors label, but with founders (and couple) Frieda Gormley and Javvy M Royle both hailing from fashion backgrounds, it was only natural that their London-inspired prints (Dalston Rose, Hackney Empire) made their way first on to clothing and accessories, and recently washbags, notepads and crockery.

This glorious store opened in July 2013, and it’s one of the most gorgeous retail establishments to land in London in years, bedecked in the deliberately over the top juxtapositions of print-on-print-on-print that have made the brand's name. Gormley confesses that the brand was partly inspired by her own boredom with Ikea-minimalist-ubiquity. You’ll find none of that here – the entrance is bursting with flora from resident florists Wild at Heart, and the floral theme is picked up on sweatshirts, bikinis, cups and saucers on the first floor.

Downstairs, you’ll find plump leopard print armchairs cheek-by-jowl with palm print chaise longues and scattered with floral cushions – all made in the UK and, where possible, in London. Even if you walk away with just a teacup rather than a full suite of furniture, you should walk away with something – a little piece of England. Or England, how we’d like it to look.

  1. 131 Shoreditch High St, E1 6JE
  2. www.houseofhackney.com
    Old St tube
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4

Rough Trade East

Best for
Exclusive vinyl releases

Don’t miss
The in-store gigs and events

How much?

 

Though it arrived 30 years after its big brother in W11, Rough Trade East has fast become the company’s definitive London outpost. Located in the bustling Old Truman Brewery, its primary function is as a retailer of expertly-curated vinyl, CDs and books. Boasting considerably more space than its Notting Hill counterpart, it also contains a café and a purpose-built stage, with standing room in front sensibly factored into the planning.

In-store gigs commonly kick off at 7pm and wristbands are obtained by pre-ordering a CD first. The sets are sometimes shorter than most regular gigs, but we’re certainly not complaining.

  1. Old Truman Brewery,
    91 Brick Lane, E1 6QL
  2. www.roughtrade.com
    Aldgate East tube
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17

Present

Best for
Quailty menswear for the discerning urbanite

Don’t miss
William Fox x Bass Weejun Larson loafers

How much?

 

Present is London’s mini-department store for men, stocking rare brands, heritage labels and clever, in-house staples. The price range – heart-stopping for some of the rarer pieces – varies hugely, meaning you can um-and-ah about investing in a £605 Monitaly blazer, say, or barely think twice about picking up a smart set of pencils for £4.

The store is constantly reworked and stocked up with gem after gem, like Hartford and Gitman Vintage shirts, Patagonia bags, tablet covers, seersucker pet collars or Present’s own simple merino sweaters and crepe-sole desert boots. Seasonal collaborations and a constant stream of cult men’s brands have seen Present become an integral part of London’s men’s shopping landscape.

  1. 140 Shoreditch High St, E1 6JE
  2. www.present-london.com
    Shoreditch High St Overground
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40

Foyles

Best for
A vast range of books and great customer service

Don’t miss
The café tucked away on the first floor

How much?

 

Proving Amazon and Waterstones can’t secure a complete monopoly on literary sales, Foyles has been operating as an independent bookstore since 1903. It has survived changing shopping habits and several recessions, and stoically remains a much-loved family-run business with the largest range of books under one roof in the UK.

This warren-like, five-floor Charing Cross branch is currently in the process of moving a few doors up the street to the former Central St Martin’s building for 2014. The new site promises to turn Foyles into a state-of-the-art bookshop, but for now you can still enjoy it’s old-fashioned styling, cosy café and some 55 specialist subject areas.

  1. 113-119 Charing Cross Rd, WC2H 0EB
  2. www.foyles.co.uk
    Tottenham Court Rd tube
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45

Daunt Books

Best for
An inspiring range of books

Don’t miss
The wonderful array of travel books

How much?

 

One of London’s most charming bookshops, this Marylebone branch of Daunt is pretty as a picture. The Edwardian building is literally packed to the rafters with books (there’s a mezzanine level dedicated to maps organised by country) and it’s quite something browsing the generous travel section in the elegant three-level back room complete with oak balconies, green walls, vaulted ceiling and stained-glass window. At the front of the shop, you’ll find recommended literary fiction, biography, children’s books and much more besides.

James Daunt’s commitment to providing proper careers for his staff ensures there’s usually someone informed on-hand to help you navigate the choice, and there’s also a wonderful village-like feel to Daunt's style, with its William Morris wallpaper accent walls and creaking floors.

  1. 83-84 Marylebone High St, W1U 4QW
  2. www.dauntbooks.co.uk
    Baker St tube
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48

Hoxton Street Monster Supplies

Best for
Activity-based toys for all ages with a gory theme

Don’t miss
The story-making workshops for kids by Ministry of Stories

How much?

 

Purveyor of quality goods for monsters of every kind, this curious little shop is just the ticket for vampires, werewolves and humans on the prowl for a jar of Thickest Human Snot (£5) or pot of Salt Made From Tears of Anger (£7.50). Follow the creepy music past a pinboard plastered with notices for missing brains and gravestone engravers, and you’ll find a wall of cabinets piled high with the above (aka lemon curd and gourmet smoked sea salt), plus Milk Tooth chocolate bars, Witches’ Brew tea and Tinned Fear – stories courtesy of Zadie Smith, Joe Dunthorne and Meg Rosoff. Proceeds support the Ministry of Stories’ creative writing and mentoring centre for local children set up by Ben Payne, Lucy McNab and Nick Hornby. Mind the invisible cat on your way out.

  1. 159 Hoxton St, N1 6PJ
  2. www.monstersupplies.org
    Hoxton rail
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50

V&A Shop

Best for
Arty accessories and exhibition-related books

Don’t miss
The limited edition prints

How much?

 

There are plenty of great museum shops in London, but none have the same scale, breadth of product and sheer inspiration as the V&A’s capacious store at the heart of the building. Not only will you find an excellent array of art and design books but also beautiful, decorative greeting cards and inspired gift ideas for children. The themed products tied to exhibitions are always well-picked and super-covetable.

  1. Cromwell Rd, SW7 2RL
  2. www.vandashop.com
    South Kensington tube
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56

Kristina Records

Best for
Undergound, independent record labels

Don’t miss
Exclusive house titles

How much?

 

Nowadays, buying great music on vinyl is as convenient as a click. Convenience doesn’t always equal satisfaction though. What makes this Dalston record shop so special is that it’s a living, breathing experience for living, breathing music fans. A clean and uncluttered layout makes Kristina’s platters matter far more than a website could ever do.

For the dedicated dance music fan, their racks of new house and techno are a goldmine, while expertly chosen oldies of a soul and jazz bent are represented too. Keeping things even more alive, they also host some killer in-store parties boasting the best of the underground dance world rocking amongst the racks.

  1. 44 Stoke Newington Road, N16 7XJ
  2. www.kristinarecords.com
    Dalston Kingsland rail
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62

Circus

Best for
Original, affordable art and home accessories

Don’t miss
Creative in-store events

How much?

 

Smiling duo Binki Taylor and Tabitha Rout were early adopters when they moved into Brixton Village in 2009. Their cosy corner unit, decked out to resemble a log cabin, has since helped establish the market as a popular shopping destination. Their magpie eye for retro homewares, upcycled accessories, letterpress stationery and didn’t-know-you-needed-it-until-you-clapped-eyes-on-it knick-knacks (not to mention their thoroughly good conversation) certainly make for an addictive retail experience.

Mid-century pottery, artisanal jewellery, prints by local artists and handmade poetry books are ideal for gifts. And the pile of old copies of The Face stacked up in the corner makes for great Sunday afternoon browsing too.

  1. Unit 70, Brixton Village, SW9 8PR
  2. www.circusbrixton.com
    Brixton tube
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82

Design Museum Shop

Best for
Design-related accessories

Don’t miss
The plumen light bulbs

How much?

 

The Design Museum philosophy that design should be innovative, intelligent and stylish is brilliantly apparent in the small but well-stocked on-site shop. There’s a pleasing mix of techy and decorative amongst the products and one of the best selections of design books in the capital.

Our recent finds have included Black and Blum’s slick stainless steel Thermo Pot with magnetic spoon – perfect for soup at the office desk. Similarly the ergonomic cake server and kitchen roll holder are subtle homewares that make life easier. We also like the flashes of humour in Hella Jongerius’s Elephant mousepad and the sartorial super trump cards.

  1. Design Museum, 28 Shad
    Thames,
 SE1 2YD
  2. www.designmuseumshop.com
    Tower Hill tube
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91

Persephone Books

Best for
Prettily-covered reprinted fiction by women writers

Don’t miss
The monthly teatime reading group

How much?

 

With Bloomsbury’s Lamb’s Conduit Street fast becoming London’s best men’s fashion hub with Private White VC, Folk Men, Universal Works, Oliver Spencer and J. Crew present, Persephone Books offers something of an antidote. Independently publishing the work of twentieth century women writers (and a few men) in beautifully rendered publications, lined with archive prints of female artists of the period.

Pick from a range that includes Diana Athill’s ‘Midsummer Night in the Warehouse’, Persephone Book No. 92, which includes a classic memoir about a failed love affair, or Virginia Woolf’s ‘A Writer’s Diary’. The shop itself spills over into the Persephone office at the back (or is it the other way around?), giving the store a slightly ramshackle, writer’s room feel where herbal tea and upscale literary chit-chat always seem to be on the brew.

  1. 59 Lamb’s Conduit St, WC1N 3NB
  2. www.persephonebooks.co.uk
    Russell Square tube
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99

Cass Art

Best for
Well-priced arts materials

Don’t miss
Crafty kits for kids

How much?

 

This cavernous store hidden away down a back street houses a dazzling array of art materials. Everything is covered, from sable brushes and oil paints to Winsor and Newton inks and artists mannequins. You’ll find all you need for crafting too, with full accessories for screen printing, calligraphy and decoupage amongst others. It’s absolutely brilliant for kids, with stickers, origami and paper doll sets from hip French brand Djeco, art toys like Etch-a-Sketch and more felt tip pens and glitter pots than you can shake a glue stick at. The art student staff are pretty friendly too.

  1. 66-67 Colebrooke Row, N1 8AB
  2. www.cassart.co.uk
    Angel tube
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100

SCP

Best for
Designer chairs and home accessories

Don’t miss
The SCP own-brand products

How much?

 

SCP does a brilliant job of blending contemporary exhibition and retail space. The recently redesigned store feels more spacious with furniture from design giants including Matthew Hilton and Terence Woodgate artfully displayed on the ground floor alongside a bijou coffee bar.

The newly whitewashed basement space showcases jewellery, accessories and homeware including stylish but cheeky alphabet mugs from design wag Mark McGinnis (C is for Camel Toe, M is for Merkin). SCP’s most celebrated designer is London-based Donna Wilson; most of her pieces are available here.

  1. 135 Curtain Rd, EC2A 3BX
  2. www.scp.co.uk
    Old St tube
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