101 things to do in London: shopping

Give in to temptation at London’s best shops and markets

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You can buy anything in London. There are department stores full of extravagant, markets where you can discover affordable treasures and window-shopping opportunities so enjoyable it’s amazing online shopping ever took off. These are the places where shopping will never feel like a chore.

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The best shops and markets in London

Bag a bargain: car-boot sales and samples sales

Prices in the capital have inflated to astronomical proportions, but for savvy Londoners there are still plenty of deals to be had. Car-boot sales sales are packed with treasures from high-end fashion to antique furniture – and you don’t have to get up early to bag a bargain. We recommend Wimbledon, which is open three days a week and offers a rich mix of crockery, jewellery and vintage frocks. Hagglers welcome. Or, if second-hand isn’t for you, check out one of the capital's many weekly sample sales where you can snap up designer goodies at a fraction of the original cost. Read our guide to finding cheap chic in London

Browse London's best record shops

CDs and MP3 players are all very well, but for many vinyl-schooled audiophiles too much fidelity can be a bad thing. And, let's face it, searching the iTunes catalogue has nothing on idly flipping through dusty racks of LPs fronted with big, bold album artwork. Add to your record collection at Rough Trade East's inspiring 5,000sq ft store off Brick Lane, Honest Jon’s on Portobello Road, Flashback in Islington or Sister Ray and Revival Records on Berwick Street. Read our guide to London's best record shops

Disappear into Davenports Magic Shop

The atmospheric interior, and its position at the end of one of the tunnels under Charing Cross Station, lend this old-fashioned magic shop an air of mystery and suspense. The friendly staff are true enthusiasts and are more than happy to put on a show for each fresh customer that shows off their wares to best effect. Choose from prank props and card tricks to complex illusions. Read more about Davenports Magic Shop

  1. 7 Charing Cross Road, WC2N 4HZ
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Find fresh off-the-boat fish at Billingsgate Market

You shall have a fishy on a little dishy... Any self-respecting London restaurant gets its fish from Billingsgate, a city institution for more than 600 years. Kids aren’t allowed on the trading floor but anyone can watch the fishy fun from a viewing gallery upstairs. Billingsgate is a vast trade market, but it does welcome casual customers. Though be warned: you’re liable to be slapped around the face with a wet haddock if you order a couple of tuna steaks and hand the stallholder a MasterCard – be prepared to buy in bulk. Read more about Billingsgate Market

  1. Trafalgar Way, E14 5ST
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Graze in London's food markets

The sustainable, ethical and local food movements have all gone mainstream in the last decade. More and more of us are filling our hessian bags full of local(-ish) produce, individually made cakes, pies, cheeses and bread and the finest butchers’ meat. The choice at Borough Market (open Thursday to Saturday) near London Bridge is dazzling, but many of the local farmers’ markets are also fantastic. Try Broadway Market next to London Fields, Hackney, on a Saturday, or the food market at Alexandra Palace in north London on a Sunday. Read our guide to London's best markets

Pamper yourself at a London spa

Londoners move at a frantic pace, so it’s important they take relaxation seriously – and the city’s huge range of spas and beauty salons offers something for everyone. A good, solid schmeissing (a steam-and-massage practice with its origins in Yiddish culture) at the Porchester Spa takes the pulse down for some men. Ladies, meanwhile, can get their nails pimped at WAH or enjoy a cut-price facial at the London College of Beauty (and what could be more relaxing than getting 60 minutes for £18?). Read our guide to the best spas in London

Seek out unique vintage couture

London’s growing list of retro stores springing up from Soho to Shoreditch confirms the city’s status as a destination for vintage-lovers. We recommend a shop-crawl through the East End: much healthier than a pub crawl, though perhaps not for your credit card when you spy some secondhand Chanel at Brick Lane’s Fashion Exchange. Alternatively, for a luxury shopping experience, book a personal appointment with style maven William Banks-Blaney at his Marylebone boutique, WilliamVintage, and try on couture gowns by Ossie Clark, Christian Dior and Balenciaga. Also suggested by: InFormed London Read our guide to London's best new vintage shops

Smell the posies at Columbia Road Flower Market

Every Sunday, between 8am and 3pm, this unassuming East End street becomes one of the prettiest, most colourful spots in London. Flowers and foliage line the kerbs, and the fruity cries from stallholders (‘You lucky people!’) draw the crowds. The shops and galleries along Columbia Road make for great browsing, and there are plenty of lovely little cafés too.
Also suggested by: The London Word Read more about Columbia Road Flower Market.

  1. Columbia Road, E2 7RG
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Spark up a fine cigar at Davidoff of London

One for serious cigar aficionados, Davidoff of London is a haven for London smokers. The shop carries its own range of Davidoff cigars (made in Dominican Republic) as well as a superior range of Cuban cigars. Staff are extremely well informed and unbegrudgingly impart their wisdom to seasoned smokers as well as amateurs. The store features two smoking chairs where you can sample your purchases as well as a good range of cigar paraphernalia.

  1. 35 St James's Street, SW1A 1HD
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Splash out at a world-famous department store

  • Critics choice

Shopping at Liberty is an experience to savour. The store offers fashion-forward style and classy traditional goods in a comforting yet rarefied wood-panelled setting. A perfect clash of innovation, tradition and English eccentricity, this is one shopping experience not to miss. Meanwhile Selfridges is modern and glamorous with its vast fashion floors, enticing Food Hall and quirky concessions. Harvey Nichols is slightly less exciting, but has many unique product lines to be proud of, and Harrods, despite its ostentatious façade, is working hard to inject its image with ever more style. Find more department stores in London

  1. Regent Street, W1B 5AH
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Wander along Portobello Road Market

A boisterous draw for street-traders since the mid nineteenth century, this west-London market is famously part of the capital’s Victorian heritage – but these days people come here to pose as much as to purchase. Like Camden, Notting Hill’s Portobello Market is actually several markets rolled into one, so you’ll need a good few hours to do it justice. There are antiques at one end, grocers in the middle and vintage and emerging designer clothes under the Westway flyover. Come on a Friday to avoid the crowds, or very early on a Saturday morning. Read more about Portobello Market

  1. Portobello Road, W11 1LU
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