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Semmalina Star Bags, best toy shops, london

The best toy shops in London

Discover the perfect plaything or present for kids of every age with our guide to the city’s best toy stores

Joe Mackertich
Written by
Alex Lloyd
&
Joe Mackertich
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Yes, the act of buying toys has been made a bajillion percent easier, thanks to internet shopping. But where’s the fun in that? And, be honest, are you organised enough to have bought all the little people in your life presents with enough time to allow for delivery? Or, like everyone, do you need to dash out a night or two before, to hit the actual, physical shops? We thought so. Lucky for you, London still has a top-notch choice of dedicated shops that are a treasure trove of toys and run by people passionate about play. Here are our favourites.

  • Shopping
  • Toys and games
  • Covent Garden

Climb the creaky stairs past Hobbs and into this shrine to playthings from the past. There are music boxes, traditional puppets, hoopla and spinning tops – in fact, many toys so obscure you’ll likely never have heard of them before, let alone played with them. Toy theatres make up a good part of the stock, and cost from a couple of quid for one in a matchbox to much more for the really complicated set-ups. If miniature stages aren’t your thing, there are more nostalgic toys, such as china and tin tea sets, paper planes and dolls, vintage-style board games, Steiff teddy bears and music boxes.

Hamleys
  • Shopping
  • Toys and games
  • Regent Street

Both a tourist attraction, with regular school holiday events for children (check the website), and a ginormous toy shop, Hamleys has all the must-have toys, attractively displayed to boot. Arranged on five noisy floors, with perky demonstrators showing off certain wares on every one, you’ll be lucky if you can spend less than an hour in here if you’re accompanied by children. There’s much to see: the basement has interactive toys, the ground floor is soft toys, floor one is all games, two is for pre-schoolers, three is girls’ stuff, four hobbies and five is boys’ toys with a café attached.  

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Just Williams
Just Williams

Just Williams

Kids will love choosing whether to spend their pennies on a stretchy man, stickers or bubbles at this family-run shop’s pocket money area, featuring goodies under £5. The shop also stocks everything from well-loved big brands such as Lego, Crayola and Microscooters, to niche and up-and-coming ones like Kid O, Zoob and Thames and Kosmos.

www.justwilliamstoys.com

  • Shopping
  • Home decor
  • Islington

A brilliant antique furniture and toy shop in Highbury, After Noah is a great place to hunt for odds and ends. There’s a whole section dedicated to actual toys and cuddly animals, which is a rarety these days. And then you can pop downstairs and drop a few hundred quid on a beautiful mid-century sideboard.

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Ottie and the Bea
  • Shopping
  • Blackheath

This independent shop in Blackheath stocks all manner of carefully chosen items that will delight children and parents alike. Within the bright and inviting south London shop visitors will discover Japanese collectables and creative comics alongside traditional toys, beautiful books and colourful party goods. They also run regular events and workshops for a variety of age ranges in activities such as superhero cape decoration, dreamcatcher-making and journalism. Check http://www.ottieandthebea.com/ for details.

Semmalina Star Bags

Semmalina Star Bags

Owners Sarah Standings and Diana Turner pride themselves on offering an ever-changing and eclectic choice of classic and cool toys – and an eye for the perfect present. Their bespoke party bags service lets parents choose age-appropriate favours for every guest, which they make up beautifully for £2.50 a head.

www.semmalinestarbags.com

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Sylvanian Families Shop
  • Shopping
  • Toys and games
  • Highbury

The long-adored Sylvanian Families toys have been putting smiles on the faces of children – and adults too – since the mid ’80s. But how could they not? The little fuzzy, flocked plastic creatures are adorable and reek of nostalgia, with an array of retro countryside settings, including manors, cabins, windmills and other fairly middle-class locations, to house more than 60 different animal families. This shop in Highbury stocks the lot, plus a few discontinued and rare items to boot. As featured in the 100 best shops in London.

  • Shopping
  • Toys and games
  • London

This splendidly tot-friendly all-rounder consists of a long, antique space with a stained-glass skylight and wonky wooden floors. The Dragon continues to draw in the majority of Crouch End’s young families, and its frequent warehouse sales (see website for details) are not to be missed. There’s a lovely little play area and toy kitchen, a wide range of toys and dressing-up kit, and attractive and affordable stripy knits for both babies and toddlers. To add to the Soup Dragon label there are rompers and play clothes from Katvig and Idat. Classic toys from Dejeco and Tomy, plus covetable one-offs such as rocking horses and dolls’ houses. 

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Cachao Toy Café

Enjoy a coffee and cake (or even brunch) while your child explores the treats on the shelves at this welcoming spot near London Zoo. There’s everything from Hape to House of Marbles, with lots of arts, crafts and scientific sets too. A second store in Muswell Hill has recently opened.

www.cachaotoycafe.co.uk

QT Toys

Generations of Clapham families have bought construction kits, craft sets and Schleich animals at this Aladdin’s cave of educational and creative toys. Owner Joseph Yap has been the shop’s official toy tester since his parents opened the doors when he was a year old – his knowledge of what will charm children is second to none.

www.qttoyslondon.com

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