Forgo the tacky tourist tat or the average high street apparel and head to London's secret shops. Whether you're a local or a guest, check out our guide to some of the best hidden retail gems.
Creatives will be find themselves in heaven at this vast emporium just off Brick Lane, which is filled to the brim with thousands of tubes of paint covering a wide variety of quality and prices, as well as paper of every texture and hue, tools, brushes, pens, pencils, crayons, solvents, spray paints, glues, canvases, stretchers, easels, frames and portfolios.
Magicians are a secretive bunch. So it’s apt that the world’s oldest family-run magic business (est 1898) is virtually invisible to muggles. It’s located under Charing Cross Station, and the mysteriously dark interior gives the impression it’s closed even during office hours.
The straightforward idea behind the EETS is to provide good value vintage - which is becoming a bit of rarity in the capital. The owners come from the Topman stable, and have a good feel for current trends. You'll find lots of vintage denim shirts for £15 and jackets for £25, as well as leather skirts and cheap £10 party frocks.
Its facade is more paperclip factory than cutting-edge fashion house, but LN-CC is not to be judged by its cover. Make an appointment to visit this basement store and you won’t be disappointed. The astonishing shopfit – complete with tunnels and tree houses – is rivalled only by the avant-garde, exclusive range of labels (from Dries van Noten to Balenciaga) as well as assorted rare records and periodicals.
Part café, part bicycle repair shop, this cafe's dual identity allows diners to munch on toasted cinnamon bagels while their gears are tuned. The formula is popular with bike-loving locals, and those without wheels of their own can hire a yellow tandem for the day (£20), so as not to feel left out.
Where will you find this city's most interesting cigar emporium? Mayfair? The City? The clubland of St James's, perhaps? Stokey locals know the answer, for it's to be found down their way. This specialist has top-quality cigars, smoking paraphernalia and collectibles and on sunny days this shop's friendly proprietor can be found playing the bongos by the front door while sipping a glass of rum.
Luna & Curious has been a favourite fixture of Shoreditch shopping since opening its cornucopia of a boutique in 2006. But West End girls can steal a march and save a bus fare by enjoying their own little outpost, tucked inside the swish surroundings of The Sanderson hotel.
If the eye-catching window displays don't draw you in, the flattering cuts certainly will. Started up by British/Columbian designer Deborah Fleming, Pistol Panties proved an instant success (her entire first collection was snapped up by Selfridges), attracting a loyal following for its fresh take on swimwear classics.
The numerous weekend markets along Brick Lane really shout for the attention of the folk who pass by, so it's understandable that so many miss the door to this spectacular and unexpected Aladdin's cave. Traders in this indoor cavern hawk vintage wares (naturally - this is east London, after all): kitchen gear, secondhand clothes and art prints. Plus, of course, tea and cupcakes!
Anyone who has even a passing interest in films and hasn’t discovered this strange little shop should do so immediately. The posters scribbled in the windows should give some idea of the bias of the ‘completely film-nuts’ owner, Umit Mesut, with customers warned ‘THIS IS SUPER 8, NOT VIDEO OR DVD RUBBISH’ and ‘SUPER 8 IS SILVER, DIGITAL IS RUST!’
Blade Rubber Stamps
A stone’s throw from the British Museum, Blade Rubber Stamps is a shrine to wooden-handled rubber stamps with something for every eventuality and taste. Neatly stacked shelves display arty stamps depicting chandeliers, cityscapes, images of Henry VIII, London buses, Alice in Wonderland characters, cutesy puppies and telephone boxes. Handy potential purchases include homework stamps (‘check spelling’, ‘keep trying’) and adorable love-letter writing kits. Unmounted sheets of rubber stamps, ink pads in every imaginable shade, glitters, glues, stencils, stickers, sticks of sealing wax, and a range of magazines and books complete the stock. Blade also has a made-to-order service for personalised stamps.
Venue says: “Throughout June we will be opening from 12noon to 6pm every Sunday. Pop down and say hello!”