Shopping in London can be a struggle – with street upon street packed with great stores, just knowing where to start can be tricky. Luckily, Time Out's savviest spenders have – after much debate – managed to whittle the list of thousands down to the 100 best shops in London. There's something to please every taste and budget, including a selection of the best department stores, quaint little boutiques, cavernous thrift stores, chic homeware outlets and designer fashion shops. If there’s ever been a good time to think about extending your overdraft, it’s now. So go forth Londoners – shop until your feet ache and your purse is begging for mercy.
Reviews by Miriam Bouteba, Katie Rosseinsky, Alexi Duggins, Ashleigh Arnott, Dave Calhoun, David Clack, Eddy Frankel, Euan Ferguson, Jon Cook, Natasha Polyviou and Richard Ehrlich
Produced by Hayley Joyes
The 100 best shops in London: Lifestyle
Best for: Hip homeware
Darkroom may not be a place to develop 35mm film, but it is quite literally a dark room: the walls and fittings are black, creating a blank canvas for the careful selection of fashion, accessories and interiors pieces. We like the sculptural jewellery from Henriette Lofstrom, the enviable collection of minimalist vases (perfect Pinterest fodder) and the in-house line of graphic, colour-blocked crockery.
Best for: Rare vinyl and in-store gigs
It’s one of the youngest stores in the Rough Trade stable, but Rough Trade East has fast become the company’s definitive London outpost. Located in the bustling Old Truman Brewery, it boasts an expertly curated collection of vinyl, CDs and books, as well as a café and a stage for the ever-popular in-store gigs. Wristbands are usually obtained by ordering a CD first – there can be queues for bigger acts and the sets are sometimes shorter than regular gigs, but we’re certainly not complaining.
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Best for: Spanish-style fashion for tots
Step inside mother-of-five Celia Muñoz’s own-label children’s boutique (which stocks clothes for tots aged nought to seven) and you’re greeted by chic, minimal décor, impeccably dressed assistants and a muted rainbow of super-soft knits, smocked dresses and mini duffle coats. Munoz works with designers in her native Spain to fashion her old-fashioned styles: parents will approve of the chintzy Peter Pan blouses and stompingly good desert boots, while kids can be distracted by the play area at the back.
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Best for: Covetable stationery
You'll find all the stationery you could ever need – plus more that you’ll convince yourself you do – in the small but perfectly formed Present & Correct. With leather pencil cases and lovely notebooks galore, their collections blend the latest designs from Japan and Scandinavia.
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Best for: Bargain kidswear
Stumble unawares into this airy space on Ledbury Road and you could be forgiven for not clocking that it’s a charity shop. In fact, it is one of the Fara charity’s 13 London outlets that specifically focus on clothes for tots. As you’d expect from such a well-heeled part of town, the pickings are prime. We’ve seen barely worn pieces from smart labels like Bonton, Petit Bateau and Caramel Baby & Child go for a song.
Best for: Old-style perfume
Enterprising young Spaniard Juan Floris set up his St James’s perfumery in 1730, and one imagines not too much has changed since then. Glorious scents are placed behind glass cabinets and oak panelled counters, lending the feel of an old-fashioned apothecary. The two-hour fragrance customisation sessions are the stuff of perfectly perfumed dreams: the end result is a 100ml vial of your own bespoke eau de parfum.
Best for: Cool and colourful kidswear
This cute kidswear boutique caters to the stylish tots of east London. It's a compact, friendly space, packed with colourful garms by cool (but not exorbitantly pricey) labels like Frugi, Boys & Girls and Tootsa MacGinty. A strong point is shoes for tiny feet, with barefoot brands like Bobux alongside classics like Saltwater, plus a measuring service. There's also a small selection of well-chosen gifts, and we love the in-store children's haircutting service. As the name suggests, a total neighbourhood gem.
Best for: Musical curiosities
Ever played with a shahi baaja? How about a tanpura? A pair of nipple gongs, maybe? None of these are sex toys – they’re actually all stunning, intricate and wonderfully exotic instruments that you can find at Ray Man, a treasure trove of weird and wonderful Eastern musical curiosities. Yes, a lot of them are very expensive, but if you ask nicely they’ll give you a demonstration and maybe even let you play them. And then you can spend £8 on an ocarina and not feel too bad for wasting their time.
Best for: Posh smokes
If you’ve got money to burn in every possible sense, there’s no better place to do so than Mayfair’s JJ Fox. Of all London’s cigar shops, this is the grandest and most storied: past patrons include Winston Churchill and Oscar Wilde (who died owing money here). From Cuban Bolivar Belicosos to Dominican Ashtons, only the finest brands (with unimpeachable provenance) are stocked. One for the seriously discerning (and seriously monied) smoker.
Best for: Local history books
Bookshops are thin on the ground these days, which is why it's always a pleasure to find a longstanding local that's managing to hold its own. This little spot in the hipster heartland has been around since the ‘70s and in its present location for a decade. As well as the latest fiction titles, you can find a great selection of local and London history titles, plus all the photography and graphic novels the trendsters need, plus a small and lovely kids' corner. Staff are knowledgable and helpful, and look out for talks and other events.
The 100 best shops in London: Food and drink
Best for: Rare whiskies
There’s an Old World charm to London’s oldest whisky shop, and the small, low-lit space is lined with enough bottles of the glorious amber stuff to make you feel a bit sozzled just by entering. There are fabulously rare and fiendishly expensive bottles, but there's also a big selection of more affordable options, perfect for a posh, boozy gift. Somehow they've squeezed a couple of bars in – one in the main shop that functions during opening hours and one swish, speakeasy-styled basement bar, Vault, serving cocktails in the evenings.
Best for: Smart kitchenalia
Last time we queued here, the person in front of us was a certain Mr J. Oliver, which gives you an idea of the quality on offer at this thoroughly well-stocked emporium of kitchenware and tableware. Divertimenti covers the full spectrum; it’s hard to single out one area for particular praise, but if money’s no object (got a mate who’s getting married?), stainless steel cookware from Cristel and sponge-painted ceramics from Nicholas Mosse are happy hunting grounds.
Best for: Treats for big kids of all ages
Purveyor of quality goods for monsters of every kind, this little curiosity shop is just the ticket for vampires, werewolves and humans on the prowl for a box of Cubed Earwax (fudge – £5) or a pot of Tinned Fear (boiled sweets – £8) containing short stories by the likes of David Nicholls, Nick Hornby and Zadie Smith. Proceeds support the Ministry of Stories – an initiative that sees professional writers mentor young people in the art of story writing.
Best for: Niche craft beer
‘Bottle shop'? Is that not just a fancy new term for an off-licence? Well, step through the door of this dedicated beer shop and you'll be forced to admit that 'off-licence' doesn't quite cut it. As well as an enormous selection of bottles and cans of beer from London, the UK and beyond there are eight taps dispensing draught beer to take away in bottles – the biggest selection in the city. Which could be overwhelming, but the staff are always there to guide you through it. Quite simply the best place to buy beer for miles.
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Best for: Niche local brews
Hop Burns & Black on East Dulwich Road sells three things: beer, hot sauce and vinyl, with the former available to carry out in one-litre flagons (what similar operations call a ‘growler’, inevitably with a bit of puerile nudge-winkery). Thanks to a nifty counter-pressure filling machine, the grog stays fresh for weeks – although with breweries on offer including London’s finest, US legends and Kiwi trailblazers like Yeastie Boys, you’ll do well not to see it off in a single sitting.
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Best for: Top quality cheese
If Neal’s Yard Dairy hadn’t existed, you might never have heard the term ‘artisanal British cheese.’ It began championing small cheesemakers when the shop opened in 1979, and has been central to creating a huge community of high-quality cheesemakers in Britain and Ireland. Like Monmouth Coffee, NYD has larger branches in Borough and Bermondsey, but this tiny, fragrant nook wins hands-down on character. When they offer taste after taste, don’t say no!
Best for: Italian delicacies
Salvino is the best Italian deli in its area by far, and in north-west London only Giacobazzi’s (NW3) can compete. Expect great quality at reasonable prices, with the tiny cheese/salume/antipasti display star of the show. Inexpensive olive oils are of fine quality, homemade fresh sausages exemplary. And the staff are characters, always eager to persuade you to buy an extra cheese or tub of olives – in the nicest possible way, of course.
Best for: Specialist beer
Doesn’t matter if you don’t get this specialist booze shop’s pun-tastic name (as in ‘Utopia’) – you’ll definitely appreciate their impeccably chosen range of craft IPAs, specialist lagers, funky porters, trappist brews and basically any beverage that’s ever been within a mile of a hop. Their Borough Market stall’s been promoting tasteful brews since before the UK craft beer revolution was even a thing (1999, fact fans) and their 700-strong selection makes them the capital’s most comprehensive beer stockist.
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Best for: An excellent array of Mediterranean delicacies
We took a Very Famous Cookery Writer to visit Phoenicia. Afterwards they said: ‘I usually go to the Middle Eastern supermarkets in Edgware Road, but this is just as good.’ It isn’t size but quality that matters, and a comprehensive range from nuts and olives to fresh produce and meat (order a whole sheep, if you need one). All the quality is high except for the huge range of baklava. There the quality is off the scale.
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The 100 best shops in London: Under one roof
Best for: EVERYTHING
Selfridges was never intended to be just a store – the emphasis was always on the experience of shopping – but we doubt that even the visionary Mr Harry Selfridge could have foreseen a talking water fountain in the foodhall. The sheer scale of the operation means that it can accommodate a breadth of brands that span all price points – from Primark to Prada, it’s all here. Selfridges doesn’t measure itself against other department stores, it only competes with its own past successes, and this attitude ensures that it remains ahead of the curve.
Best for: Design-conscious souvenirs, gifts and gadgets
‘Oh god, my light bulbs aren’t stylish enough!’ Don’t worry, that’s normal. Everyone has that reaction after visiting the Design Museum Shop. This isn’t a bog standard museum add-on to try to coax you out of an extra few quid. As well as stocking souvenirs from the current exhibition, the Design Museum Shop carries all sorts of ingenious gadgets and sleek homeware from top designers, including foldable plug adapters, the award-winning ‘Plumen’ light bulb and something called a ‘Juicy Salif’ (Google it).
Best for: Extravagant style under one roof
Yes, it’s unashamedly ostentatious, but Harrods is a spectacular shop and a London institution. Once you’ve dodged the tourists taking selfies outside, the elegantly tiled food halls on the ground floor are heaven for foodies, while the beauty halls boast a wealth of luxury exclusives. Other highlights include the gargantuan Shoe Heaven and fragrant Salon de Parfums showcase. Little ones can be kept occupied for hours in the Toy Kingdom, which sells everything from posh dressing-up gear to mini Mercedes G-Wagons for the aspirational tot.
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Best for: Quality vintage gear
Blitz is a veritable vintage department store, covering all floors of a beautifully renovated, former furniture factory – it towers over the many other vintage shops crammed into the East End. Whatever you’re looking for you’ll find, and more: from trunks stuffed with scarves to rack upon rack of denim arranged by shade. The selection is all killer and no filler (and cleaned, steamed and folded before it hits the shop floor). Besides, any shop with a retro coffee bar is a winner in our books.
Best for: Streetwear with a sense of humour
After seven years of quiet success, game-changing concept shop The Goodhood Store super-sized to a brand new Curtain Road premises in summer 2014. Spread over two floors, the interior boasts little exhibition spaces, a basement café and a gnarly log cabin. The upscale, leftfield stock is hand-picked for Goodhood’s very East End customers, from hand-carved skateboards to to cheap-as-chips mugs, badges and stickers. A very good ‘hood, indeed.
Best for: Luxe foodie hampers
With its stylish eau de nil and copper-clad façade, ultra-opulent interiors and numerous royal warrants, Fortnum’s makes a serious play for the title of world’s poshest department store. No trip to 181 Piccadilly is complete without meandering through the fragrant food halls, where you can fill luxury hampers with delicacies beyond a gastronome’s wildest dreams. After a revamp earlier this year, the second-floor beauty emporium stocks exclusives from a clutch of niche fragrance brands, and is home to a Bamford Haybarn spa.
Best for: Eccentric English style and classic floral prints
There is no more gorgeous a shop in London – possibly the world – than Liberty. With its eccentric best-of-British jumble of haberdashery fabrics, brilliant homewares and vintage jewels, wandering through the wood-panelled rooms is a little like exploring a stately home – albeit one that’s home to a lovingly curated selection of cutting-edge international fashion and beauty brands.
Best for: Discounted designer wonders
Each week, this unassuming Hackney premises hosts a local designer and his or her fashionable wares, completely rent-free. Once the seven days are up, another young brand moves in. Considering that Hackney is a London fashion hotspot, home to the likes of Jonathan Saunders, House of Holland and Roksanda, you’re likely to find incredible catwalk clothes on the rails at heavily discounted rates – or you might chance upon an amazing local newbie given retail floorspace for the first time.
Best for: Arty gifts
The V&A’s airy, capacious store is the queen of London’s museum shops. Found right at the heart of the grand old building, its contents are curated with as much thought and flair as any of the museum’s blockbuster exhibitions. The limited-edition themed products (designed to tie in with each big show) are always covetable, while the permanent collection of art and design books, postcards and contemporary jewellery makes it a reliably good gift destination.
Best for: Excellent customer service
Entering the John Lewis flagship is a welcome respite from the mayhem of Oxford Street. Rightly famed for its excellent customer service and dependable, quality goods, it covers everything from technology to kitchen gadgets, fabric and furniture. Coolness may not be its calling card, but JL’s fashion department is not to be scoffed at, housing a considered range of reasonably priced designer collaborations, while the beauty hall stocks big-hitters like Nars and Bobbi Brown, and is home to an impressive Charlotte Tilbury concession.
The 100 best shops in London: Fashion and style
Best for: Avant-garde international fashion
Comme des Garçons designer Rei Kawakubo’s ground-breaking six-storey space combines the edgy energy of London’s indoor markets with rarefied labels. There’s a neat little nod to Kawakubo’s home country, with a vending machine that dispenses DSM branded T-shirts and the indoor market style is reminiscent of a Harajuku shopping complex, too. The basement houses more affordable streetwear style, while the ground floor has a smart selection of edgy jewellery.
Best for: Esoteric fashion brands
Otherwise known as the Late Night Chameleon Cafe, LN-CC is as mysterious as its name would suggest. Accessed via an underwhelmingly ordinary side door in a Shacklewell warehouse, the store boasts an interior that’s straight out of the Death Star, complete with a secret dancefloor and tree house. It’s also home to a unique edit of rare fashion brands. Don’t come here hoping to pick up a bargain: the international edit of confusingly named labels is super-exclusive and super-expensive.
Best for: Kicks for girls
An old salon might seem an unlikely spot for revolution, but it’s here that the seeds of change are taking root – at least, in the world of female footwear. Pam Pam is the brainchild of friends Rio Holland and Bethany Heggarty, who spotted a gap in the market – clothes and shoes for girls who aren’t girly girls. This lovely shop is full of pretty jewellery from Canada, ceramics from Brooklyn and vegan smellies from Portland. The front room, dedicated entirely to women’s trainers, is the first of its kind in the country.
Best for: Stylish lingerie
This is London’s most glamorous, upmarket erotic emporium. Browse toys, accessories, jewellery and lingerie made from the finest materials: stunning sterling silver nipple shields and gold-gilded clamps; leather reins and harnesses to transform your partner into the dressiest of dressage ponies; and love eggs made from rose quartz and jade. If you fancy a dirty rather than filthy weekend, it’s worth wandering in just for the lingerie – Stella McCartney and Mimi Holiday are among the premium brands offering good old fashioned silk and lace in dazzling designs.
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Best for: Theatrical designer womenswear
The late, great showman of London’s fashion scene, Alexander McQueen’s Bond Street shop has an appropriately theatrical feel. The baroque panelling, expanses of marble and gilded mirrors remind you that this is indeed a very posh shop. But as with all things McQueen, the devil is very much is the detail. Chairs and tables are rounded off with claws and hooves, while gargoyles grimace in amongst the fauna of the moulded plaster panels.
"Couverture and The Garbstore remain Notting Hill's best-kept secret shop."
Best for: Original and stylish gifts
From graphic blankets to stylish leather backpacks, the contents of this slick three-storey boutique are flawlessly curated by husband and wife team Ian Paley and Emily Dyson. On the lower level is Paley’s menswear label The Garbstore, which garners nods of approval from the snootiest of fashion insiders; the ground and upper floors house Dyson’s lifestyle concept Couverture, which stocks an enticing array of homewares and women’s and children’s fashion.
Best for: The most beautiful fashion on the high street
Before launching in 2013, & Other Stories had been in the pipeline for over three years, as everything from the industrial staircase to the scribbly font used on the white paper bags was discussed. This level of careful consideration has certainly paid off; & Other Stories is without a doubt one of the best places to shop on the high street. The beautiful stock is refreshed regularly, they frequently collaborate with more under-the-radar brands and the pricing is fair – if a blouse is a little pricier, it’ll be because it’s silk. Our only issue in this shop is that we want to buy everything.
Best for: Good denim
This tiny Clapton shop boasts the best denim for miles around. It’s a labour of love for Detroit native Erin McQuinn, who earned her stripes designing jeans for the likes of Victoria Beckham. She’s selected a tight edit of her favourite brands, from London based labels like Bethnals to Swedish brand Neuw and vintage OshKosh for tiny tots. Once you’ve picked your favourites, you can try them on in the vagina-shaped changing room. Yes, really.
Best for: Brilliant luxe basics
Spot a gaggle of well-dressed yummy mummies nursing soya lattes in a Stokey café and chances are they’ll have picked up their Armorlux Breton tops and Ally Capellino totes at a branch of Hub. No. 49 on Stoke Newington’s swish Church Street houses the womenswear offering – think stompy shoes from Grenson, Scandi-chic by Wood Wood and lovely denim from Bethnals – while No. 88 stocks many of the same labels but for chaps.
Best for: Handsome headgear
Lock & Co Hatters has been a St James’ fixture since 1759, making it one of the most famous hat shops in the world. It’s also possibly one of the most famous. Inside, you’ll find one of the most comprehensive selections of classic headgear to be found in the capital: from bowlers to berets via top hats, panamas and a whole host of other fancy head-coverings. Whatever you decide upon, though, is sure to be an investment piece: Lock & Co offer a comprehensive aftercare service, and has been known to repair and reshape hats up to 50 years old.