The 100 best shops in London: Lifestyle
Best for: Nautical necessaries
One of the best things about this city is that it never ceases to surprise. Take Shaftesbury Avenue for example – slap bang in the centre of town, it’s home to a yacht chandler. Stocked with reels of rope, lifejackets, boat lights and almanacs (nope, us neither) it has stood in its current location for over 120 years. And while you might not need to pick up nautical paraphernalia every single day, it also has a super selection of quality sea-faring style, like Nordic fisherman knits and brilliant beanies from French brand Saint James.
Best for: Hot furniture and home accessories
Housed in an impressive Victorian concert hall, Aria is one of London’s best design destinations. The painstakingly restored original features contrast beautifully with the contemporary homewares. As well as kitchenware, clocks and lighting from big names like Alessi and Marimekko, you’ll find glorious prints by Camille Walala, plus plenty of quirky treasures. There’s also a tempting selection of posh toiletries, including old-style apothecary and Scandi skincare brands.
This unisex fragrance store, with branches in Shoreditch and the West End, is not to be sniffed at. If it's a cheap scent you're after, go elsewhere. But if you want to enjoy the process of trying out high-quality, unusual perfumes and hearing from knowledgeable staff about how they've been created, this is the place for you. Bloom stocks niche perfumes from brands including Arquiste, Jovoy and Paul Emilien and also runs regular events and courses so you can find out more about what you're buying. Smell yeah.
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.
Who can resist a shop that sells only buttons? Strangely, this small time-warp emporium sits just a stone's throw from mainstream Oxford Street. It's been here since 2009, but the business goes further back, to the 1950s, having operated across various shops and market stalls. If you've been staring at a forlorn coat or suit for years, wondering where to find a missing button, this is the place to start. And you'll be supporting a unique independent business in the process.
Best for: Well-priced arts materials
Hidden down an Islington back street, this cavernous store spans three large floors, and houses a stellar array of artistic materials from sable brushes and oil paints to Winsor & Newton inks, artist mannequins and even achingly on-trend colouring books for grown-ups. Markers, watercolours and fancy papers are available in every conceivable colour and finish, while crafty types could waste hours browsing the decoupage, calligraphy and model-making paraphernalia.
Best for: Smart stationery
It’s entirely possible to walk out of Choosing Keeping having just spent £45 on a stapler feeling like it was the smartest purchase you’ve ever made. The thing with this shop is that everything is just so damn beautiful: dinky rulers shaped like Toblerones, sinister hole punches that look like they were crafted in Soviet Russia, golden scissors that snap together to form the sleekest of lines. Visit when the tiny space isn’t crammed with flower-wielding tourists and you'll find yourself choosing to keep just about everything they sell.
Best for: Seriously stylish kids' clothes
Based way down south in Hither Green, this lifestyle shop is worth visiting even if you’re a committed north-Londoner. Lovely for a number of reasons – check out its selection of French smellies if you don’t believe us – but its main draw is its assumption that children also value good design. Everything in this shop is design-led, and with sophisticated grey baby-mittens and monochrome toys, your sprog will be the coolest kid in town. Literally.
Best for: Wardrobe overhauls
Following a couple of great pop ups, this concept store has found a permanent place to call home. Only stocking independent designers and makers, TCS carries plenty of the capital’s more under-the-radar brands. So in the same space you can pick up delicate, geometric jewellery from Clerkenwell’s Miya Bonner, colourful furniture from Jennifer Newman and brilliant shoes from Ganor Dominic – London based, all. Every month the store hosts workshops and pop-ups, so there’s always something new happening in there.
Best for: Bespoke bikes
A Gray’s Inn Road stalwart since 1948, family-run Condor Cycles is the store of choice for those in search of top-notch cycling kit: Condor’s beautiful bikes have tackled the Tour de France and won world championships. Bikes can be built to order on a bespoke basis or purchased off the rack, while the range of accessories for the more casual rider is one of the best in town.
The 100 best shops in London: Food and drink
Best for: Little-known vineyards
Starting life as a stall in the drool-inducing Borough market, this independent wine shop is testament to London’s boozy ways, having grown to seven full-on shops in the capital in the space of 15 years. In the same vein this postbox-sized outpost of the brilliant wine shop carries an excellent edit of plonk from smaller producers and family firms, plus refillable glass bottles – it’s also very handily situated on the 38 bus route.
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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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: 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.
Venue says We pride ourselves in our knowledge and enthusiasm for whisky. Everything on our shelves is hand-picked by us and there because we love it.
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: 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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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.
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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The 100 best shops in London: Under one roof
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: Unique yet affordable gifts
If a ringmaster retired in order to fulfil a lifelong ambition of owning a gift shop, he’d probably open somewhere a lot like Fee Fee La Fou HQ. Part gallery, part shop, almost everything on display here is available to buy, from the artfully mismatched wallpaper down to the eccentric poodle lamps. Packed full of everything you could possibly want and nothing that you strictly need it’s the perfect place to pick up presents, or to escape from grey London for a bit.
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.
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: 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: 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: High-end goodies and beauty treatments
Getting as smart as the swish stock it houses, by renovating from the basement up Harvey Nicks is looking seriously sharp these days. A one-stop shop for everything luxury, it’s especially strong when it comes to fashion and beauty. Managing to avoid being fusty, its menswear space has a super cool barbershop and rotating pop-up space while its graceful beauty floor is full of new and innovative products.
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: 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: Beautiful things you don't need, but absolutely must have
Laughing in the face of rainbow rubbers and giant pencils, the Tate Modern’s gift shop is full of lovely things that you would actually want: David Shrigley dominoes and Guerrilla Girls tea towels. Plus, from the Yinka Shinobare crockery and Grayson Perry’s silk scarves and jigsaws, to its ongoing collaboration with Ally Capellino, a good chunk of its stock is exclusive. Artfully positioned at the museum’s entrance you don’t even need to pretend to be interested in the art to shop there.
The 100 best shops in London: Fashion and style
Best for: The most beautiful fashion on the high street
Since its launch in 2013 & Other Stories has been, without a doubt, one of the best places to shop on the high street. Its elegant, fashion-forward stock is refreshed regularly, there are frequent collaborations with interesting creatives, like Shoplifter – a NYC-based visual artist – and their pricing is fair. Spacious and airy, Its Oxford Street branch is as lovely as the original – with three floors of ready-to-wear (including collabs), beauty, jewellery, accessories, bags and shoes, plus the covetable beauty and cosmetics range he only issue you’ll find in this shop is wanting to leave with everything.
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.
Best for: Classics sneakers brands
Tucked under a railway arch on Atlantic Road, the second branch of men’s streetwear store Article is a welcome addition to Brixton’s indie shopping scene. Under the corrugated metal roof (like a hipster Anderson shelter), you’ll find a careful edit of understated styles from brands like YMC, Edwin and Nixon. Tucked round the corner is the beautifully arranged shoe room, stocking an impressive array of trainers that’s almost too pretty to shop from. Almost.
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Best for: Rubber fetish wear
If you spy a glossy starlet stepping out in latex, chances are it’s from Atsuko Kudo, whose rubber styles have been sported by everyone from Lady Gaga to Kim Kardashian. Holloway Road’s latex specialists are known for fine filigree details, custom prints and perfect tailoring. You may have to take a deep breath to afford these designs, but the investment is reflected in the superb quality. Attentive staff and a surplus of talc are on hand to help relax rubber virgins.
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: Quirky headgear
Hat-making duo Paul Bernstock and Thelma Speirs have been creating playful headgear since 1982, and have dressed the heads of everyone from Julie Christie and Boy George to Victoria Beckham. You can buy many of the best designs from their extensive archives at their shop-slash-atelier in Brick Lane, including the veiled beanie and bunny-eared cap, along with a handful of more recent designer collaborations. Though technically designer accessories, the prices aren’t too steep, and start at £55 for a cap.
Best for: Quality vintage stock that spans the decades
This Covent Garden gem has been peddling vintage threads for well over 20 years – long before retro became fashionable. Here you’ll find a wonderful array of dress-up clothes, from ‘30s cocktail frocks and Downton-esque beaded slips to slinky ‘80s numbers. Home to a mind-boggling 1,000 pairs of vintage shoes, the basement is well worth a careful rummage: the knowledgeable staff will help you pinpoint the perfect decade.
Best for: Beautifully curated designer fashion
It was already one of our capital’s favourite fashion boutiques – with the founder Mrs Burnstein being one of first to support Alexander McQueen and Christopher – but following its acquisition by Farfetch it has been reinvigorated. Serious investment has given it a much bigger buying team and a CEO who cut her teeth under Natalie Massenet at Net-a-Porter. With 70 new brands in stock since last year the new team has been bloody busy – worth it though when they have a rollcall that includes Vetements, Simone Rocha and Marques Almeida.
Best for: Luxury Brit clothing in jaw-dropping surroundings
For a heritage brand, Burberry is about as directional as you can get. The first London Fashion Week designer to live stream its catwalk shows – way back in 2010 – and then the first brand to retail straight from the runway. Truly consumer first, it’s Regent Street flagship store is an all-mod-conned ‘brand experience’ complete with interactive magic mirrors, a 38 square-metre video display unit and even digital rain showers. The full complement of menswear, womenswear, accessories, shoes and beauty is here, alongside a bespoke trench service and gifting department. Should you feel peckish after navigating the store’s four floors, Thomas’s Café offers posh British fare.
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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Our top ten shops in London
Not got time to hit all of the best 100 shops in London? Well here's our countdown of the top ten, in reverse order. Happy shopping!