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Photograph: Botanique

The 100 best shops in London

Shopping in London? Plan your spending spree with our guide to the capital’s best shops, including department stores, fashion flagships and historical gems

By Time Out editors

You can buy almost anything in London. The city is a shopper’s paradise, peppered with every type of store you can imagine. From niche bookshops to iconic department stores, bustling markets to lush plant shops - London’s retail scene is up there with the world’s best.

But recent world events meant that stores that had never closed a day in their existence – a handful of the older ones, not since the Blitz – had to literally shut up shop. Now, our best-loved boutiques are starting to spring back to life after a three-month hiatus, albeit with a slightly sci-fi look as they embrace the two-metre trend.

This list is of our top 100 London shops from ‘before times’. It favours independents or small, locally-based chains, with a few legendary London icons thrown in: from innovative grocers with green initiatives to trailblazing department stores. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be updating you on exactly which ones are back in physical business, but in the meantime, check out each trader’s website and social media accounts to see how you can support them online and in tough times.

Photograph: Labour & Wait

11. Labour and Wait

Shopping Home decor Shoreditch

Best for: Trendy homewares

Located in an old, emerald-tiled pub on Redchurch Street, Labour and Wait is an emporium of very beautiful yet very useful items. The owners, Rachel Wythe-Moran and Simon Watkins, both previously fashion designers, set out to create a shop selling of timeless, well thought out pieces, unlike the throwaway products often found in high street stores. Block-coloured ceramics, enamel dishes, oversized recycled tote bags, Breton striped tops, stainless steel coffee mokas – it's the epitome of cool and functional.

Photograph: Foyles

12. Foyles Charing Cross Road

Shopping Bookshops Charing Cross Road

Best for: A vast range of books and great service

News that Foyles was moving up the road to flash new premises was greeted with dismay by legions of bibliophiles. But with eight levels packed with more than 200,000 books, a capacious art space and a floor dedicated to events, it’s hard to fault this glossy, well-lit store. In the age of the e-reader, it’s a gutsy statement in favour of ink and paper.

Photograph: Choosing Keeping

13. Choosing Keeping

Shopping Art, craft and hobbies Seven Dials

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 buy just about everything they sell.

Photograph: Persephone Books

14. Persephone Books

Shopping Bookshops Bloomsbury

Best for: Unearthing literary gems

An antidote to the plethora of chaps’ fashion shops on Lamb’s Conduit Street, Persephone Books is piled high with lovingly restored reprints of unfairly neglected female authors. These beautiful objects are covered in plain eggshell blue and lined with wonderful archive prints; some are by well-known names (Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf and Diana Athill), others have only recently returned to print after decades of obscurity. Literary chit-chat spills in from Persephone’s adjoining office, lending the pleasingly ramshackle feel of a writer’s room.

Japan Centre, London
Japan Centre, London
Photograph: Yuta Naoumi

15. Japan Centre

Best for: satisfying takoyaki cravings 

Japan doesn’t feel quite so far away when you’re surrounded by miso in this subterranean supermarket. Grab some takoyaki with dancing bonito flakes to fuel your shopping from the upstairs café, before browsing more noodles, very sharp knives and Kewpie mayo than you can shake a Pocky stick at. It’s the closest you can get to Japan without the 12-hour flight.  

Photograph: Tom Hartford

16. The School of Life

Things to do Literary events Bloomsbury

Best for: Thought-provoking books

Dedicated to making our existence that little bit better, The School of Life's smart, Scandi-looking shop in Bloomsbury is packed with beautiful books spanning topics such as philosophy, psychology and wellbeing. Ideal gifts for the person that has everything, there are also pin badges, flash cards, tote bags and colourful stationery. Above the shop are classrooms where the school hosts courses and one-off events on finding self-confidence, improving relationships and identifying your career potential.

Liberia bookshop
Liberia bookshop
Photograph: Iwan Baan

17. Libreria

Shopping Bookshops Spitalfields

Best for: Leisurely book browsing

Just a few paces from Brick Lane, Libraria's dinky black shop front is deceptive – once through its small door and you'll discover books for days. A tunnel of double-height canary yellow walls is lined with rows and rows of books, making room for the occasional cushion-filled nook for visitors to sit and get cosy. Libraria isn't just the place for covetable hardbacks on philosophy, architecture, food and design, it hosts regular evening talks with authors and cultural speakers, screenings, performances and crafty workshops.

Photograph: Lina Stores

18. Lina Stores

Shopping Bakeries Soho

Best for: Authentic Italian delicacies

This wonderful family-run Italian deli has been trading from its Brewer Street shop since 1944 and even now it's still a proper Soho gem. An alluring, mint green-coloured building from the outside, inside Lina Stores is a treasure trove of Italy's finest consumables. Bottles of passata, jars of olives, tins of brined sardines and bags of dried spaghetti fill the shelves on one side of the store, whilst a counter brimming with authentic cheeses, cured meats, cakes and fresh ravioli lines the other. Pop into their massive new branch at Coal Drops Yard if you're in the area, which also features a restaurant alongside its much-loved deli products. 

Conservatory Archives
Conservatory Archives
Conservatory Archives

19. Conservatory Archives

Shopping Florists Hackney Road

Best for: beaut houseplants

One visit to Conservatory Archives’ urban jungle and you’ll be lusting after its hanging greenery and climbing vines. The shop on Hackney Road is one lavish indoor garden, a stark space with peeling plaster walls and big windows, stuffed full of weird, wacky and wild vegetation. Prepare to fall hard for the green stuff.

Photograph: Neal's Yard

20. Neal’s Yard Dairy

Shopping Specialist food and drink Seven Dials

Best for: Top quality cheese

If Neal’s Yard Dairy 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!

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