Shopping in London is the best. This city might be hectic, noisy and all-too-often grimy, but, incredibly creative, it’s also a place where independent businesses can thrive. However, with street upon street rammed full of great stores, knowing where to begin can be a struggle. Happily, Time Out’s savviest spenders love to pound the pavement and have managed to argue the list of thousands down to the very best 100 shops in London. From the best department stores to dinky boutiques, beautiful homeware stores and directional fashion shops, there’s something for every shopper – no matter how deep your pockets. So go forth Londoners – shop until your feet bleed and your purse is screaming 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
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.
Venue says: “Create your own bespoke perfume formula at Bloom Perfumery's Lab, select notes, define proportions and use our professional materials.”
Best for: Unusual fragrances
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.
Best for: Beautiful buttons
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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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.
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: 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: 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.
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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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.
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: 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
Venue says: “When it comes to shops, Couverture & The Garbstore remains Notting Hill's best kept secret.”
Best for: Original and stylish gifts
The contents of this three-storey boutique are flawlessly curated. On the lower level is Ian Paley’s marvellous menswer label The Garbstore; every item is made using old-school techniques from the 1940s and’50s and gets the nod of approval from even the snootiest of dapper gents. The upper floors are home to Couveture, which stocks an enticing range of homeware, plus a beautiful selection of women’s and children’s fashion.
Best for: Avant-garde international fashion
Upping sticks and moving into its Haymarket home has rendered Dover Street Market none the less awe-inspiring, or intriguing. As a nod to Thomas Burberry – who erected the building in 1912 – a trio of Burberry trenches reimagined by Rei Kawakubo greet customers on their way through the cavernous store. Carrying a truly comprehensive stock, it has fashion dons like Gucci and Valentino, plus all 14 of the Commes labels. A true fashion mecca, it houses collections from some of our capital’s brightest star with Grace Wales Bonner and Molly Goddard both being stocked under its hallowed roof.
Best for: Retro eyewear
General Eyewear is a far cry from Specsavers. The Camden showroom is a true insider’s secret that’s found on the speed dial of every major fashion mag and costume director in the land – Eddie Redmayne recently wore custom-made General specs for his Oscar-bothering turn as Stephen Hawking. The ‘70s and ‘80s frames on display hail from larger-than-life fashion houses like Versace, Moschino and Christian Lacroix, boasting a glamour and eccentricity that today’s mass market-courting designer specs often lack.
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: Umbrellas that are built to last
There’s one essential accessory for life in London, and it’s not a Burberry mac, a Mulberry tote or a corgi-print tea towel: it’s an umbrella. James Smith & Sons have been selling them from this charming New Oxford Street shop for over 150 years. The gilt front has remained unchanged, and the customer service is old school, too. As well as an array of ceremonial umbrellas, there are high-tech folding models and beautifully designed everyday styles. Just don’t leave your new purchase on the tube.
Best for: Living out American dreams
John Simons is an Ivy League institution for men’s fashion in London. Like the notes of a great jazz record, the pieces of vintage Americana you’ll find here have the appearance of being thrown together at random, but are in fact artfully placed: from Harrington jackets to button down shirts, knit ties to well-made chinos. Lots of shops now sell this look, but John Simons is the real deal – the one Miles Davis would approve of.
Venue says: “Did someone say prosecco and beer, live DJs, 20% off and a valentines cupcake with every purchase? Love yourself this Valentine's weekend!”
Best for: Covetable creps
Set in Deptford’s newly swish railway arches, Kickslove is a real labour of love from its sneakerhead owner Lisa Barlow. A much needed girls-only hangout spot, it comes complete with a sneaker literature corner – and a library’s worth of Sneaker Freaker back copies – plus glossy gilded floor designed by Deptford graffiti artist Insa. But it’s not just window dressing, crucially it carries an expertly picked selection of trainers and heaps of exclusives.
Best for: Classic cuts
A favourite haunt of the consciously-uncoupled Gwyneth Paltrow, this small-but-perfectly-formed Marylebone boutique is home to understated, incredibly wearable labels. Founders Kate Allden and Jane Ellis track down soon-to-be cult classics before they become so by sourcing more under the radar brands, and then fill the store with stylish yet timeless pieces and wardrobe classics. Its eponymous own-brand is predictably great.
Best for: Luxurious, understated basics
A cracking womenswear boutique by Phoebe Pring and her friend Lucy Olivier, furnishing the ladies of north London with flattering threads. You’ll find luxurious basics here: sweaters by catwalk designers like Kenzo, cool-but-comfy low-heeled boots by London label Beau Coops, track pants in slinky fabrics by LNA: school-gate chic and understated eveningwear.
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.
Our top ten shops in London
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Broadway Market Tooting
Not to be confused with east London's Broadway Market, this one has been firmly rooted in Tooting since 1936. There are more than 100 stalls touting food, drink, fresh produce, fashion, technology, homeware and more. You can also get your bike fixed at Pedal Back Cafe, have something altered or tailored at Sew Much More or get your nails done at Nail Art.