If you're looking to get your mitts on lots of stuff without traipsing all over the city, simply stop into one of London's best department stores. With a huge variety of gifts, homewares, food and fashion on offer, your wildest retail fantasies can come true. But where to head first? For a bit of help deciding, take a look at our pick of the best department stores in London.
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The best department stores in London
Its charming mock-Tudor storefront is a London landmark, and Liberty’s constant ability to impress shows no sign of abating. It’s a genuinely atmospheric place to shop, thanks to its beautiful interior – balconies, dark wood panelling and some seriously glamorous lifts. You’ll be happy just wandering around and soaking it all in, but in terms of goodies, there’s something here for every budget. The brilliant ground-floor beauty and perfume halls (not to mention the mouthwatering chocolate emporium, strategically placed at the Carnaby Street entrance) are always a treat.
DSM is London’s coolest concept store, hands down. The brainchild of Comme des Garcons founder Rei Kawakubo, the shop gives featured brands their own dedicated spaces, specially designed to reflect their offering – making it as much art gallery as shop. DSM moved to Haymarket in 2016, to a bigger, more majestic location in the former Burberry building. If you’re tired from ogling its groundbreaking interiors (that have a reshuffle twice a year) and labels like Molly Goddard, Maison Margiela and all 14 Comme brands, sit down with tea and cake at the brilliant Rose Bakery on the top floor.
Without doubt London’s most innovative department store (if not the planet’s), Selfridges is often first to stock products from fashion’s bright new things. This vast space has its finger on the pulse in so many other ways too – whether it’s championing designers that use sustainable fabrics (check out its Material World initiative for 2017) or teaming up with clean eating gurus Hemsley & Hemsley for an exclusive in-store café. The latest significant addition to the shop is the fifth-floor, 37,000-square-foot Body Studio, a temple of top-notch activewear that aims to kit out people of all shapes and sizes.
The buying team at Browns are magicians, with an uncanny ability to pull the most interesting, talking-point pieces of a designer’s collection out of the bag. Though much of the luxury mens and womenswear offering in this South Molton Street flagship veers towards the high end, with prices in the thousands, you’ll also find a considered edit of more affordable brands, including Ganni, Our Legacy and Converse. Browns was bought by Farfetch in 2015, who aim to bring more technological innovation to its offering – we look forward to seeing what’s to come.
It may not be young or hip, but that’s kind of exactly what we love about John Lewis. It’s brilliantly gimmick-free, and focuses on just doing what it does really well – combining a high quality, broad-reaching product range (that encompasses everything from electronics to bath towels to childrenswear) with fair pricing (they’re ‘never knowingly undersold’, dontcha know). But what really sets John Lewis apart is the customer service – staff are patient, genuinely knowledgeable about the product, and oh so polite. We, and our nans, approve.
Fenwick can always be relied upon to supply a calming browsing experience – we’re sure its zen interiors, made out largely in creams, whites and polished marble, takes the inevitable department store shopping stress down a notch. The downstairs beauty hall, featuring a Blink Brow Bar, Nails Inc and Radio London Salon, is a great place to get pampered – you can even pop in pre-work, as it’s now open from 8am Monday to Friday.
The term ‘foodie’ may be horrible clichéd now, but that’s exactly who Fortnum & Mason was made for. It even looks somewhat like a lavishly decorated cake from the outside. Inside, within the building’s lovingly restored Georgian interiors, you’ll find every gastronomic treat you could wish for, from luxurious hampers to fine wines, preserves and its famous teas (which you can enjoy in afternoon form in-store). Beautiful packaging comes as standard, too.
Opulent, outrageous and OTT in equal measure, Harrods makes no bones about the fact that it’s a playground for the flashy – and a five-acre playground at that. While some 60 percent of its customers are supposedly from within the uber wealthy ‘tiara triangle’ of Kensington and Knightsbridge that surrounds the store, it does still lure the crowds for its varied fashion offering, and its championing of British designers.
Part of an esteemed UK chain, Harvey Nicks is a one-stop shop for luxury fashion and lifestyle goodies. Though it may have been in its Knightsbridge pad since 1831, it stays true to its ethos of bringing new and innovative products to a wider audience. Makeup junkies should head to the graceful ground floor beauty space, where you can pick up established brands like Charlotte Tilbury and Shu Uemura, or try something new with Beauty Bites – a lovely series of mini cosmetics, featuring up-and-coming brands. The store also boasts a swish new jewellery and accessories hall.
As well as a strong hoard of women’s and men’s beauty products, HoF stocks a varied range of fashion labels, including some of their own ‘House Brands’ – Label Lab Life has some great activewear pieces. If you’re looking to spruce up your pad, House of Fraser’s homewares department is also well worth a look in (it has a brilliant selection of cocktail paraphernalia in particular).
Find more retail inspiration
We've 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.
Mad World Fancy Dress and Costume Hire
This vast dungeon (well, it's in a basement) of a fancy dress store offers a stellar personal service. Staff will help you navigate some 35,000 costumes, from a sleek ant to a fuzzy Orvill duck, and then assist in piecing together a unique outfit for sale or hire. Mad World is a great stop for period costumes, character fancy dress (they have everyone from Ron Burgandy to Rainbow's Bungle) and seasonal events such as halloween. Their get-ups are so on point that TV and movie production companies use them, too. They also stock balloons and costume accessories, such as wigs, swords and more, and there's another Mad World store in Charing Cross.