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Photo: David Clack

The best London streets where you can Shop Small this Christmas

Keen to end up on everyone’s ‘nice’ list? Head for these shopping streets for inspiration, unique pressies and a fortifying side of Christmas cheer

By Time Out in association with American Express
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It’s the most wonderful time of the year – feel-good films on the telly, mulled drinks on tap and a whole month of festive cheer to look forward to. Of course, in amongst all that, there’s the Christmas shopping to do, but don’t fret, because there’s a way to make sure everyone gets brilliant pressies and have yourself a lovely time rounding them up.

London is home to some of the best communities of small, independent shops in the world, so if you’re not getting out there and making use of them, quite frankly, you’re missing out.

Every year, through Shop Small, American Express proudly backs the wonderful small businesses in London and across the country. From dinky antiques shops to cosy neighbourhood cafés, they’ve helped shine a light on all manner of operations that may be small in size, but are big on charm.

Save when you shop

Launching on Small Business Saturday (December 1), Shop Small is back for 2018. With the Shop Small offer, American Express Cardmembers just need to spend £10 or more at a participating outlet to receive a £5 statement credit. The offer runs December 1–16, the offer can be redeemed once per location but there’s no limit to how many outlets you can redeem it at. So get shopping, and keep an eye out for the Shop Small window stickers when you're out and about! Terms apply.*

Here’s our pick of the best smaller shopping streets where you can get involved.

Photo: David Clack

Best for food and drink: Broadway Market

This buzzy corridor connecting Regents Canal to London Fields is lined with shops selling everything a modern Londoner’s heart could desire. Aside from the odd little boutique selling vintage threads, the big draw is the comestibles, particularly the fresh goods from the street’s own butcher and fishmonger. And if you’re wondering whether it’s okay to give someone a lump of brisket as a Christmas prez, the answer is, of course, yes.

When to go: The road closes to traffic and fills with street traders – peddling everything from hot sausage rolls and luxe doughnuts to fresh meat and veg – between 9am and 5pm every Saturday. Personal space gets limited around lunchtime, but the buzz of people and dogs shuffling through the soup of beautiful smells is totally worth it.

Don’t miss: Indie bookshop Artwords is great for quirky reads and off-beat magazines, no-nonsense butcher Hill & Szrok has the centrepiece for your Sunday lunch and Noble Fine Liquor has the perfect natural wines to match.

Perfect pit stop: If you can snag a table, La Bouche – a cosy café serving soups, Scandi-style salads, toasties and more – is ideal. After you’ve had lunch, make sure you check out the produce-packed shelves in the in-house deli; a great place to bag some tasty stocking-fillers.

Photo: David Clack

Best for homeware: Marylebone High Street

It’s a stone’s throw from the bustle of Oxford Street, but this quieter, quainter stretch of shops, pubs and cafés has a very different vibe. For those with an eye for fine furnishings, the street’s plush homeware and cookware flagships make it a destination in its own right. And with a bevy of great pubs in the mix, you can pick up some new pans and decide what to cook for dinner over a pint.

When to go: If you like the idea of mixing with the locals, and if your schedule allows, go for mid-week and keep your eyes peeled for famous faces. As an added bonus, this also boosts your chances of bagging a table at some of the street’s beautiful restaurants, which can get a bit packed at weekends.

Don’t miss: Start at Skandium – stockist of all the chic mid-century furniture you need to make your home look like an episode of ‘The Bridge’ – before nipping into Diptyque for a sniff of some high-end candles, Emma Bridgewater for pretty bespoke mugs and Kusmi Tea for some loose-leaf delights to put in them.

Perfect pit stop: As you might expect from the name, La Fromagerie, just off the high street on Moxon Street, is big on cheese. Toasties and oozy raclette aside, though, there’s plenty more to tempt, including a brunch menu at weekends and a strong cocktail list.

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Photo: David Clack

Best for antiques: Camden Passage

Running parallel to the southern end of Upper Street, this car-free alley is a haven of cute cafés and what must surely be the highest concentration of antiques shops outside of west London. This low-key Islington enclave is bolstered by a selection of outdoor market stalls that roll in every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

When to go: When the market traders are out (see above), if trinkets and curios are your bag. Be warned, though, that few of the antiques shops keep to regular hours, so check individual opening times in advance if you’re planning a proper rummage.

Don’t miss: Where you hit up really depends on what you’re after, as each shop caters to a particular niche. Kevin Page Oriental Art is the place for porcelain vases (keep those elbows in!), while Piers Rankin houses more silverware than a pirate’s treasure chest. After something more contemporary? Browse through modern fashion brands at Victoria Beau.

Perfect pit stop: Austrian cuisine is big on heartiness and comfort, making Viennese café Kipferl the ideal place to take shelter on a chilly day. Go for sausage with sauerkraut and pickles if you’re looking to sustain a proper shopping sesh, or something from the pastry selection for a quick pick-me-up.

Photo: David Clack

Best for small fashion bands: Newburgh Quarter

Carnaby Street has a reputation for keeping Londoners stylish (not to mention stunning Christmas lights), but few know about the cluster of tiny shopping streets hidden beside it. So, once you’ve got a snap of the festive twinklies, duck off down Foubert’s Place and explore the miniature village of stylish brands. Not only is the pace far gentler here, but the shops are smaller and more intimate – ideal conditions for focusing on the task at hand.

When to go: For a quieter shopping trip, try mid-afternoon on a weekday. You’re spoilt for choice with nearby pubs and restaurants, too, so plenty of options for those who get carried away and shop right into the evening.

Don’t miss: With its on-trend frames and sub-designer prices, specs shop Cubitts on Marshall Street has made an outstanding contribution to sprucing up Londoners’ faces. A few doors down, Drop Dead Clothing specialises in out-there designs and unusual collabs.

Perfect pit stop: Duck into the appropriately named Antidote on Newburgh Street for some respite from the cold. If you’re up for a fancy meal, the modern French menu has you very much covered, or grab a table in the window, summon some wine and cheese and watch the shoppers do their thing.

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Photo: David Clack

Best for cafés: Bermondsey Street

Between two world-class culture spots (the White Cube Gallery and the Fashion and Textile Museum), scores of places to sink a flat white and some brilliantly unique shops, there’s enough happening on bustling Bermondsey Street to swallow a whole day. And if you’re worried about running out of fuel, don’t be, as in amongst you’ll also find some of London’s very best restaurants, from fine-dining to grab-and-go delis. The old Victorian shopfronts, which hark back to the time when the area was a leather-making hotspot, add to the snuggly Dickensian vibe.

When to go: Purely for the buzz of the extra people – which is exciting, without being overwhelming – make it a Saturday. Turn up mid-morning for a hearty breakfast (sources of which are plentiful) and you’ll beat the majority of the crowds.

Don’t miss: If you’re planning a caffeine crawl, Bermondsey Yard Café, Chapter 72 and Black Swan Yard Coffee should all be on your list. The latter shares a premises with Fully Charged – a shop catering to the city’s growing interest in electric bikes.

Perfect pit stop: The traditional, pocket-sized B Street Deli has all lunchtime inclinations covered, with everything from soups, sandwiches and salads to cheese boards, charcuterie and even pie and mash squeezed onto its lengthy menu. The seating area is only small, but the pretty Leathermarket Gardens around the corner serve as a good overspill.

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