Whether you’re a vintage lover, a trend-setter or you’re just looking for something quirky for your home, there’s a shop in London to loosen even the tightest of purse strings. Shopping for gifts or something for yourself? London’s 100 Best Shops should leave you satisfyingly bag-laden. But London’s shopping centres and malls are where retail therapy really gets serious. With all the convenience of the high street and none of the buses, tourists or chuggers; here are twelve we’d wholly recommend.
Venue says: “Beatbox now open! Pieminister pies and small batch coffee by day, music and events by night. Come down and have a drink and dance soon!”
Refitted shipping containers plonked artfully underneath the elevated Shoreditch High Street Overground station make up this contemporary shopping and street food mall, where you'll find a hub of thriving independent businesses. Pick up trendy garb from brands Evisu, Wandering Minds and Scandi-inspired fashion stores Swedish Hasbeens and Nordic Poetry plus unique jewelry from Astrid & Miyu. Among the food offerings, nothing beats Voodoo Ray's by-the-slice pizza, (always accompanied by a banging soundtrack), while Cook Daily's vegan bowls suit anyone on a health kick.
Just a short stroll from the bag-laden crowds of Oxford St is Kingly Court, a must-do for foodies and shopaholics. Spread over three levels, this cute complex boasts a funky mix of established chains, independents, and more than 20 restaurants and bars. The café-filled courtyard generates the most bustle, attracting custom to ground-level shops such as Vans and Lazy Oaf (colourful prints for both sexes). Here you’ll also find Cahoots, the 1940s themed cocktail bar and up on the top floor the Triyoga yoga studio.
Since it opened in 2012, St Martin’s Courtyard has ensured Covent Garden’s presence on the map of London’s worthy shopping destinations. Its neat, pedestrianised streets are lined with smart shops such as Jack Wills, Eileen Fisher, Cos and new additions & Other Stories and Swarovski. It’s also turned into a bit of a haven for post-shop, pre-theatre meals – Bill’s and modern Mexican Cantina Laredo are both decent options. There are regular events and festivals too, from yoga classes to open-air cinema.
Nestled elegantly between the Sloane Ranger haven that is Peter Jones and the handsome Saatchi gallery, Duke of York Square offers one of London’s chicest open-air shopping centre experiences. Here you can stock up on smart threads at one of Europe biggest Zara outlets, get lost in floral-patterned crockery at Cath Kidston or pick up beauty essentials at Liz Earle. Feeling like you need a beauty boost? Have your hair blow-dried at Kate Middleton’s favourite salon, Richard Ward, or head to the brilliant Taschen shop, where you’ll find a range of glossy art and photography books. In the summer, eating al fresco here, surrounded by a sea of Tod’s loafer-clad blondes, feels distinctly Chelsea.
Occupying 46 acres and covering nine different postcodes, Westfield London took the crown of Europe’s largest shopping centre when it opened in autumn 2008. It houses some 360 retailers, so don’t leave that shopping list at home or you could be in here a while. Expect to find popular labels such as Hollister and Ugg among the luxury fashion houses, including Louis Vuitton and Burberry. Soothe away any shopping-induced stress at one of the 50 food outlets, including branches of Balans, Square Pie and Wahaca.
The ‘city within a city’, Westfield’s £1.45 billion retail behemoth snakes through the Olympic site, with over 250 retail units – the cornerstones of which are gigantic versions of high street brands John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose, plus 80 restaurants, bars and cafés, a 17-screen digital cinema and All Star bowling lanes. While you will find the odd designer store – such as Mulberry – the core of the mall is flanked with high street giants including Primark, Topshop and Zara. A vast Victoria Secret’s shop is strategically located near to Hollister and Abercrombie and Fitch – all three of them are always packed with label-loving youngsters.
Just around the corner from St Paul’s Cathedral, this flash-looking shopping centre features a warren of high street retailers, office buildings and restaurants. It’s a great place to head for all the chain big hitters (H&M, Topshop, Reiss, All Saints, Office et al) without having to face the roaring crowds of Oxford Street. Plus up on the terrace, you’ll find yoga classes and film screenings during summer months plus rooftop staple Madison’s Restaurant and Bar. A few more upmarket outlets (Hugo Boss, LK Bennett, Hobbs), as well as Hershesons Blow Dry Bar and a Strip waxing salon complete the picture.
This underground shopping centre can be disorientating for out-of-towners but its 120 stores spread over five malls are conveniently placed for London’s slick city workers. Here designer labels such as Karen Millen and Ted Baker rub up against your usual high street stores including Topshop, River Island, and Superdry.
A tonne of trendy bars and restaurants, including the newly opened Danish baker Ole & Steen should keep the shopping-induced munchies at bay. Tapas at Iberica and sushi dishes at Roka are also worthy options. A three-screen Everyman Cinema occupies the site and there’s usually some intriguing public art floating about outside.
When it was opened in 1911 Whiteleys department store was considered the height of luxury. Today’s largely mainstream tenants are at odds with the refined Edwardian structure – its marble floors, huge glass atrium and impressive La Scala staircase mean the place sometimes gets used in film shoots (it features in both ‘Love Actually’ and ‘Closer’). The mainly mid-range high street shops include Zara, H&M and E&A Moda, and there’s also an eight-screen Odeon cinema and a branch of the upmarket bowling chain All Star Lanes.
When Brent Cross opened, in 1976, people didn’t believe the hype around shopping malls but over 40 years on and Britain’s first enclosed shopping centre is continuing to thrive, with plans underway for a massive £1.4 billion redevelopment. With its mix of trusty department stores (Fenwick, John Lewis and M&S), all the high street brands you could ever wish for (from H&M to Zara) and a few specialist shops in the mix including the Apple Store and Anthropologie, you can see why North Londoners are ever-loyal to this shopping centre (the free parking helps).