London shopping can be a treasure hunter’s bonanza, though fluctuating exchange rates will determine just how inviting the prices actually are. The glitzy luxury designers line Bond Street—Gucci, Armani, Burberry and the like—and you’ll find less-exclusive chains on nearby Oxford Street and Regent’s Street. Around here also lie many all-encompassing department stores, such as Selfridges, selling a dreamily high-rent lifestyle from designer clothes to designer scents, the more homely and practical John Lewis and the art deco shopping emporium that is Liberty’s. Over in Knightsbridge, department stores Harrods and Harvey Nichols ratchet up the glitz still further, and are surrounded by more designer shops, like sublimely groomed limpets clinging to shimmering commercial whales. For one-off, individual boutiques, try Soho, the icing-sugar streets of Notting Hill or the artier, edgier areas around Brick Lane. But shopping in London cannot be fully enjoyed without exploring its markets. Each market lays out its own curious character in items, élan and individuality, and often produces precious finds and bargains you won’t get anywhere else.
There has been a market on this site since 1638, which was then a rural area outside London. It’s now a covered market close to the City of London and specializes in arts and crafts. Browse the kiosks and stalls, where you’ll always find unusual stuff to buy, from jewelry to hats and from art to ceramics. The market is open daily, but is especially busy on Sundays. There are regular events here, such as tea dances, plus art and photography exhibitions.
More Details onSpitalfields Market
The character-packed Notting Hill street of Portobello Road, its rows of houses painted in sweetie-bright colors, is home to one of London’s most famous street markets. Portobello Market is particularly renowned for its antiques and vintage items, and its jewelry and second-hand and funky handmade designer clothes. You can find bargains and sales at myriad stalls here on the weekend, but there are also plenty of fruit and vegetable stalls selling good-value fresh produce. The street is lined with a number of intriguing shops and boutiques to dip in and out of, too.
More Details onPortobello Market
For fast fashion at slinky prices, this is London’s major one-stop shop. It’s the somewhat overwhelming flagship store at the confluence of Oxford and Regent streets, and is a cacophonous, happening, vast place packed with a cornucopia of latest styles. Find lots of niche boutiques within the sprawling store, with regular lines designed by such names as Kate Moss, Christopher Kane and Celia Birtwell. Turnover of stock is huge, so you’re bound to find something new in here every week. Clientele ranges from teens to mums (frequently they’re there together).
More Details onTopshop
Created by Rei Kawakubo of Japanese fashion label Comme des Garçons, this multi-level temple of fashion feels more like an art gallery than a clothing store. The selection of clothes is impeccably honed, and each shop has a different theme and look. This is where you should shop if you want to create personal flair, look sartorially spectacular and signal your savviness to other fashion insiders. But you’ll need reasonably deep pockets and a very discerning eye against all the choice. Otherwise visit the gallery and dream.
More Details onDover Street Market
The glorious East End market of Brick Lane operates every Sunday and sells a variety of junk, cheap household items, vintage clothes, furniture and bits and bobs, antiques, handmade designer clothes, and used (if not possibly “pinched”) bikes. The street itself is lined by a colorful combination of curry houses, bagel shops and individual bars, cafes and boutiques, and the market is a great place to people-watch, with a clientele spanning old-timers, Bangladeshi locals and achingly cool art students.
More Details onBrick Lane Market