Every year, millions visit the UK capital from all over the world, of course, and one of their primary motivations for doing so is the extraordinarily comprehensive shopping experience London offers. From high-street stores to boutique fashion outlets and bustling food- and fashion-based open-air markets to enormous indoor US-style shopping malls, this is a city that has it all; no question.
And yet, that’s to say nothing of all its department store options. Few of them, let’s be honest, need an introduction, such globally renowned destinations are they, yet if you’re looking to come to the capital for a short-break then it’s as well to be reminded that frequenting one or two of them will undoubtedly enrich your London experience – not least as it may ensure you come away with one or two choice souvenirs…
Possibly the best-known department store on the planet, this most luxurious of luxury retail establishments, believe it or not, grew from very humble beginnings – as a single-room grocer, founded as it was by Charles Henry Harrod in 1849 – to a department store serving some of the capital’s wealthiest inhabitants just three decades later. Today, Harrods is worth a staggering £1.5 billion – or at least that’s what it was sold for by the notorious Mohammed Al Fayed in 2010 – and is particularly noted, not just for its sophisticated resplendence, but also its astonishing food hall, in which you’ll find exotic delicacies from every corner of the globe. Hardly surprising perhaps, given Harrods’ proud motto is ‘Omnia omnibus ubique’ (‘All things for all people, everywhere’).
Unmistakeable thanks to its neo-Tudor black-and-white-beamed façade, this institution of the capital’s retail firmament also dates back to the Victorian age, when its founder, Arthur Lasenby Liberty, sought to establish something that resembled an ‘Eastern bazaar’ from which Londoners might purchase exotic and immediately fashionable clothes and homeware. To that end, the Liberty of today definitely remains faithful to his vision; only, its eclectic collection of gloriously beautiful garments, furniture and objets d’art now pull in visitors from all over the world in their droves.
Fortnum and Mason
Officially grocers to HM The Queen herself, this place is, in fact, a glamorous four-storey department store to be found in the heart of Piccadilly, ensuring then it’s just a hop, skip and a jump away for visitors to the capital who’ve made their base a Kensington London hotel, such as the Park Grand London Kensington. It’s famed for its glorious hampers packed full of delicious delights and its delicate, beautiful china dinner services. It also lays claim to being the site where the Scotch Egg was invented, way back in 1738.
Finally, no list of London’s greatest departments stores would be complete without reference to the jewel in Oxford Street’s crown that’s the supreme Selfridges. Its background has actually been the subject of a recent British TV drama, being that the place was founded by a Chicago-born retailer in the Edwardian age of the early 20th Century. Selfridges has, of course, grown to become one of the first words in retail sophistication across the world – having been voted its best department store no less than three times. All in all then, it may just offer London’s truly ultimate shopping experience.