I don't profess to be good at many things, but one thing I can do properly is shop, which is why I love London so much. I don't 'know' London as well as a lot of people but I can certainly find my way around when I get there. I've been going at least once a year since I was about 4 as my Auntie used to live there and my love for the place has just grown with the years. I know London is quite daunting, and it still is to me so I thought I'd do a post about how to make the most out of a trip there. Generally tourists make a weekend out of it, I know I'll usually go Friday night and stay until Sunday night or possibly Monday morning depending on the price of hotels and train tickets. In order to do more than one or two shopping areas I would say you need two full days in London. I'm going to use this post to give you some tips on things like what to take, where to go, etc.
Before you Go
- Train tickets and hotels can be the most expensive part of your trip, I highly recommend starting to look for your train tickets 3 months in advance, and your hotel even earlier if you can plan that far ahead. If you THINK it's a good deal, it probably is as long as you're using reputable websites like Lastminute or Laterooms. I tend to use the Trainline for my train tickets as I know it's a reliable service and they check all the different train companies to find you the best deal. I live in Yorkshire and if I book far enough in advance I can get a return ticket for £20, give or take.
- Save Save Save! Obviously you want to have as much money as possible to splurge with in London so cut the unnecessary purchases and have a little think of what you might like to buy when you get there. Obviously you also need to allow for food and any tourist attractions you might want to look at while you're there.
What to take
- Comfortable shoes are an absolute must! I know in an ideal world we'd like to walk around in some beautiful heels all day without them hurting your feet but the bottom line is, your feet will probably feel like they're gonna fall off even with flats never mind heels!
- A lightweight jacket or coat is a good idea I think, I prefer to layer up rather than wear a massive coat because I get wayyy too hot going in and out of shops and I really resent the idea of carrying a coat around all day (last time I went to London in December I took a huge coat and almost threw it away in a bin down Oxford Street, it was that bad haha)
- An appropriate bag, one that you can carry around with ease all day. Everyone has their own preference but I like cross body bags; I have a horrible habit of leaving things lying around unless they're practically glued to me so having a bag that is across me means that I don't have to worry so much.
- An Oyster card is totally optional but I find it saves a lot of hassle if you plan to travel a lot on buses or on the tube as you literally load it up (£20 was more than sufficient for 2.5 days of travelling for me) and scan it every time you enter and leave a tube station, and it charges you accordingly.
Where to shop
When I go to London I like to try and shop in places that I can't find in my locality (us Yorkshire folk are a bit deprived when it comes to shops). For me, the main shopping areas in London are Knightsbridge, Covent Garden, Bond Street, Regent Street and of course Oxford Street. Obviously there are other areas but those are the 5 I prefer to shop in. If you are travelling by tube, I think you are better to have one day doing Knightsbridge and Covent Garden and another day doing Regent Street, Bond Street and Oxford Street as the two groups are on the same tube line meaning you don't have to mess around as much changing tube trains.
Knightsbridge (Picadilly Line)
Home of the one and only Harrods, Knightsbridge is one of the more upmarket areas of London, but for me in terms of shops there's only really 2 that I'm always desperate to pay a visit to which are obviously Harrods and Harvey Nichols. Harvey Nichols Beauty Mart is somewhere I haven't been yet but I'm really desperate to go, it's such an exciting concept, so many beauty brands in a really different and unique setting. If you haven't heard of it, basically I think there's like showcase pieces eg. some of British Beauty Blogger's make up was displayed for a while and there's lots of things to try out without being approached by pushy sales people.
Harrods beauty hall is also a must, it has pretty much every high end make up counter you could think of as well as a gorgeous food hall with all kinds of food you could possibly want... then there's my favourite on the fifth floor; pet kingdom. If I had it, I could spend some serious money in there, they have all sorts of stuff for your dog, cat etc. and they even have their own little pamper parlour! If I don't leave London with a Harrod's bag I haven't finished my shopping; that's the way I think of it! I still don't own a Harrod's bear so I need to buy one next time I go.
Covent Garden (Picadilly Line)
If you like quirky little boutique style shops then Covent Garden is the place for you, I love the little shops but I also like the markets; East Collonade Market is open every day of the week selling hand-made goods, Jubilee Market is open Tuesday - Friday selling clothing and household goods and Saturday/Sunday is arts and Crafts. I'm desperate to visit a Covent Garden market next time I go to London, even if it's just for a look.
Bond Street (Central Line)
Another high end street, where you'll find the likes of Victoria's Secret (one of only 2 in the country!), Mulberry and Chanel. Definitely the place for a bit of indulgent shopping if your budget allows for it, and if not then Victoria's Secret is worth a look even if it's just to admire the beautiful lingerie.
Regent Street (Central Line, Oxford Circus)
Home of Hamley's, the Apple store and Swarovski, to name but a few, this is just off Oxford Street so not out of the way as a little detour along the way. No matter how old you are Hamley's is a must, just to take you back to those days when toy shops were totally magical! In between Regent Street and Oxford street (near the London Palladium), you'll find Liberty London which is a gorgeous department store, the design reminds me somewhat of something out of the Shakespearian era (google it and you'll see what I mean). More of a high end Department Store, Liberty London stocks brands such as Diptyque, Perricone MD, Hourglass and Eve Lom... an absolute must if you're a beauty addict like me.
Oxford Street (Central Line, Marble Arch or Oxford Circus)
This has to be one of the best streets in the world for high street shopping, along with many other flagship stores, there's the biggest Primark you ever did see up at Marble Arch and Selfridges with one of the most beautiful department store fronts. You definitely need at least half a day if not more just to look properly down Oxford Street. Forever 21 is one of only three stores in the UK so that's definitely somewhere you need to check out; very reasonably priced and the choice is amazing!
If you're not already absolutely tired out by the days of shopping you have, then you'll be looking for something to do with your time on a night. I don't have any desire to go 'clubbing' in London because it can get very expensive and at the end of the day, I can do it at home! However, there are plenty of things which are quite unique to London like the Ice Bar which is essentially a bar made entirely of ice (stating the obvious, I know), it's £12.50 Sunday - Friday if booked in advance or £16 on Saturdays, for that you get a 40 minute time slot to spend in the Ice Bar, use of a cape and gloves for that time and a free drink served in your very own ice glass, here's a photo of me and my friend when we went in December... definitely something I'm glad I experienced!
Alternatively, you could go and see a show (either a matinee showing or a night time showing), you can get some really good theatre deals on the latest shows... I'm absolutely dying to see Viva Forever but I think no matter what you go and see you'll have an amazing time, I've not seen one bad show yet and I've been to a fair few which I didn't think I would enjoy. If you have never seen a show in the West End, I really urge you to go and see at least one, you won't regret it!
So there we are... there's my little guide to a shopping trip in London! Is there anything I've missed out that you think should DEFINITELY be a part of a shopping trip to London (doesn't matter whether its a shopping district, a tourist attraction or a night time activity).
This post was put together to also act as a competition entry for the VisitBritain Shop Blogger Competition to win a £500 cash prize. Details of how to enter can be found on the Visit Britain Shop website.