Unique Shopping Experiences in London

These days if you visit almost any town or city you will find the streets and malls lined with much the same brands that you can find anywhere else. The dominance of big name labels has led to a homogenised shopping experience that differs little wherever you are on the planet. Independent retailers and curiosity shops have largely been squeezed out and so there are few places to shop which are truly unique. Happily London does have some fabulous and totally unique shopping destinations that you really must experience when you visit the capital.



Fortnum and Mason


Situated in Piccadilly close to the Ritz Hotel, Fortnum and Mason is a British institution with 300 years of history behind it. The organisation was founded in 1705 by shop owner Hugh Mason and footman to Queen Ann, William Fortnum. The shop opened during a period when international trade was starting to boom with an exciting array of new exotic goods becoming available. Fortnum and Mason became the place to buy the newest produce including the teas and spices emerging from India. For 300 years this establishment has sold the best in quality produce and was responsible for introducing the baked bean to the UK!


As soon as you enter the shop floor you know you are somewhere special. The ground floor of the building is full of wonderful preserves, chocolates, pastries, teas, coffees and biscuits. You can feel your waistline bulging just walking around! The basement offers fresh delicacies like cold meats, fish, caviar, truffle oils and fine pastas together with a fabulous selection of fine wines and Champagnes to excite your taste buds. The upper floors are dedicated to the renowned hamper service and a wide array of beauty products and accessories for men and women including leather handbags, Eberjey lingerie and silk scarves.


You could easily spend a whole day exploring Fortnum and Mason particularly if you linger to enjoy one of the restaurants and bars. Afternoon tea is a particular delight, but be warned nothing at Fortnum and Mason comes cheap!


Pettycoat Lane


If you enjoy the hustle and bustle of busy city streets and the excitement of diverse cultures then Pettycoat Lane is the place for you. This London market began in the 17th century as a place to sell second hand clothes and various other items and got its name both from the sale of undergarments on the streets and the local joke that "they would steal your petticoat at one end of the market and sell it back to you at the other". The road itself was renamed Middlesex Street in the 19th century due to the Victorian aversion to anything saucy but the area is known as Pettycoat Lane to this day.


These days the market is a vibrant area to grab clothing bargains with cheap imports, last year’s designer surplus and leather goods vying for your attention. There are a variety of other products on offer too and on Sundays, when the market is open from 9am to 3pm, you will find over 1000 stalls to explore. The market is also open weekdays in Wentworth Street but is on a much smaller scale. Pettycoat Lane is in the east of the city, close to Liverpool Street Station and for the tourist keen on the history of London, the market is close to some of the Jack the Ripper murder sites and Spitalfields Market.


Portobello Road


The Portobello road is situated in the Notting Hill district of West London and is an iconic centre of antique trading. The area is actually several markets in one offering fruit and veg, bread, meat, cheese, fish, clothing and second hand goods. Although open every day except Sundays, the antique section, for which the area is famous, is only open on Saturdays and has the largest selection of antiques in Britain. The market sprang up in Victorian times as vendors took advantage of the trade to be had from the wealthy residents of the elegant properties which had been built in Notting Hill and nearby Paddington. In the 20th century “rag and bone” men started to set up stalls to sell the second hand goods they had collected. These were (and in some places still are) people who made house clearances and conducted regular rounds collecting unwanted goods from householders. The stalls they established were the beginnings of the antique market which is now famous across the world.



London is a great destination for shopping. You will find all of your favourite brands across the city and Oxford Street, Regent Street and Covent Garden are all excellent places to walk around and indulge in some retail therapy. The best places, however, are the ones unique to this great city and if you don’t have time to see everything London has to offer, you should head for ones these iconic destinations.