With more than 300 shops on Oxford Street alone, London is certainly a place where you can splash the cash on a shopping spree to end all shopping sprees.
But I’m not here to tell you about Topshop flagship stores and other big commercial chains, or point you to the nearest Westfield shopping centre. For in my six years living in London I’ve come across plenty of rather more quirky and interesting stores that are just as much destinations for the casual browser as they are practical outlets for the shopper on a mission.
In no particular order, here are my favourite places in London to enjoy the surroundings while you part with your hard earned dosh.
The Whisky Exchange, Covent Garden
Arguably the most attractive shop in London, the Whisky Exchange’s beautifully lit bottles packed floor-to-ceiling draw in passers-by like moths to a flame. For the whisky connoisseur, the date-order collection of Macallan’s stretching back decades had me drooling, but it’s not all about single malt here. Unusual gins, vodkas, rums and Tequilas from around the world line up alongside artisanal Champagnes – it’s an imbiber’s nirvana. Even though I knew what I wanted before I arrived, I still spent 20 minutes here just soaking it all up (not literally unfortunately).
Scandinavian Kitchen, Fitzrovia
A honorary Dane thanks to my wife’s Viking heritage, I’ve spent many a happy moment at Scandinavian Kitchen in Fitzrovia getting excited about what herring is in the fridge and stocking up on remoulade (a kind of mayonnaise – it’s supposed to go with fish, but I love it with chips). Part grocery shop, part cafe, it’s also a fine place to stop for a beer and a traditional Nordic open sandwich in the company of lots of happy, friendly Scandies.
Algerian Coffee Stores, Soho
Nowhere in London do your olfactory glands get quite the same workout as at Algerian Coffee Stores in bustling Soho. With a history stretching back to 1887, these guys know their beans and they do a pretty mean selection of loose leaf teas too, all packed in to a tiny space on Old Compton Street. Stock up for your home coffee machine with some freshly ground coffee from Costa Rica or grab a full-strength espresso shot on the go to help you cope with the Soho crowds.
Stanfords, Covent Garden
Another London shop with a long history (1901 to be precise), Stanfords book shop near Covent Garden is the place to go if you’re planning a trip. Boasting the world’s largest stock of maps and travel books under one roof, you can truly loose yourself in this library of globetrotting inspiration – so much so, I often forget what I’ve actually gone in there to buy. And not to mention go home with an expensive future holiday itinerary in mind.
What are your favourite shopping gems in London? Let us know in the comments below.