From Harrods, arguably the most famous store in the world, to trusted British classic John Lewis, there’s no better way to kick off your holiday shopping in the capital city than with a visit to one of London‘s large all-in-one stores. Here are our favorites, plus insider information on the one ‘must-buy’ item from each establishment that you shouldn’t go home without.
One of the world’s most famous stores, Harrods attracts more than 15 million visitors a year. They come not just for its cutting edge ladies and menswear departments, sprawling shoe salon and decadent food hall, but also for the classic luxury the store exudes. The stunning Egyptian escalator, which opened in 1997 at a cost of nearly $50 million, evokes the grandeur of ancient Egypt with its ornate reliefs, columns and ceiling decorations. If that wasn’t enough, the store’s other moving stairway is about to undergo refurbishment this fall; it will reopen in November with the addition of a chandelier from famous American glass sculptor Dale Chihuly that will hang in the first floor entrance hall.
Bring home item: Harrods ‘Signature Shopper’ (£17.95; US $28.86). You can’t go wrong with this stylish shopping bag outfitted with the store’s famous logo on a racing green background.
Anyone who caught the recent TV drama, Mr. Selfridge (available in the states on PBS) will be aware of the glamorous London department store that American-born retail magnate Harry Gordon Selfridge founded in 1909. More than a century later, the Oxford Street-located Selfridges is still going strong, a fashion mecca that continues to push the boundaries of the all-in-one shopping experience by setting records. In summer 2013, the world’s largest denim department opened at the store, and Selfridges also holds the title for the world’s largest shoe department measuring in at 35,000 square feet. Every Christmas, the staff at Selfridges creates playful, themed window displays which showcase a range of items, from food to fashion and hosiery to housewares, that become a must-see during your holiday shopping experience.
Bring home item: I.T leather biker jacket by 5CM (£570; US $916.56). This Hong Kong streetwear brand is exclusive to the store, making Selfridges the first to sell the products outside of China.
This grand Piccadilly establishment has been London’s foodie paradise for more than 300 years, having been founded back in 1707. The store has also served as a Royal Warrant Holder (a firm officially recognized as a favorite of the British royal family) since 1955, so you know that when you shop here you’re getting the royal stamp of approval. Fortnum’s is most famous for its tea — there are more than 100 blends available — but you’ll find wine, confectionary, decadent hampers (including the store’s classic wicker hamper) and even groceries, too. In addition to its excellent food and drink offering, there’s the Cookshop on the first floor with items such as aprons and china, as well as accessories for men and women on the second and third floors. No trip to Fortnum & Mason would be complete without a meal at the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon on the fourth floor, which was formerly the popular St. James Restaurant before being renamed and reopened in 2012 with the help of Queen Elizabeth, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge.
Bring home item: Fortnum’s loose leaf tea (£9.25; US $14.98). Tea is the must-purchase item here, especially with Fortnum’s impressive variety, all of which come in decorative tins.
Oscar Wilde called Liberty “the chosen resort of the artistic shopper” and it’s hard to argue with the famous writer’s description of the Regent Street store. What began with fabric, ornaments and works of art in 1875 has grown to include womenswear and menswear, a beauty hall, toy shop, accessories, jewelry and housewares, but the spirit remains the same. Walk through the iconic mock-Tudor building (built using timber from two Royal Navy battleships) and you’ll notice that items are displayed in such a way that you feel like you’re discovering them on a stroll through a beautifully designed home, while even the wood-paneled back staircase is a work of glorious craftsmanship. The store is currently promoting two collaborations with well-known brands, offering a limited edition Insolite candle from Diptyque and the Nike x Liberty SneakerBoot collection.
Bring home item: Blue Lodden and Morris print silk scarf (£95; US $151.94). The store has been known for its printed silks since the very beginning, making a classic scarf a wise purchase for the stylish shopper.
There may be John Lewis stores all over the country, but the Oxford Street flagship was the one that began it all in 1864, originally selling ribbons and haberdashery. Less grand than the other stores we’ve highlighted here, John Lewis is known for its outstanding customer service, reliability and its unusual ‘partnership’ business model: with no shareholders, all 70,000 permanent members of staff are partners in the firm and receive dividends at the end of each year. But that’s not to say that the store is all business and doesn’t have a luxury side, too — you’ll find all the big fashion, lifestyle and beauty brands such as Mulberry and Ted Baker among the racks. The offerings here really run the gamut, showcasing everything from beauty (get a touch up at eyebrow bar Blink or relax in the Elemis Spa Pod massage chair) to the store’s popular housewares selection selling V V Rouleaux trimmings (metallic braids, tassel fringes) and interesting wallpapers from Georgia Horton or Erica Wakerly.
Bring home item: House by John Lewis rib stich throw (£40; US $63.98). This cozy cable knit blanket is simple and elegant, and will be sure to keep you snug all winter long.
Photos Courtesy of Andrew Meredith, Harrods, Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason