London boasts some of the best shops in the world and its famous shopping streets are second to none. Even in today’s world of convenient, online retail, the real-life sensory experience of London shopping is hard to beat.
What is the most iconic shop in London? Well, it has to be the prestigious department store in Knightsbridge, Harrods. But Selfridge’s, Liberty, Hamley’s and Fortnum & Mason would be close behind.
In this blog, we’re celebrating the lesser-known, specialist and independent shops that you’ll find across the capital. They’re the cool kids, the unusual ones, the niche and different shopping destinations. If you love places for their quirkiness, eccentricity and passion, we’ll guide you to the unique shops that will become your new favourites. Setting foot in these emporiums is a truly special experience.
Known as the Queen of Shops, retail guru Mary Portas turned her attention to charity shops and turned them into attractive and desirable places to shop. This one in Chiswick is like an arty boutique and you can find some amazing vintage clothing, accessories and even homewares.
Frock Me isn’t a shop, it’s a regular pop-up event in Kensington and Chelsea. It’s a firm fixture in any vintage clothing fan’s diary. The array of exhibitors is incredible – former costume designers, fashion designers or collectors of women’s and menswear by high end tailors and designers. Definitely worth a browse.
Need a new belt? You can’t go wrong at Village Leathers in Jubilee Market. Handcrafted in London, their leather goods are of the exceptional quality that you get from experienced craftspeople who take pride in their work. And if you’re a belt and braces kind of person, they’ve got you covered on all counts.
Based in London’s legal hub, Ede and Ravenscroft has been going since 1689. They specialise in legal robes and wigs, handmade wigs at that. You can hire or buy legal professional attire from this specialist shop on Chancery Lane.
Just off Grosvenor Square in Mayfair, there’s a huge yacht dealership. It houses Europe’s finest super yachts – jawdropping stuff. We stop for a gaze through the window on our Mayfair walk.
If yachts aren’t your thing, perhaps private jets may be. Well, we are in Mayfair. The Jet Business is the world’s first ever street-level corporate aviation showroom for private jet aircraft – now open on Park Lane. Imagine walking in-store to purchase your own private jet!
Horsey folk should trot on over to Riders and Squires in Kensington for all things equestrian. From polo players to show jumpers, the knowledgeable staff will help you to find your kit.
This dancewear shop has nearly 100 years of history in the West End of London. Founded by cobbler Frederick Freed in 1929, Freed dance shoes are still hand made in the UK. This Covent Garden gem is a treasure trove for dancers.
The London Chess Centre has all things chess as you’d expect, but you’ll also find a wide range of board games and bridge bits too. You can even book one-to-one chess lessons in-store too. If you were inspired by The Queen’s Gambit, this is the store for you.
Philately will get you everywhere in this wonderful home of stamp collecting. The staff have decades of experience and they’ll help you to further your collection or discover a rare find. There’s an auction space upstairs too. It’s a stamp collecting institution, just round the corner from The Savoy Hotel.
You can get refills of everything from washing up liquids to balsamic vinegar via every nut, grain and spice under the sun in this zero waste refill shop in Brixton. It’s the sustainable way to shop. Plus, Pipoca has a lovely cafe which has to be one of the best brunch spots on the planet.
In the heart of Soho, you’ll find the one and only Italian deli selling the best Italian produce. It’s been there since 1929. Our London Walks Guide, Claire has been shopping at I Camisa for the last 30 years and recommends “the most authentic focaccia sold outside of Italy”. Don’t just take her word for it, Stanley Tucci is a big fan too! We take you here on our Soho Saunter walk.
Lidgate’s is a marvellous family run butcher’s shop in Notting Hill. It sells organic meat at its absolute finest. London Walks Guide, Claire rates their sausages (the fennel ones) as the best in London – quite the claim. With five generations of experience behind the counter, you can trust the meat is high quality and expertly handled.
If you want to buy the book, the t-shirt and the limited edition print of your favourite comic book hero, head to Gosh! in Soho. It’s an absolute must-visit for graphic novel geeks. It’s all here, from Japanese animé to cult American superheroes. It’s by no means the only comic book shop in London, but it is a mighty good one.
This independent bookseller is a brilliant place for a browse. The beautiful architecture of the building is remarkable – and you can’t replicate that experience on Amazon. You’ll find authors in conversation and creative workshops here too. It’s a real pleasure to spend time pottering around here.
Beare’s is the probably the world’s most respected violin dealer. These team are craftspeople and experts in all things string instrument. Step inside their Central London store and you’ll feel their passion and knowledge for the violin, viola, cello and bow.
If you’re looking for an accordion shop, Lewisham is the place to go. Emilio Allodi will welcome you in store and help you to try out the various models for size to find the best fit and sound for you. It’s an appointment only system, but there’s no place like it.
Over in East London, International Magic is a family business, operating from the same address in Clerkenwell for over 60 years. They cater for everyone from budding magicians to stage professionals. They can help you to magic up a fun Christmas present or equip you for a full stage performance.
This store would be Mary Portas’ nightmare. It’s absolutely jammed with every electrical thing for lighting and audio you could ever need. Hire your amps, have your decks repaired, get all those little bits and pieces you can’t find anywhere else; all along with good service and friendly chat.
The premier taxidermy shop in England, if not the UK, can be found in Islington. This family run business has been here for four decades, but taxidermy has been the family trade for a lot longer than that. You can have your dead pet stuffed or made into a rug, keeping them as a permanent fixture in your home.
London’s oldest and most established herbalist shop is a sight to behold and dates back to 1844. With its wooden floors, high old-fashioned counters and shelves piled high with herbs, oils and ointments, you’ll feel the nostalgic atmosphere of the original store. But you’ll find all your modern day vitamins, supplements and wellness remedies at reasonable prices.
The Great British cigar merchant is a distinct and elegant looking store. As it’s exempt from the smoking ban, you can puff on your purchased goods in their sampling lounge. With a huge range of cigars, limited editions and other tobacco products, it’s the place to get a gift for a certain someone who’d appreciate it.
Is there anything more British than an umbrella shop? And this one is an absolute joy to visit. The Victorian store is straight out of a Dickens’ novel. Where else could you buy hidden gems like a root knob walking stick, a handmade sun shade or a raw Oxhorn sailor’s mug? It makes shopping a pure delight.
At the world famous Portobello Road street market on Saturdays, you’ll find Sisters Antiques opposite the Crown Arcade. What’s their speciality? Military and marine binoculars. We told you it’s all about the unusual. If you’re into military memorabilia, bird-watching or even objets d’art, you’ll find it all here. During the week, you can make an appointment at their King’s Road venue.
If all that walking around London’s shopping destinations has left you a little weary, head to Weyron. Sit yourself down in their high tech massage chairs and relax. Feel yourself unwind as your muscles get kneaded. This is what shopping in actual shops is all about – touching, seeing, experiencing, discussing and even smelling the stuff on offer. It’s a sensory experience that can’t be replicated online.
And finally, the best areas of London to visit for a retail quirkiness factor (and a darn good potter) would be: