Where to shop

If you want to shop - then you've come to one of the best cities in the world! Here’s our irreverent guide to London’s main retail centres old and new.

The UK’s economic climate may not be at its best, but that hasn’t stopped a plethora of new shopping centres from opening up in the capital. Here’s our irreverent guide to London’s main retail centres old and new.

Whiteleys
As the oldest shopping centre in London, you’d think Whiteleys would be passé, especially since courtyards are the new gleaming retail districts (see St. Martin’s Courtyard below). But it’s had a confidence boost thanks to its Odeon cinema, or more accurately thanks to The Lounge, a new eatery with menus devised by Rowley Leigh of Le Café Anglais fame. The possibility of chowing down on steak sliders, goat’s cheese on hazelnut toast and comforting desserts while watching movies has attracted new custom.
Shop here if: You’re after the basics, as there are branches of Zara, Gap and Muji; or you have a tendency to get peckish at the movies.

Westfield Shepherds Bush and Stratford City
The Australian group’s first London project was in Shepherds Bush, and the colossal mall (Europe’s largest at the time), was the talking point of both small businesses on Uxbridge Road who feared for their future, and BBC employees who hoped for somewhere new to go for lunch. Opening in late 2008 was a masterstroke, as despite the recession it encouraged potential Christmas shoppers to pay a visit and part with their cash. The second, even bigger Westfield opened in Stratford in 2011, neatly tying in with the area’s revamp in time for the Olympics. High street shops, a designer village and food chains make up the outlets at both centres. The group is now in talks to develop a third mall in Croydon.
Shop here if: You like Americanised shopping malls and the idea of having as many shops as possible under one roof.

St. Martin’s Courtyard
Tucked away in a courtyard between Covent Garden and Leicester Square lies this new amalgamation of upmarket shops, where you’ll find Massimo Dutti, Jaeger and The White Company among others. Was this really necessary given that branches of Massimo Dutti and Jaeger exist not far away, on Long Acre and Regent Street respectively? At least the restaurants offer something new, particularly Bombay café Dishoom and Thai eatery Suda.
Shop here if: You want to tell everyone where you’ve been shopping, as this one is not yet a household name. Seven Dials
Although the rebranding of this area as “Seven Dials” happened very recently, it’s not actually a new idea. The seven streets that make up this area were established as a destination as far back as the 18th century. During the Victorian era it fell into disarray, but now it’s returned and includes hotels, theatres, shops and restaurants, notably Hawksmoor Seven Dials.
Shop here if: See St. Martin’s Courtyard, but in this case because it’s trendy.

Redchurch Street
Redchurch Street is the epicentre of Shoreditch fashion and pretentious coffee shops. On the plus side there are independently-owned boutiques, on the downside even the second-hand (sorry, “vintage”) shops are expensive. 11 Boundary has women’s designer gear and Hostem caters to male fashionistas, illustrating that the area’s shabby past was, for some at least, a million years ago. Great fun for finding out that for somewhere so cutting edge prescription specs are still in vogue.
Shop here if: Being considered “cool” is important to you.

Oxford Street
London’s main shopping street is a source of irritation to many; it’s constantly crowded and impossible to get through in a hurry. Oxford Street is high street heaven, with slightly more upmarket stores the closer you get to Marble Arch. It’s also home to Selfridges, and the rather less fancy Debenhams, John Lewis and House of Fraser department stores. There is next to nothing in terms of eating and drinking except McDonald’s.
Shop here if: You’re from out of town, the January sales on, or you enjoy walking very slowly behind crowds of people. Marylebone High Street
It’s quaint and villagey, especially in the run-up to Christmas when the street lighting provides a festive antidote to the madness on Oxford Street. Shops on Marylebone High Street are expensive (Gerard Darel, Diptyque) if more restrained than ostentatious Sloane Street, much like the people who populate this high street, who are clearly wealthy, but don’t flaunt it. There are also several restaurants worthy of a visit like Providores and Orrery, and The Natural Kitchen deli boasts mouth-watering products.
Shop here if: You fancy spending an hour window shopping, as this is a very attractive street. Alternatively, you’re loaded.

Sloane Street
Extending all the way from Knightsbridge to Sloane Square, Sloane Street this is where you should be driven to if you’re in the mood for a little Prada or Chanel. The same goes for Knightsbridge, where Harvey Nicks and Harrods are located, although the latter is more of a tourist attraction than a department store.
Shop here if: You’re mega-loaded.

Notting Hill
Notting Hill has a bit of everything, from designer shops on Ledbury Road to less exclusive stores the closer you get to Notting Hill station, meanwhile Portobello Road is usually heaving with tourists on a Saturday due to the antiques market. As such there is a strange mix of supermodel types, yuppies and Americans gawping at the stuccoed houses.
Shop here if: You’re after a quirky vintage find, whether it’s clothes or antiques, or designer gear.

Canary Wharf Shopping Centre
Over 100,000 people work in Canary Wharf, so the Canary Wharf Shopping Centre is a necessity. Labyrinthine to the casual visitor, there are essential shops like Boots, Clinton Cards and supermarkets (Waitrose and Tesco) as well as Bang & Olufsen, and Tiffany & Co. The mall itself feels sterile, with unflattering lighting (like the kind you find in public toilets that shows up every imperfection) and the army of suits doesn’t help this image.
Shop here if: You live or work in the area. The mix of high street and designer is comparable to Westfield’s, but on a far smaller scale.

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