12 quirky shops

Tired of trawling through Westfield, Oxford Street and the myriad other shopping destinations which just offer the same thing over and over again?

London Focus

With a gift from one of these places you’re guaranteed to make an impression, good or bad…

Blade Rubber
This shop stocks stamps of all sizes and designs, as well as all the materials you could possibly need to make your own greetings cards. There are books on scrapbooking and other crafts, stencils, different types of paper and card, inks… the list goes on. For an even more personal touch you can get stamps made to order with your own motif, and if you’re serious about stamping you can go along to one of their classes to learn more.

We get it, you’re so over the vintage/retro/kitsch trend, and so are we. But what about gumball machines, Jelly Belly Beans and butterscotch candy canes? That’s what Cyber Candy stock, and they have branches in Camden, Covent Garden and Islington. As well as old favourites like Hersheys bars and Cadburys chocolates they have up-to-date confectionery like “Tru Blood” orange soda and lollipops stuffed with crickets. That should be enough to please adventurous sweet-loving palates, but for even wackier tastes they sell bacon frosting and spicy cinnamon toothpicks.

Flower Station
It looks like a petrol station but it’s actually a florist. To be precise, it’s London’s only drive-through florist, for those times when you need to pick up a bouquet in a hurry. They also do funeral wreaths, wedding bouquets, and gift sets that include chocolate boxes and balloons.

The Moomin Shop
Those adorable Finnish cartoon characters are enjoying a revival, as they’ve been popping up everywhere from furniture shop Skandium to the menu at the Hawksmoor (well, they serve Jansson’s Temptation, a dish of potato and anchovies baked in cream named after the author). It’s little wonder that they now have their very own shop in the Covent Garden Market Building, which stocks toys, books, prints and kitchen gadgets.
\n\nThe Chess & Bridge Shop
This Baker Street shop specialises in luxury board games, such as mahogany chess boards and chess pieces made from ebony. For the tech enthusiast there is chess software to play along on the computer, and other games like Scrabble and Backgammon are also sold.

Algerian Coffee Stores
If you love the smell of coffee you’ll enjoy stepping into this store on Old Compton Street, as the fragrance of the many varieties of bean they sell fills the air. But they don’t just sell coffee, you’ll also find Vietnamese artichoke tea (an acquired taste we agree, but you’ll love it if you’re a fan of artichokes), South American yerba mate, and a wide selection of Japanese and Chinese teas. For a quick fix they also do coffees to go.

Word on the Water
This bookshop has a great selection of second-hand books, but what really sets it apart is that it’s located on a barge that’s constantly on the move. Ok, so it doesn’t stray that far along the Regent’s Canal, but it does float between north London and Hackney. Check their twitter page to find out where they are: @wordonthewater

Bates the Hatter
Step back in time at this hatter’s shop, on what used to be the premier street for the discerning gentleman, Jermyn Street. If you’ve ever wondered what to buy for the man who has everything the solution may well be the Sinatra Trilby, or the Fedora Panama for balmier weather.
\n\nThe Kite Store
Because there are plenty of windy days in England, a kite can easily be put to good use. This was the first dedicated kite shop to open in Europe, and the owners pride themselves on selling materials for kite-making, DVDs and books as well as kites for all levels of expertise. Looking for a wetsuit to go kite surfing in? They’ll have it. Want to buy a model hot air balloon or a rocket for a loved one? No problem. If it’s got anything to do with flying through the skies, this shop will have it.

Atlantis Bookshop
This is not any old bookshop (although it has existed since 1922) as it’s devoted exclusively to the occult. From witchcraft to feng shui, numerology to divination, all the supernatural sciences and more are covered here, and books like Witches’ Beverages and Brews and How to be a Ghost Hunter make great presents.

Vyktor Wynd’s Little Shop of Horrors
Part museum part shop, if you are fascinated by the more morbid side of life you’ll delight in the shrunken heads, surgical tools and skeletons on display here. Surprise someone with a unique gift like a stuffed two-headed bat, or even better, a stuffed (and rather shocked-looking) dog giving birth to a piglet.

Spymaster have been supplying governments and corporations with spying equipment for 20 years.
This shop has everything from drug testing kits and bugging devices to miniature video cameras and document scanners. For the amateur and professional spy, or just the very paranoid.

Previous Feature

Were you aware that London has two mayors?

Next Feature

Read about the history of one of London's most famous districts.