Christmas is a time for giving, and shopping for those gifts should be a memorable and fun experience, not a chore to be endured. This itinerary combines some of the best places in London to shop as well as lovely places to stop for a bite to eat to recuperate and make this a day to remember .
Portobello Road Market
If you are in search of quirky antiques then a visit to Portobello Road Market is a must as it is officially the worlds largest antique market. There are over 1000 dealers selling every kind of object imaginable so it is a great destination for finding unique items that will make lovely gifts. Saturday is the best day to go as that is when the street performers also arrive and join in, and the most antique dealers are there, however the market is open every day except Sunday (with limited opening on Thursday) and it is well worth the trip west. It is advisable to get there nice and early to avoid the crowds and to bag the best bargains.
Floris of London
Floris is the oldest English retailer of toiletries and accessories and second oldest in the world! It holds 13 royal warrants for its services to the Royal Family since 1730, its perfume customers included Sir Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, and it is currently purchased by the likes of the Queen today. The original premises on 89 Jermyn Street are still the main hub of the business and continue to be run by Juan and Elizabeth Floris’ descendents. Pick up an elegant fragrance for a loved one, a scented candle for a friend or if you have a particularly grand budget then book in for the bespoke perfume design package and work with a florist expert to create your very own fragrance.
The Fountain at Fortnum & Masons
The Fountain in Fortnum & Masons is a lovely place to stop for a bite to eat; this deluxe brasserie offers everything from a healthy breakfast to indulgent British classics. It does an excellent Lunch menu with all the dishes using ingredients that are sold in their historic food halls (more on that later). There is a set menu option in which you can have 2 courses for £22 and if you are feeling particularly peckish, 3 courses for £26, or there is the a la carte option which features Glenarm beef fillet and potato dauphinoise. The decor is high-class glamour, much like the stores famed clientele who can often be spotted at Ascot or the Henley Regatta with one of the F&M wicker hamper baskets filled with their posh picnics.
Fortnum & Masons
Fortnum & Masons has been a staple in Piccadilly since 1707 and it is a vintage that has only got better with age. It is a beautiful store to visit all year round and pick up quintessentially British delights in the world-famous food hall. They are suppliers to the Queen and Price Charles and sell exclusive ranges that use high quality ingredients and materials. The store is split over five levels and sells everything from stationary and flowers to caviar and chocolate. Prices do vary but you do not need to spend a lot of money to get a great gift, the biscuits come in traditional tins that are really lovely and can be re-used so as to simultaneously save the planet and brighten up the cupboard – perfect!
Twinings’ Tea Shop
In 1706 Thomas Twining opened his infamous tea house in the Strand and it is still there today, selling some of the best tea in Britain. As well as selling a huge variety of tea blends, there is also a Pick’n Mix where you can choose your own envelope tea bags and compartment box, as well as a loose tea bar where you can sample any of the blends in the shop. If you want a quick education in British tea and how to serve it then this is the place for you, to test the flavours out and find your blend. The sets make great gifts too and are a wonderful alternative to socks!
Since the medieval times, Hatton Garden has been the epicentre of the London jewellery scene. This small area has an international reputation for having the finest diamonds, premium pieces and most experienced craftspeople in the country. Whether you are after antique, contemporary, classic or futuristic styles, one of the 55 shops will be able to find you the perfect present for the jewellery or watch enthusiast in your life. There are establishments to suit every budget, so go and get chatting to the experts in the shops that take your fancy.
Atlantis Art Materials
Atlantis is one of the finest art shops in London and one of the city’s best-kept secrets. You really have to be in the know to find this place as it is hidden on level 1 inside the inconspicuous Britannia House at the bottom of Hanbury Street. Atlantis is a huge warehouse-like space filled with quality art materials at reasonable prices that cater for a diverse range of different activities. If you are looking for a gift for someone who likes to paint, draw or enjoys craft-based fun then you are sure to find some amazing presents in here. There are sets suitable for children as well as pieces that are meant for professional artists, everything is well labelled and the descriptions for each product are clear so you will know exactly what you are purchasing. Keep your eyes open as you may just spot a rather famous face – many of the famous artists working in London shop here for the materials to make their masterpieces.
Old Spitafields Market
Every tourist has heard of Old Spitalfields Market, but not everyone knows that on Thursdays there is an antique market, not as noisy as the one on Sundays, but a lot more content. That's where you go to find kitchenware, furniture and other interior details, which are appreciated by true collectors. My weakness is the vintage accessories and costumes jewelry, especially I love Mappin and Webb snake skin bags, and Exquisite flower brooches. On Commercial Street, right across the street from the market, there's a branch of a famous restaurant St. John. St. John Bread and Winewine store and bakery is an ideal place for breakfast after strolling through the market.
More London Christmas market
If a little kitsch Christmas embellishment is needed in your home or about your person then the More London Christmas market is where you need to head. Situated next to Tower Bridge, the settling is perfect for a cheesy bit of shopping to pick up those items that will only come out once a year but that can remind you of this day and many other happy memories that Christmas brings with it. There will be festive entertainment in the form of choirs, hot mulled wine to sip on, mince pies to sample and 36 stallholders to choose from. Enjoy looking over the Thames at the Christmas lights everywhere and getting into the yuletide spirit.
Magdalen near Tower Bridge is a restaurant highly praised by critics and locals alike. On the menu is a mixture of British and French cuisine with a focus on vibrant flavours, hearty ingredients and the mastering of classic dishes. The selection is small and seasonal with an extensive wine list. Sharing is more than encouraged so if you are in the mood then why not split the braised venison and suet crust pie, which is specially made for two people. Just make sure you go for separate deserts, as the chocolate pot with cherries is too good to give away. Magdalen offers a set lunch menu as well as a feasting option, which is well worth looking into if extending your pallet is your game.