According to Webster’s Dictionary, a souvenir is a memento of a special place you have visited. Mass-produced or hand crafted, it’s carefully transported home by a traveler. I would add to that definition: something that tastes good, smells good, or makes you feel good.
During many visits to London, we have always returned with our bags a little heavier than when we embarked. We love to bring home a few reminders of our trip to share with friends and family, or to keep the “international flavors” of London alive in our home. We try to limit our browsing to stores not found in the States or other major cities around the globe.
Here is just a sampling of some of our favorite London shops arranged by neighborhood or street:
Harrod’s: Head straight to the food halls of this famous department store for an endless array of goodies. On the second floor, explore the small but well-stocked bookshop and gift shop for fun Harrod’s logo products like tea towels and totes.
Harvey Nichols: Wander through the main floor of this flagship store for a dizzying display of beauty and perfume products then venture upstairs to the extensive food hall and sushi bar.
Rococo Chocolates: This chocolatier offers uniquely flavored confections including Moroccan mint or chili pepper, dark chocolate. Lovely hand-painted chocolates come in comical shapes like cows, lobsters, and fish. My favorite—a mini carton of chocolate speckled hen’s eggs filled with salted caramel.
La Fromagerie: This country-style shop features a signature walk-in cheese room with an extensive variety of farmhouse cheeses. Fill your bag with homemade jams and chutneys, and hand-cured meats, or enjoy a hearty breakfast or lunch at their café.
Ortigia: An Italian company selling soaps and fragrances, beauty products and candles made from natural ingredients and olive oil sourced directly from Sicily, presented in handmade packaging that reflects the designs of the region.
Smythson: Although there is a store in Manhattan, I still enjoy visiting the Bond Street location of this British manufacturer that sells stationery and leather goods in a gorgeous array of saturated colors.
Burlington Arcade: Take a walk through this glass-covered, two-story shopping arcade that runs behind Bond Street from Piccadilly to Burlington Gardens. Follow your nose to Penhaligon’s for unique, made-in-England perfumes presented in signature Victorian-era designed glass bottles with distinctive ribbon-wrapped stoppers.
Hamleys: You will need some time to explore this seven-floor toy emporium, Britain’s oldest and largest. Pick up stuffed Paddington Bears, Harry Potter collectibles, Tower Bridge puzzles and more.
Liberty: Known for their world-renowned fabrics, this department store, housed in an iconic Tudor Revival Arts & Crafts-style building, is filled with beautiful home goods, accessories, and clothing in their signature prints.
Selfridges: This British department store is far from run of the mill. Always looking for ways to stand out, it recently opened the world’s first in-store cinema showing classic and new releases. Why not relax after a “hard day” of shopping?
PICCADILLY/ST. JAMES/PALL MALL
Cath Kidson: Known for its home furnishings, accessories, and clothing created from their witty novelty and vintage inspired prints. Especially love their London-themed collection—adorably illustrated with iconic city sites like red double decker buses, Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey.
Cool Britannia: Yes, its touristy and cheesy, but great fun. This is THE place for kitschy British souvenirs and novelty goods—from Beatles bobble heads to Union Jack boxers to red telephone booth salt and pepper pots.
Fortnum and Mason: This graceful 18th century department store is well known for its endless displays of loose-leaf teas, biscuits, chocolates, coffees, and preserves packed in their signature brightly hued tin containers—a feast for the eyes and the stomach!
Jermyn Street: Dating back to 1664, this little street tucked behind Piccadilly, lined with men’s tailors, shirt makers, and haberdashers, takes you back to a time when quality and craftsmanship was king.
Floris: British family perfumers since 1730, they offer a collection of perfumes, bath products, and home fragrances in their quaint, jewel-box like shop, still run by descendants of the founders.
Lillywhites: This large sporting goods retailer is the place to pick up jerseys and t-shirts emblazoned with the logo of your favorite footballers—Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool—that’s soccer to us Yanks.
Waterstones: Yes, this is a huge international bookseller, but their Piccadilly store is a great place to pick up travel books or children’s and young adults’ books you might not find at home. The top floor café makes a good pit stop to grab a snack (or use the facilities).
Farlows: This outpost for fly-fishing supplies was on my boys’ list. Wanting to stock up before heading out to Hampshire, they carefully perused row after row of flies, and thanked the patient salesman who placed a few complimentary samples in their tackle box upon check-out.
Markets: Check the local paper, your concierge, or Timeout magazine to find opening days and times of the city’s best markets like Portobello Road and Camden Market.
Museum Shops: Some of the BEST bookstores and gift shops are located in museums. My favorites include: the British Museum, Churchill War Rooms, Imperial War Museum, Royal Academy of Arts, National Portrait Gallery, and V&A Museum.
Supermarkets: For inexpensive food gifts, stop by Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, and Waitrose. All have rows of chocolates, condiments, chutneys and other delights. My son never leaves without some Cadbury dairy-milk chocolate and I always grab a few bottles of Belazu balsamic vinegar glaze.
Royal Collection Shops: For all you “Royal Watchers,” these shops, located at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, have a wide variety of quality-made products inspired by items in the Royal Collection, from fine bone china adorned with the Palace Coat of Arms to Victorian-style costume jewelry to stuffed corgis (the Queen’s top dog).
GETTING HUNGRY after all that shopping? Check out my recent article: 18 Favorite Places to Eat in London, also arranged by neighborhood. Cheers!
TRAVEL TRIP: Bookmark this article on your smartphone and take it with you on your next trip to London. And, combine your visit to the city with a weekend in the country — click here to see my recent article on Hampshire, England.
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