When you imagine your trip to London, you may be thinking in terms of the Tower, Big Ben, Buckingham Place, and the hallowed stones of Westminster Abbey. Hardly a street in London is without historical significance and a monument or two.
London, however, has for centuries been one of the world’s great mercantile centers, and remains so today. No trip to London would be complete without a day exploring its legendary shopping opportunities. Here are just a few of them:
Harrods is undoubtedly the best-known of all London’s department stores, and the one most appealing to tourists. Its seven floors contain over a million square feet of retail space, and is so large that shoppers are advised to pick up a Shopper’s Guide at any of its information booths. Don’t miss the Food Halls on the ground and lower ground floors, where you can purchase all sorts of delicacies from clerks garbed in Edwardian dress.
If you’re touched by the story of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed, you might appreciate the memorial to them by the Egyptian Escalator. If you have the kids in tow, ride the Escalator to the fourth floor, where you can find the toy department and child-sized Mercedes automobiles which actually run. Finish your day with a proper English High Tea at the fourth-floor Georgian restaurant, where you can munch pastries and finger sandwiches to music played on the world’s costliest piano.
It may not be Harrods, but Harvey Nichols was once the favorite retail establishment of Princess Diana, and it has prices to match. It’s still frequented by well-heeled Londoners, and its fifth floor contains a four-star restaurant, a gourmet grocery shop, and a fresh sushi bar. If the weather permits, do as Londoners do and order sushi to go for a lunch in nearby Hyde Park.
The Portobello Road Market
If you’re a flea market lover, don’t miss two thousand-stall Portobello Road Market where you can find everything from the freshest of produce to the mustiest of antiques, separated by stalls of books, apparel, and assorted rummage sale regulars. Saturday is the day when antiques take center stage. The market is closed on Sunday.
If you’ve brought the kids along on your visit to London, they deserve a trip to Hamleys in Piccadilly Circus. Hamleys is not only London’s, but Great Britain’s, largest toy store. Its staff of two hundred is in charge of more than 28,000 toys spread over seven floors. Kids of all ages will love the idea of having their very own Teddy Bear created on the premises as a “skin” they choose is filled and stitched together before their eyes at The Bear Factory.
Waterstones and New Age Mysteries
When you’ve exhausted the possibilities at Hamleys, escape from the bustle of Piccadilly Circus by heading for the quiet of Waterstones. Waterstones, on Piccadilly Street, is the largest bookstore in all of Europe with seven well-organized floors of volumes on every conceivable topic. The fifth floor has sits own bar where you can relax with a drink while enjoying your purchases or the knock-out views of Big Ben and the Houses of parliament.
If your taste in literature runs to the occult, head for Covent Garden and New Age Mysteries at 9 Monmouth Street. You’ll find plenty of reading material. If you’d like a glimpse of the future, you can arrange an appointment for a personal numerology, tarot, or crystal ball reading.