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Shopping in London

London is one of the world's great shopping cities. From designer jewels to thrifty vintage clothing to cutting-edge technology, it is all here in abundance. Central London’s packed high streets make for an exhilarating shopping experience, while a more leisurely browse can be found in quaint pockets such as Dulwich, Hampstead Village and Parsons Green.

Key areas

King's Road in Chelsea, SW1, has a long-standing reputation for fashion, as does Notting Hill in West London, while in the East, Shoreditch boasts cutting-edge boutiques and oodles of vintage. Oxford Street, W1, Regent Street, W1, and Kensington High Street, W8, brim with high street clothing, and Tottenham Court Road, WC1, is packed with electrical goods. Old and New Bond Streets, W1, are home to a high-end array of international designers, such as Prada and Gucci, with nearby Conduit Street sporting more off-the-wall designers, such as Vivienne Westwood. Covent Garden, WC2, is a charming hub of specialist shops and craft stalls, and Carnaby Street, W1, is awash with trendy purchases.  

Markets

In the East End, you’re never too far from a fantastic market, whether it’s the en mass bric-a-brac of Petticoat Lane, E1, the stylish clothing of Spitalfields, E1, the foodie heaven of Broadway Market, E8, Brick Lane’s assortment of trinkets, E1, or the wonderful Sunday flower market on Columbia Road, E2. In the north, there’s iconic and edgy Camden market, N1, and West London’s famous Portobello Road antiques fare, W10, is still going strong. London Bridge’s Borough Market, SE1, is renowned for global cuisine, and Brixton Market, SW9, sizzles up delicious Caribbean fare. 

Shopping centres

Oxford Street’s key department stores include Selfridges, Marks & Spencer and John Lewis. High-fashion Liberty is on Great Marlborough Street, W1, with hip Carnaby Street just behind. Harrods in Knightsbridge, SW1, is a huge tourist attraction, and Fortnum and Mason, W1, is good for British foodstuffs. Westfield London, in Shepherd's Bush, is a giant shopping mall filled with high street and designer brands. Sister mall Westfield Stratford City, Europe's largest urban shopping mall, recently opened by the Olympic Park in East London. 

Opening hours

 Shops in London are open Monday to Saturday 0930-1800, with some open until 2000. Many open Sunday 1200-1800. Late-night opening (usually until 2000) is on Thursday in the West End and Wednesday in Knightsbridge.

Souvenirs

Beside souvenir shops proffering a plethora of London Underground and Royal Family themed paraphernalia – some vaguely useful (London Tube Map tea towel) and some, well, not so much (William and Kate dolls, anyone?) there are some lovely souvenirs to be found. Museum and gallery shops are stocked with interesting purchases – the Tate Modern in particular has funky items spanning home wear, jewellery and artwork – and for luxurious British gifts, there’s distinguished department stores Fortnum & Mason and Harrods. 

Tax information

Most major shops in the West End are part of the Tax-Free Shopping scheme run by Global Refund (tel: 0800 829 373; www.globalrefund.com), which offers VAT (currently charged at 17.5%) refunds to visitors from outside the EU.

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The Soho Hotel

Rooms at this trendy hotel are sumptuously appointed in a modern, eclectic style, not forgetting flatscreen TVs, huge, ultra-comfortable beds, and sleek bathrooms kitted out in grey granite, glass and oak. Befitting a hotel nestled in the heart of London’s entertainment district, there is a swish private event space and two private screening rooms. Onsite restaurant Refuel has an attractive dinner menu, as well as serving afternoon tea and an extensive selection of breakfast dishes. 

The Dorchester

Sat beside Hyde Park, the glamorous Dorchester is a stately cavern of old-school British class. Dining includes high-end Asian restaurant China Tang and purveyors of modern British cuisine The Grill at The Dorchester, while the extensive spa in the basement is an exceptional pampering space. For all-out luxury, there’s the baroque and rococo Oliver Messel Suite, perched a-top the hotel, with a terrace offering prime views across the London rooftops. 

Point A Hotel Westminster

This no-frills Asian hotel chain in the heart of Westminster is a fantastic option for those seeking value for money in the capital. The concept is simple: by stripping out costly extras, such as room service or windows, you can enjoy staying in a clean room with an ensuite bathroom for very little money. If you want extras, such as towels, toiletries, an in-room safe or a window, you simply pay for them. There are four hotels in the capital but this one in the centre is excellent if you want to be close to heart of the action.

Pavilion Hotel

This fun 30-room hotel in London is a great value option for those wanting their London stay served with a funky twist. Each room has its own theme – including Chinese-themed room Enter the Dragon, 1970s infused chamber Honky Tonk Afro, and Moorish-inspired Casablanca Nights – and the hotel claims have housed many celebs and fashion photography shoots over the years. Paddington Station is but a few minutes’ walk away.

The Ritz

Since 1906, The Ritz has been providing exemplary service to its well-heeled guests. The interior of this elegant building is fastidiously decorated in Louis XVI style with marble columns, rich fabrics and antique furniture. The rooms are furnished in soothing pastel colours, and the chandelier-filled restaurant is offers classic glamour for formal meals, and the famous Ritz afternoon tea is served in the Palm Court at 1530 or 1700. 

The Savoy

A haunt of London’s moneyed elite since the late 1800s, London’s Savoy re-opened its grand doors in 2010 following a three-year overhaul. Costing around £220 million, the spangly improvements have been enticing high-profile clientele from across the world, with revamped areas including the lavish guest rooms, the American Bar, and the famous Savoy Grill, which is overseen by TV kitchen king Gordon Ramsey. One thing that’s not changed is the stunning view across the Thames.