Heading to the capital for a short break in the run up to Christmas can be a great way to squeeze in a spot of sightseeing along with your Christmas shopping, but with millions of visitors descending on the city with the same agenda your weekend away can easily turn into a chaotic wrestle through the bustling streets, with vital hours draining away in the queue for the tills.
While the iconic department stores such as Harrods and Selfridges look the part over the festive period and offer a huge variety of potential gifts, there are loads of other shopping gems a bit more off the beaten track that are a great alternative to the tourist-ridden hives. I’ve chosen some of my favourite ‘hidden gems’ for Christmas shopping in London and suggested whose gifts you’ll be able to find while you’re there.
While Borough Market in Southwark is renowned amongst Londoners as being one of the best food markets in the city, it might not be the first place that comes to mind when planning where to do your Christmas shopping on a short break in London. However, if you happen to have a bonafide food lover on your ‘to-buy-for’ list, then a visit to this bustling market is a must. The market features a myriad of unique stalls selling a range of top British and international produce, and is the ideal spot for picking up a jar of festive chutney, speciality oils, weird and wonderful flavoured cheeses or a one-off bottle of booze that your foodie friend will love. In the run up to Christmas the market will open every day from Thursday 13th December until Christmas Eve.
Borough Market, 8 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1TL
For culture vultures…
As well as hosting a range of changing exhibitions and the home of over 4 million design objects, the Victoria and Albert Museum has a fantastic shop at its heart. Selling an exclusive range of jewellery, furniture, textiles, toys, ceramics, fashion, design, glass ware and accessories the V&A Shop is the perfect shopping destination for those hard to buy for culture vultures who always seem to be ‘in the know’ about the latest design trends for whom high-street gifts just won’t do. There is also a dedicated bookshop within the museum that stocks an exceptional collection of volumes on design topics from iPhone photography to samurai swords.
The Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL
Hiding in Notting Hill is one of the most exciting independent boutiques in London. Petite, eclectic and effortlessly cool, The Village Bicycle is an Aladdin’s cave full of goodies that even your most fashionable friends will covet. With a stairwell decorated with neon crucifixes and shoes displayed like devotional relics at an altar, the store’s eccentric interior reflects the array of products on sale. Stocking some of the hottest brands in women’s fashion including Ashish, Evil Twin, Sass and Bide and Mark Fast, this vibrant store won’t disappoint in its offering of stand-out pieces, eye-wateringly high heels, unique jewellery and quirky gifts.
The Village Bicycle,79-81 Ledbury Road, London,W11 2AG
For little ones…
Voted The Best Independent Children’s Shop in Britain 2012 by The Telegraph, KIDSEN in north-west London is a Scandinavian haven of gift ideas to liven up a little one’s bedroom or wardrobe. The crisp white interior of this unique store really sets off the vibrant and colourful range of products on offer, from wooden toys and Swedish nursery furniture to beautifully designed children’s clothes from some of the top brands in Scandinavia.
KIDSEN, 111 Chamberlayne Road, London, NW10 3NS
For someone special…
If you’re looking for a special and indulgent treat for a loved one then heading to Cocomaya near Kensington Gardens is a must. The brand’s luxury chocolate boutique and artisan bakery sit right next to each other, so visiting the store on a weekend shopping break is a treat in itself. The store promises to be ‘one of London’s most beautiful and inspiring spaces in which to enjoy afternoon tea and some of the finest chocolates, cakes and breads available in the capital.’ All of Cocomaya’s luxury creations, from elegant chocolate shards, to jewelled chocolates and flavoured ganache bites are made using only the best quality South American cacao beans, meaning they taste as beautiful as they look.
Cocomaya, 3 Porchester Place, London, W2 2BS
What hidden shopping gems in London do you recommend over the festive period? Will you give any of these stores a try?