London - Shoppers Paradise

By: Anil Gupta

London is the shopping capital of the world. From the boutiques of Bond Street to the teeming Oxford Street fashion stores and vibrant street markets, there is something to suit even the most discerning of shoppers. Pick up the perfect gift from a luxury department store like Fortnum & Mason or wile away an afternoon in the world famous halls of Harrods.

Along with Paris and New York, London offers probably the best shopping experience of any city in the world. Indeed, visitors to the capital are often overwhelmed by the sheer range of goods available. The shoppers are spoilt for choice.

For major international and British Brands, London's main shopping areas tend to centre on Oxford Street and Regent Street, while Knightsbridge is home to stores stocking even more up market goods. Anyone looking for specialist items should head to Covent Garden, whilst those with serious money to spend gravitate towards New Bond Street (home to some of Britain's most exclusive shops). If one is after bargain electrical goods Tottenham Court Road is a must, while Hatton Garden is the place to go for watches and jewellery.

Shopping in London can be a transforming experience. It is a well known fact that Cary Grant was virtually "created" by a bespoke suit from Kilgour, French & Stanbury. Then there was that other fashion plate, the Duchess of Windsor who went for at-home style, she couldn't be beat, thanks in part to the soigne accessories she bought at Colefax & Fowler, still purveying the "country-house look" from its shop on Brook Street.

Today, London's stores continue to create icons and make styles as it is obvious from a visit to Harvey Nichols, shrine of the Absolutely Fabulous crowd. While one is seeking the cutting edge, one may notice that tradition shares the same shelf space. Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, and Harrods, for instance, stock suppliers for the royals, such as Cornelia James, glove maker to Her Majesty. If one has the urge to keep up with the Windsors, look for the by appointment royal coat of arms, which means that the emporium supplies Her Majesty the Queen, Prince Philip, or the Prince of Wales it can be checked through the small print and the insignia to find out which.

More-fashionable types prefer to check out the ever-expanding Browns of South Molton Street, although the surrounding small stores there and along quaint St. Christopher's Place are also worth a visit. The most ardent fashion conscious will shoot to Notting Hill, London's prime fashion location and scene of that movie.

London's emporiums have gifts in every price range. Head to Bond Street or Knightsbridge if one looking for the sort of thing one would find in every Rockefeller's Christmas stocking. For the bargain-hunters, try one of the street antiques fairs.

Apart from risk of bankrupting oneself, the only problem one will encounter is exhaustion, as London is a town of many far-flung shopping areas. The farthest is at Greenhithe, in the county of Kent the Europe's largest gift to shopaholics, the 240-acre Bluewater. The mega glass-and-steel pleasure by the water was designed by American architect Eric Kuhne and contains every up market, high-street, brand-name store, department store, and chain store any shopper could desire.

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