How to do Christmas shopping in London
If you have ever tried to walk the wrong way up Oxford Street on a Saturday in December you will know how hideous Christmas shopping in London can be. All the pushing and shoving, angry faces and annoying music, the panic and the crowds can make it a truly miserable and stressful experience.
I’ve always found this a strange and rather depressing way to accomplish your present shopping and instead feel that it should be as enjoyable to buy your gifts as it is to give them.
As an online store we of course hope that you will solve this problem by shopping with us from the comfort of your armchair, cutting out the tedium of the high street. But the reason we set up a store is that we love to shop too, and getting out there is part of making Christmas special.
I usually venture out two or maybe three times to get my shopping done and try to do this without having to walk too far as it can easily become tiring. To this end I head to a few particular parts of London where you can get a lot of shopping done in one go and feel like you have had a nice day out.
Often it’s nice to go with a friend, or your other half, to make an occasion of it and soak up some of the gorgeous Christmas lights and window displays and stop for a glass of champagne or decadent lunch along the way.
Here are my favourite places to head for.
LAMB'S CONDUIT STREET
This pretty, part-pedestrianised street in the heart of Bloomsbury is lined with elegant men’s clothing and shoe shops, including British brands such as Oliver Spencer, Folk and Grenson, There is even a small men’s outpost of J. Crew to add some transatlantic style to the mix. Whether you are looking for clothes, socks, scarves or lovely Haeckels scented goodies, you will be able to get everything here to give your man indoors a Christmas overhaul.
And if all the testosterone gets a bit much there is always beautiful Persephone Books to redress the balance. Persephone is a publisher and bookseller specialising in neglected fiction and non-fiction by mid-twentieth century women.
With it's Victorian snob screens and patronage by Charles Dickens, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, the 18th century The Lamb Inn is the perfect place to stop to rest your feet once you are done shopping.
Mayfair is by far my favourite part of London at Christmas. Elegant at the worst of times, it is utterly sublime at Christmas as all the high end stores go all out to impress you creating a visual and sensory treat.
Mayfair is great for those small luxury items such as stationery from Smythson, a handbag tassle from Anya Hindmarch or perhaps a keyring from Mulberry. In addition you are just a couple of streets away from Liberty which is excellent for stocking fillers and you’re also very near Claridges and The Connaught both of which are perfect for a cocktail once you've finished.
For a slice of genteel old world shopping, there is nowhere better than St James's. Here you will find some of the world's oldest shops and the areas seems to have delightfully resisted moving into the 21st century. It's particularly good for buying presents for older relatives with lovely scented things from Santa Maria Novella, excellent wine from Berry Bros & Rudd, shaving accoutrements from Geo. F Trumper, soaps, perfume and shaving brushes at Floris and edible goodies at Paxton & Whitfield. Not to mention sweet things in Fortnum & Mason and books from Hatchards.
FOR YOUR BEST FRIEND
Columbia Road is of course home to the world famous flower market. But it is also a street lined with an array of independent stores selling all manner of lovely things. On Wednesday evenings in December the shops on the street open late to allow you to indulge in some Christmas shopping. It's busy and buzzy but without the claustrophobia of the flower market when it is in full swing.
The Christmas shopping evenings are a wonderfully atmospheric experience with live music and food. When it comes to the gifts, head to Choosing Keeping for stationery, Nelly Duff for prints and A Portuguese Love Affair for, well Portuguese things. And afterwards, the whole of Shoreditch is your urban oyster for dinner.
As London’s larder, this is the only place you should be going to buy a present for the foodie in your life. Whether it’s a pretty tin of olive oil and Jamon Iberico from Brindisa, a tin of confit of duck from one of the French shops, incredible cheese from Neal's Yard or superb wines or a cake from Konditor & Cook, there's something for every taste bud. And it’s not just the market, there are also some lovely shops on Park Street including Aesop and a cute Paul Smith store which is great for little bits and bobs for filling stockings.
And it goes without saying there are plenty of places to have a delicious lunch once you are ready for a sit down (our favourite is Padella).
FOR EVERYONE ELSE
This might seem a bit of a random place to do your Christmas shopping given that it’s not actually in London, but the Daylesford farm shop in Gloucestershire is absolutely worth a trip. And forget the London satellite branches, you need to go to the mothership itself.
Daylesford is the poshest farm shop you will ever visit and now that it has expanded to become about three times its former size, it has a pretty comprehensive homewares store. You can buy pretty much anything from tableware to cookery books and sheepskin rugs all in those taupe-chic Daylesford aesthetic. The food shop is also brilliant for gifts and at the moment they have a really good Christmas shop selling decorations as well as tins of biscuits and the like.
The restaurant is always good and it makes for a rather lovely day out. I think it’s entirely possible to nail all your Christmas shopping here in one go, except perhaps for children. You can drive there of course but you can also get a train from Paddington to Kingham station from which the farm shop is just a 5 minute taxi ride.
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