One of the pleasures of coming to London has to be a visit to the shops. Across the city there are numerous shopping areas, all with their own feel, types of shops and price range.
West End and Oxford Street
Often seen as the most popular area for shopping, Oxford Street, which runs from Tottenham Court Road Station, through Oxford Circus and Bond Street to Marble Arch is certainly packed with shops. A complete list is here. However, despite the crowds, endless stream of buses and busy stores, there are two shops worth mentioning here.
John Lewis – a British Tradition which operates as a Partnership with profits being returned to the staff rather than the shareholders. The prices are average to good, but the range and service are why you go there. Everything from a very expensive television, though to a yard of wool are available here. Worth popping in to explore and staying for coffee and cake.
Selfridges – again a well established store that has been transformed in recent years. However, here you will find designer brands – everything from a Vertu smartphone (£13,900), to their own brand of English Horseradish (£3.99), you can always find a gift for those hard to buy for. Personally I am neither hip or young enough to really enjoy shopping here.
Also worth a visit is Fortnum & Mason‘s on Piccadilly – grocer to The Queen. A wide range of food items here – including loose teas, wonderful jams and spreads as well as chocolates. They do have a wonderful range of items for newly born’s – A teddy bear that comes in its own hamper (£125) and a box to store baby’s first tooth (£70) in pink or blue. There is a branch at St. Pancras station now.
Close by Fortnum’s is the Burlington Arcade – seen in many films made in London and full of small, specialist shops many of which have been there for a number of years.
All of the smart shops around Knightsbridge tube station are dwarfed by Harrods. Now under new ownership, and I am told ‘de-blinged’, it is a short walk from the Museums at South Kensington that I mentioned in an earlier post. There are small stores at most of the Terminals at Heathrow, but if you see something you want but it here, the range at the airport is very small. This rather lovely handbag is available here. Lots of branded items can make gifts for people you want to know you shopped in the swanky shop in London.
At the more modest end of stores here is Harvey Nichols (or Harvey Nicks as it is known). Made famous by the TV series Absolutely Fabulous (Ab-Fab), pop in, have tea on the top floor and marvel at the cost of things! But they are lovely.
Sloane Square and the King’s Road
At the Sloane Square station of the King’s Road is located a branch of John Lewis, Peter Jones. Also the Royal Court Theatre, adjacent to the Tube station. There a huge range of shops along the King’s Road and you can visit their web site here.
Located close to Liverpool Street Station this area has recently undergone a transformation. Lots of restaurants, and nice boutique type shops are here. Details on the web site.
A word about Sales Tax in the UK – properly named VAT – Value Added Tax.
Prices in shops include 20% sales tax, or VAT. Unlike the US the price on the tag is the price you pay. However, if you live outside the European Union (EU) and leave the UK to somewhere outside the EU, you can reclaim the VAT paid on goods that you take with you. The UK Tax authorities publish this guide to help explain how to do this. There are restrictions on what goods can have the VAT reclaimed, and the following are not allowed:
- new or used cars
- a boat you plan to sail to a destination outside the EU
- goods worth more than £600 exported for business purposes
- goods to be exported as freight
- goods that need an export licence – except antiques
- unmounted gemstones
- bullion over 125g, 2.75 troy ounces or ten Tolas
- mail order goods, including Internet sales
- goods used or partly used in the EU, such as perfume
- service charges, such as hotel expenses
So enjoy shopping in London, and try the different areas as you can find small and special shops all over London.
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