The must-see department stores in London!

What are the best department stores to visit in London? When it comes to shopping, London offers plenty of interesting options, and many tourists travel to the English capital to treat themselves in the shops. From retail outlets to markets and major chains, travellers visiting London are spoilt for choice. But which department stores’ should they choose? Harrods and Liberty? Or a lesser-known shop? To help you prepare for your afternoon’s shopping, here are the department stores in London that are well worth a visit.

The Liberty

Let’s start with one of the city’s best-known department stores: Liberty! The Liberty Department Store is located on Great Marlborough Street in West London. Since it opened in 1875, this department stores’ has been regarded as one of the best places to buy luxury goods. Liberty was founded by English merchant Sir Arthur Lasenby Liberty, who originally sold only handicrafts from the Far East. Customers came in droves. In 1884 and 1885 respectively, a fashion department was opened, as well as the Eastern Bazaar, devoted to carpets and furniture. The department store’s international reputation grew from the 1890s onwards, mainly due to the interest shown in Art Nouveau and artistic silk printing at the time. In the 1920s, the building was extended and renovated in the Tudor style. The range offered by the shop is colossal: all the well-known luxury manufacturers are represented by countless items, some of which are even exclusively available at Liberty. Home furnishings in particular make up a large part of the range. And since 1988, a branch has even been open in Japan.

Fortnum & Mason

The Fortnum & Mason department stores‘ on Piccadilly Street is a house of tradition and history. It was founded in 1707 by William Fortnum, who originally worked as a servant to the royal family. To earn more money, he decided to collect the charred remains of candles and sell them. With the proceeds, Fortnum and his friend Hugh Mason were able to open a food shop, which later specialised in culinary specialities. It was here that famous specialities such as scotch eggs and baked beans were first sold. Today, the shop specialises in luxury items such as the famous hampers, picnic baskets filled according to the customer’s wishes. The architecture and interior design alone are worth a visit: a white marble staircase leads to the different floors, each with its own individual style. The products on offer are presented with great refinement on individual tables. Incidentally, Fortnum & Mason regularly supply the Royal Family with choice food, and the Queen herself even drops in from time to time.

Westfield Stratford and Westfield Shepherd’s Bush shopping centres

If you want to spend a day shopping, take a trip to Westfield Shepherd’s Bush. Admittedly, this is a shopping centre, not a department store. But as it’s the biggest in the city and offers some great shopping opportunities, I’d like to introduce you to it anyway. London’s largest shopping mall contains over 300 shops, 50 restaurants and a large cinema. Opened in 2008, this gigantic shopping centre covers an area of 150,000 m² and is spread over several floors. The most expensive shops are located on a separate floor called The Village.

Another option is Westfield Stratford City, near the Olympic Park in east London. Opened in 2011, this modern shopping centre is one of the largest in Europe. It has 250 shops, 70 restaurants and a 17-screen cinema to attract shoppers. The huge John Lewis shop doesn’t go unnoticed either. There’s also a luxury bowling alley and a casino. The shopping centre also boasts breathtaking views of the Olympic Park next door and its ArcelorMittal Orbit tower, where you can try out the world’s longest slide.

John Lewis

The John Lewis retail chain became famous for its slogan ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’. This means that if you buy a John Lewis item and find it cheaper elsewhere, the company will refund you the difference. At John Lewis, you’ll find everything you need to treat yourself. And the Royal Family appreciates it. In 2008, John Lewis even received a Royal Warrant from Queen Elizabeth II to deliver men’s goods and household goods. It all began in 1864 with the opening of the first John Lewis shop on Oxford Street. The launch of what is now a major chain of shops began in 1933 with the opening of the first shop outside London. Since then, 46 John Lewis shops have opened in London and across Britain, with more to come. Over the years, John Lewis has acquired many smaller brands, becoming one of the largest chains in Britain.

Harrods – a classic London department stores’

The London department stores’ Harrods supplied the Queen of England until 2001. Today, this refined department stores’ is still one of the largest and most famous in the world. Charles Henry Harrod opened his shop in 1835, before moving to a small studio in Knightsbrigde in 1845. The quality of the goods and service quickly made the shop a household name. But in 1883, the store was completely destroyed by a devastating fire. Since 1903, Harrods has sported a new style that still attracts the curious today. On the ground floor, visitors can wander through the food halls, which offer an impressive selection of foodstuffs. The upper floors are reserved for ready-to-wear, electronics and furniture. Illuminated by more than 100,000 bulbs, its façade glows in the evening, offering a striking spectacle even from a distance. Since 1985, the department stores’ has belonged to billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed, who built a memorial fountain in honour of the late Princess Diana and her son Dodi Al-Fayed.


The Debenhams is located on London’s most famous shopping street. Built over six floors, the shop offers shoppers a wide range of products, from clothes and cosmetics to homewares, jewellery and other gift items. The knowledgeable staff are always on hand to help with fittings and offer expert advice on what to wear and how to care for it. Numerous pieces by designers Matthews Williamson, Jasper Conran, John Rocha and Gharani Strok bear witness to the British flair of the house, which helps to make the customer experience special. A café invites you to take a short break in a warm atmosphere to sample the famous scones. If you’re really hungry, the shop’s vast restaurant will convince you. Make sure you remember your table number, though, as you’ll only be allocated one waiter. The company flourished in the 20th century and now has 167 branches in 26 countries. Its head office is still in London.

Harvey Nichols

Founded by Benjamin Harvey in 1831, this is one of the oldest shops in London. Harvey hired the manager James Nichols before his death in 1850, leaving the keys to the shop to his wife. In partnership with James Nichols, she named the shop Harvey Nichols & Co. With its bright rooms and soothing atmosphere, the shop offers fashion lovers designer clothes, cosmetics, perfumes and much more. A personal assistant is available on request. And as well as giving good advice, he or she will also provide a small snack. In the cosmetics department, you can get beauty advice and try out treatments in small private areas. And because shopping makes you hungry, a sushi bar, restaurants, pubs and a large food hall are there to fill you up. The Harvey Nichols department stores’ is known for its imposing and extraordinary window displays. At night, its colourful lighting attracts the attention of onlookers and gives the building an impressive appearance.

Which department stores’ should you choose in London?

You certainly won’t have enough time to visit every department stores’ in London. So the question is: which one should you choose?

I generally recommend Harods or Liberty to those coming to London for the first time. They are (quite rightly) the two most famous shops in London. Even if you’ve been there several times before, they’re always worth a visit!

If you’ve been to London before and want to see something different, try Fortnum & Masons. This department stores’ has been in existence since 1707 and is a real draw thanks to its quality products and varieties of tea, all in a very chic atmosphere. What’s more, it’s right in the city centre. However, John Lewis, Debenhams and Harvey & Nichols are also worth a look.

If you’re in West London, check out Westfield Stratford City. To the east, it’s Westfield Shepherds’ Bush that catches the eye. Both are shopping centres, not department stores as such. Nevertheless, their ultra-modern facilities (opened in 2008 and 2011, to coincide with the Olympic Games) house a wide range of shops, which is very convenient for shopping – even if they are not as visually appealing as department stores!

Shops in London during the festive season and at Christmas

Be sure to visit one of these department stores at Christmas. In London, it’s a big festival that starts to be celebrated at the beginning of November. All the shops are traditionally decorated for the occasion. The British are the real “Christmas pros”. Every year, they always manage to recreate a warm end-of-year atmosphere. It makes shopping even more enjoyable! If you like the feel-good atmosphere of films like Love, Actually, Love at first sight in Notting Hill or Bridget Jones, then you absolutely must take a look at the decorations in these department stores steeped in history! As well as the usual items, you’ll find plenty of gift items, which is handy when you want to bring back a little souvenir for a family member or friend. Let yourself be enchanted by the magic of London!

Other suggestions and alternatives to department stores

London’s department markets are a good alternative to the shops described above. You won’t find the latest creations from the hottest designers, but if you’re a fan of vintage fashion, or just looking for a bargain, then you’ve come to the right place, and you’re sure to go home with something unique. Not all markets sell clothes. If that’s what you’re interested in, then I recommend the following markets:

  • Brick Lane Market: The Vintage Market is fantastic. Very large, and with a unique selection of vintage clothing, it is not to be missed.
  • Camden Town & its markets: For all those who love crazy clothes.
  • Covent Garden and Old Spitalfields Market: There are lots of stalls selling accessories (jewellery, bags, etc.) as well as clothes and some great antiques and rarities.

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