Clothing and Accessories
Design and Furnishings
Food and Drink
Shop Opening Times
Traditionally London shop opening hours have been Monday to Saturday 9:30-6. Many West End stores stay open later on Thursdays;
in Knightsbridge late night is Wednesdays. More recently, however, several shops are opening later at other times and also
on Sunday (from 11 or noon). If opening times are not indicated in the entry then you can assume that they operate more-or-less
traditional hours. In tourist enclaves such as Covent Garden, Sunday opening is the norm.
Presents from the Past Some of the best high-quality individual souvenirs and gifts are to be found in museum shops. You don't have to pay to get in as they are outside the turnstiles, or you will be issued with a special (free) ticket. The British Museum, the South Kensington museums and the Design Museum are particularly noteworthy, while The Museum Store at 37 The Market, Covent Garden Piazza, goes a step further, trawling the best of the world's museums for ideas.
London's Arcades American cities have shopping malls, London has arcades. These covered walkways full of small individual shops, many of which are jewellers and antiques dealers, provide a fascinating glimpse into the past. The best example is Burlington Arcade (off Piccadilly), built in 1819, where beadles in top hats and great coats still ensure that decorum is maintained. Directly opposite, running down to Jermyn Street, is Piccadilly Arcade and just around the corner, connecting Old Bond Street to Albemarle Street, is Royal Arcade. Also off Jermyn Street is Princes Arcade.
By Royal Appointment Many of London's top shops claim a Royal Warrant of Appointment. These can only be granted by the Queen, the Queen Mother, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh and each signifies that one of these members of the royal family has patronised the shop for at least three years. The coat (or coats) of arms on display outside the shop indicates which member.
Shop 'til you Drop Serious shoppers should invest in the Time Out Guide to Shopping & Services. Equally useful to locals and visitors, it includes well over 1,000 reviews of all that's best in the capital and also features a 10 per cent discount card which may return your investment with interest.
Tax-free Shopping If you hold a non-EU passport then it is worth enquiring about the tax-free shopping export scheme which will enable you to claim back VAT (Value Added Tax) when you leave the country. This is currently rated at 17 per cent and is payable on most goods (books, food and children's clothes are the principal exceptions). All department stores and many other participating outlets (look for the TAX-FREE sticker) will give you details. Most will require a minimum purchase.