3 of London's Most Iconic Shops

London is home to some of the world's best shopping. Here, you can find everything from flagship big brands to the quirkiest independent shops selling things you didn't even know you needed. 

My advice is to focus on the shops that are unique to the city (or country). Don't bother with chain stores that you can find at home; save your time and money on seeing new and unique things. Also, for British chain stores that you may not find at home, avoid the congested areas of places like Oxford Street, and head to areas of the city where you'll find the same shop in a less crowded area and discover somewhere new. 

In London, there are some incredible shops - here, I'm sharing three of my favourites that are must-visits when in the city. 

 

Liberty London:

Liberty is a must-see and must-experience for so many reasons. You've probably seen its flower shop display at its front entrance all over social media as it is an Instagrammers' dream! Liberty's building just off Regent and Oxford Streets is in a beautiful Tudor building that is worth seeing on its own. Its window displays, especially for Christmas, are stunning. The interior of this historical building is beautiful, set over several floors. 

Go for:

  • The famous Liberty prints (available in fabric rolls, scarves, bags, and more)
  • Fantastic beauty and skin section which carries hard-to-find and coveted brands (including Biologique Recherche products and spa treatments)
  • The Soho Home brand collection
  • A beautifully curated contemporary women's fashion department
  • Stunning newly renovated shoe department
  • Delicious section dedicated to chocolates, including unique and carefully selected brands, particularly UK-based ones 
  • Beautiful Christmas Shop

 

Selfridges:

Selfridges is one of the main (and only) reasons to trek to Oxford Street. This iconic building takes up a massive block filled with all kinds of treasures. Try and go earlier or later in the day to explore without big crowds making the experience unpleasant. 

Go for: 

  • Terrific and fun beauty and skincare department: It's filled with all kinds of fab latest and greatest brands that you may struggle to find elsewhere, including Korean skincare goodies (everything from creams to miracle sheet masks). There are also quite a few mini shops within the department to get the latest in high-tech facials, a Cowshed spa, Nails Inc nail bar, henna bar, and blowdry bar. 
  • Food and confectionary section: Here, you'll find delicious UK brands and imports from North America for those feeling a bit homesick. You can stop and snack on everything from cupcakes to champagne and oysters. 
  • Mariage Freres: there is an outfit of my absolute favourite tea brand, Mariage Freres, from France that I stock up on whenever I'm there. 
  • Handbags: There is a fantastic and extensive department focused on handbags and accessories to explore. 
  • Contemporary Women's Fashion: you can shop for brands exclusive to Selfridges or hard to find elsewhere in the city/country, as well as small outfits of some of the most popular 'high street' chains. 
  • Aubaine: This Instagram favourite is a french bistro restaurant on the second floor next to the extensive women's shoe section. Decorated with whimsical wisteria falling from the ceiling, it is a beautiful space for lunch or a glass of champagne.  
  • Housewares. There is an extensive collection of home goods to check out.
  • Quirkiness. There is even a psychic available on the lower ground level in the home goods and accessories floor!

 

Fortnum and Mason:

Fortnums is such a special place to visit. Located between Green Park and Piccadilly Circus, it is housed in a beautiful building spanning several floors to explore with a rich history, including creating the Scotch Egg! Founded in 1707, Fortnum and Mason also holds a Royal Warrant by Appointment by HM The Queen and HRH The Prince of Wales. 

Go for:

  • Impressive selection of tea
  • Wide selection of own brand and imported goods and confectionary 
  • Unique gifts 
  • Housewares section
  • Afternoon tea at the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon
  • Made to order picnic baskets and hampers
  • Beautiful window displays
  • Magical Christmas Shop

Sketch - London's Most Glamorous Place for Afternoon Tea

Sketch has become instantly recognizable due to its iconic art deco-inspired, glamorous pink salon that is an Instagrammers dream. 

Located in Mayfair, Sketch hosts a series of bars and restaurants over two stories in a converted 18th century building. 

The Gallery, designed by India Mahdavi and David Shrigley, is the eponymous room in Sketch that features the afternoon tea, which, in my opinion (and probably many others, considering how busy it gets), is the most glamorous in London! If you're looking for a classic experience in a beautiful room, particularly with a group of girlfriends, this is a perfect place. To note, it is also open for dinner, with creatively styled and interpreted classic dishes. 

 

Sketch London Afternoon Tea

From the moment you arrive at Sketch, the service is impeccable, adding to the luxurious experience you have there. Start by choosing either a classic or Champagne afternoon tea; as you can see above, we went with the Champagne tea! Served in classic Champagne glasses, it automatically ups the glam factor. Sip your champagne slowly while taking in your surroundings, which include 239 pieces of quirky artwork lining the walls by David Shrigley - the largest group of original drawings Shrigley has ever exhibited.  

Start with creative and delicious sandwiches, served on an afternoon tea cake stand, created from stacked cups and saucers. The tastiest ones in my opinion are the coronation chicken, and truffle croque monsieur. If you fancy some more, your server will gladly bring you a refill of your favourites!

But don't forget that you've got fresh scones and cakes to enjoy as well, so don't fill up too much on the sandwiches to save room for the other things! 

You can select from freshly baked, warm plan or sultana scones, served with classic clotted cream and strawberry jam. I went with a classic plain, which was delicious. It was also a nice balance between the savoury sandwiches and sweet cakes. 

The cakes offer a nice balance of flavours, from a citrus tart, to chocolate gateaux, to bubblegum marshmallow knots (very light in flavour so not overpowering), and a delicious cheesecake pudding. 

Sketch London Afternoon Tea
Sketch London Afternoon Tea
Sketch London Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea is served between 12:30pm - 4:30pm Mondays through Sundays.

sketch Afternoon Tea as from Monday 13 March:
sketch Classic Afternoon Tea, £58 per person
Champagne Afternoon Tea, £72 per person
Children's Afternoon Tea, £29 per child - including Pat the Bear

 

Oh - and don't forget to make a stop to check out the quirky, beautiful, space-like bathroom pods before you go!

Afternoon Tea With A View

In the spirit of this beautiful time of year, the Shangri-la London at the Shard created a beautiful festive afternoon tea, which I got to enjoy recently. You can enjoy your afternoon tea at the TING Lounge, set high up in the Shard with an incredible view and plush surroundings. TING's afternoon tea focuses on using seasonal and locally sourced produce for guests to enjoy. In addition to a classic English afternoon tea, they also offer an Asian-inspired alternative. Also keeping their guests in mind, TING offers gluten-free, nut-free, and vegetarian versions if you request it upon reservation. 

I went later in the afternoon to enjoy the festive tea and was lucky enough to have a table next to the window. While I enjoyed my lovely welcome glass of champagne, I was able to gaze out over London bathed in the most beautiful shades of blue twilight, and watched as the lights of London began twinkling at Tower Bridge, London Bridge, and the Tower of London.

Shard London Shangri-la Afternoon Tea
Shard London Shangri-la Afternoon Tea

Right from being greeted at the entrance of the Shangri-La, I had fantastic service from everyone, which is such an important distinguishing feature, particularly for a luxury afternoon tea experience. 

The table setting was simple yet elegant. Sparkling glasses, shiny white plates, and touches of gold and floral accents. In addition to the welcome glass of champagne, I enjoyed a traditional welcome tea that was anything but simple. My server brought a wooden box to my table with two small Japanese style cups of tea. Here's where the magic happens: water is then poured over the box, activating billowing clouds of steam to create a mesmerizing effect. 

Shard London Shangri-la Afternoon Tea
Shard London Shangri-la Afternoon Tea
Shard London Shangri-la Afternoon Tea

This is the perfect winter treat to brighten things up in the dark of winter. The view itself is worth it alone - especially if you are looking to impress out of town visitors with a special place or if you're just looking to enjoy a quality afternoon tea and enjoy the Shard views at the same time.

But on to the good part - what you'll get to enjoy!

Sandwiches:

  • Smoked Salmon (smoked salmon with creme fraiche and caper butter on rye bread)
  • Rhug Estate Turkey (organic turkey with cranberry relish and sage butter on white bread)
  • Wiltshire Ham (tomato chutney and watercress on tomato bread)
  • Truffled Duck Egg (organic duck egg mayonnaise with rocket and mustard cress on citrus white bread)
  • Fresh Cornish Crab (five spice crab with papaya on a brioche bun)

Scones: 

  • Two lovely, warm scones, Classic English and Golden Raisin, along with the traditional English clotted cream and Bermondsey strawberry jam. 

Pastries: the talented pastry chefs have created the following to enjoy:

  • Cranberry, Orange and Almond pastry (yoghurt mousse, cranberry sponge, and candied orange)
  • Gingerbread, Pear and Caramel pastry (spiced gingerbread, pear mousse, and caramel cremeux)
  • Mandarin and Spiced Prune Tart - tastes very much like a mince pie! (prune compote and mandarin mousse)
  • Chocolate Plaisir (milk chocolate mousse, raisin compote, and Pedro Ximinez)
  • Macaron Mont Blanc (chestnut cream, chocolate cremeux, and confit chestnuts) 

 

The turkey sandwich was my favourite on the sandwiches tray, as it reminded me so much of Christmas dinner. The fresh and warm scones were also wonderful. The only question to contemplate is whether you put the clotted cream on first or the jam. Which do you prefer??

By the time I had made it to the pastry tray, I was quite full. The pastries were on the very sweet and rich side, so I couldn't finish them all at the table. My server kindly packed them up for me though so I was able to enjoy them the next day. Make sure you visit with an appetite!

The festive afternoon tea is £56 and reservations are highly recommended (click on the hyperlink on reservations to take you to the page).  

The price differs if you add a glass of:

- Duval Leroy, Fleur de Champagne, Premier Cru, Brut NV £64
- Duval Leroy, Fleur de Champagne, Premier Cru, Rose Brut NV £68
- Bollinger Special Cuvée, NV £72