Shopping is a very popular pastime in London. No matter what your taste, from high street names to the unusual or exotic, you will not be disappointed.
Some great shopping destinations for you to try include:
Be the first to try on sharp suits, designer handbags or cool kitsch in and around Spitalfields market. There is of course the old market and colourful Brick Lane, including shops and bars, and now an extended food and retail offering which is complemented by a public art programme and range of festivals and events.
In 2005, the author Jeanette Winterson was targeted by a coffee chain that wanted to open a store in her restored Georgian townhouse on Brushfield street, opposite the market. But rather than selling out, she decided to play them at their own game - and opened a very different kind of shop, Verdes. Worth a visit!
Take a walk through Cheshire Street, Brick Lane, Sclater Street and Club Row in the company of photographer Colin O'Brien to experience the life of the Sunday market in the 1980's: Spitalfields Life
Barrow boys have been welcoming shoppers to Broadway market in Hackney since the 1890's, selling everything from giant African snails to bacon and beans.
Canary Wharf has over 200 designer, independent and high street stores based principally in three malls: Cabot Place, Canada Place and Jubilee Place. All the shops are below ground level and interlinked - like a mini-underground world - which is fantastic when it is cold and wet outside.
Billingsgate Fish Market, once located down the road from the Tower of London is now behind Canary Wharf - it was in fact one of the first businesses to move to the then new estate. These days, you can buy your Thames-fresh fish from the market and then pop upstairs to the Billingsgate Seafood Training school and cook your catch.
Follow in the footsteps of Bollywood movie stars and take a shopping trip to Green Street, home of great Asian jewellery and shoes with not a single high street chain in sight. Marvellous!
Greenwich is full of small shops and boutiques for you to explore, selling a wide range of fashions, gifts, books, music, antiques and household ware. Of particular interest are shops selling items that reflect Greenwich’s maritime history and others that showcase the work of local craftsmen.
The London Bridge Area has a growing shopping district, including Butlers Wharf, Hay's Galleria, Borough and Bermondsey some of which are located in original wharves and docks that have been renovated into areas offering a relaxed atmosphere and retail environment.
In just one year a few side streets have found their way into every food-lovers little black book - Maltby Street. A recent winner of the OFM Awards 2011, this market remembers what a market should be about - for the community to see high quality food being produced before buying. Located 10 minutes walk east of London Bridge, head for Druid Street on a Saturday morning between 9am - 2pm.
Shopping centres are a parallel universe with their own climate, by-laws and conditions of use that are quite simply, terrifying.
Shopping is not without it’s pleasure and pain however, and the British are masters of the art. When I heard that Stratford was to be the new home for an enormous shopping centre, I was bit puzzled; but not for long. Stratford of course is the new centre of the universe and what better way to celebrate and make a lasting impact, than to go shopping.
So if was that I joined the thousands of curious Londoners who have recently paid a visit to Westfield, only recently opened. Expertly designed, colour-coordinated and heaped full of bling, should I wipe my feet before entering? Lots of familiar big brand names above the door, and some names I have never heard of; stores staffed with slightly anxious-looking employees clutching flyers stuffed with good reasons for you to part with your cash inside their little slice of retail heaven. John Lewis and Waitrose, in Stratford? Will this bring in a new visitor with a more upmarket demographic to this scruffy, down-at-heel part of London? I really can’t see the shoppers in the old Stratford Mall rushing over the road to buy their organic, fair-traded curtains and beef.
I wondered too, how much rent the shops and restaurants are paying to have a position on the boulevard that will lead directly into the Olympic Park - along which all the spectators will be channelled next summer.
There have been many stories in the press about the over-zealous security on these private estates, and I wasn't sure who would pounce when I got my camera out and took some pictures. Feeling emboldened, got my phone out and made a call, then sent a friend a text! The only encounter I had with security was a miserable man who begrudgingly gave me directions to a coffee shop I had just walked past, but failed to notice.
So east London has a new visitor destination; and shopping centre with a questionably mix of stores sitting cheek-by-jowl with a future post Olympic park, the Queen Elizabeth II Park with an equally questionable visitor offer.
I wandered through the old Stratford Mall and into the high street, which is unfortunately undergoing extensive roadworks, so a comparable shopping experience it is not - but busy it is. The market inside the centre was doing brisk business, as was Poundland, doing a roaring trade!
I have no doubt that destination Stratford will do well for the next 10 months, but what then? The official tourism bodies have compelling arguments for the continued robust health of the visitor economy, with lots of spectacular events in 2012, but what is not clear is how it will be communicated and incorporated into the London-wide and local offer once everyone has gone home? What will this destination bring to the tourism table? One of the few successful and distinctive local destinations is Maritime Greenwich - which surely can’t be harmed by developments at Stratford, but what about the many smaller emerging destinations that don’t have a coherent tourism voice and offer? If I was a retailer in Canary Wharf I would be concerned as Westfield is bound to take business away. Will those who shop at Broadway or Queens market still shop there, or will Westfield swallow up all local distinctiveness and show to visitors the bland experience of “we could be anywhere in the UK”? What is the London 2012 Legacy?