This is something of a different post! Well, actually, it’s not that different, it just starts with a freebie we all can use. 🙂
I’ve always been a fan of making money stretch as far as it can – doesn’t matter if it’s £10 or £1,000. After all, no one has ever thought to themselves “Oh I wish I paid much more money for that!”. It doesn’t matter whether you’re buying a shiny new yacht or simply a glossy photo of said yacht – they all have a specific value that we place upon it and try our very best to fit that within our budget.
The same goes for shopping in London and this is why we’re very pleased to be partnering with Yolt to create this stress-free shopping guide of London town. (*Oh yeah, just in case you were wondering, I’d still prefer that yacht. 😁)
Yolt is a totally free app (so you can download it now to check it out) and it essentially makes managing your money and budgets a total breeze! Best of all, Yolt has been created by the bigwigs at ING Bank Group so you know your details are safe with high, bank-level security.
Once you download the app it connects all your accounts together so you can manage everything in one place – we’re talking setting budgets, sorting out subscriptions (e.g. Netflix), figuring how much you’re spending on what (my biggest so far are Uber and Nandos – don’t judge 😄 😄) and actually hashtagging your purchases as you go so you can quickly see exactly what you’ve spent on what (whether it’s a weekend #MiniBreak or a #ShoppingSpree) – it’s all done for you in one pretty nifty app.
(Not bad, right? 😀 And for free too! I’ll give the full low-down on the main features at the bottom of the post…:-D )
That last feature (hashtagging) is probably my favourite, it just takes care of group travel (or dinner) situations so well… especially when you all pool together to buy stuff collectively (e.g. wine and food for your Airbnb) and then use the same bank card to pay for your personal stuff (e.g. that ugly souvenir you bought from a flea market and instantly regretted). I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sifted through bank statements after a holiday, just trying to work out the difference between groups transactions and my own. This takes all that pain away!
Anway, as those sleigh bells begin to get ever louder, the girls and guys at Yolt asked if I had any tricks up our sleeves to make shopping that bit easier and less stressful. With that in mind, we wanted to share our bumper-shopping guide to some of the best spots in London. No need for stress – no frantic running around trying to find the best shops and no post-shopping worries seeing what you spent and where!
Let’s get started, shall we?
1.) Clothing: For The Fashion Lovers
Clothing is one of those things that is pretty tough to nail down, especially as fashion is so subjective and pretty individual to each of us. Saying that, there are some places you can grab some key pieces from no matter what or who you’re buying for.
For High Fashion:
Head straight over to Dover Street Market, the store has everything from high-end designers to limited edition pieces.
For Vintage Lovers:
Pop on over to Blitz in East London. This massive loft-style shop is spread over lots of levels and houses an epic mix of 70’s-90’s fashion. If you’re looking for that shell suit throwback, this is your place.
Okay, us Londoners have a love/hate relationship with Oxford Street, but it’s pretty much one of the best places to find all the high-street goodies and brands you might want to grab. Amazing right? Well, just be warned about the crowds, they are huge on weekends, so if that’s likely to put you off head to another area of London.
The main reason though why Oxford Street trumps most other places, especially when you’re short on time and options, is that when it comes down to it, no matter whatever fashion item you’re looking (whether that’s a shiny purple blazer or pin-stripe clown trousers) you’ve got the best chance of finding it somewhere around Oxford Street. Also, if you want to stay away from the crowds, head over here earlier in the morning or on a weekday.
If you’re looking for second-hand clothes or perhaps something a little more vintage, Camden and Shoreditch still have the potential to surprise you with some amazing gems. (Best find I had in Camden were £5 Dior sunglasses, they were actually women’s sunglasses so I sold them on eBay and got myself some really nice Ray-Ban ones. In Shoreditch, my best find was a pretty unused mechanic’s overall – adored by me but loathed by every one of my friends 😀 ).
2.) Food: For The Hungry
My favourite thing to go shopping for! In fact, almost every winter – especially around Christmas time, I would make an effort to head over to Borough Market on Saturdays for a little nosey around (and a LOT of food sampling), after which I would proceed to buy about £30 of random food that you’d never be able to make a single meal with. Sweetcorn, apples, brownies, meringues and cider, I bought once. What the plan was with that combination, I have no idea. Still, though, it’s always fun pottering around and picking a few things that tickle your fancy.
For Yummy Treats And Fresh Produce:
Oh yes, recommendations for food! Okay, so Borough Market is an easy win. Obvious but with good reason. Make sure to try the treats from Cinamon Tree Bakery and L’ailOlive who serve a mean chilli and garlic pasta dish.
For Extra Tasty Treats:
Maltby Street Market is also pretty great – it’s smaller than Borough Market hence easier to navigate. Make sure to visit on a Saturday morning when all the stalls are there. Make sure to grab a tipple at Maltby & Greek too.
For Eating Straight Away:
Camden Market is great for yummy street food you plan on eating straight away – not so much so for produce though. Head over to Camden Coffee for an epic (freshly-roasted) brew, or Hashgreen for their famed vegan goodies. If you’re feeling more cheesy, head to the Cheese Bar… It’s amazing!
What kinda used to be Dalston Market is now Street Feast and they have lots of options popping up around that that use really cool previously-dis-used spaces. The exact schedule of where they’ll be, their dates and all that stuff is best gleaned on their website here. This, of course, is a harder option to visit due to the relative sporadicness of it but if your visit to the city coincides with it – it’s definitely worth checking out.
3.) Toys: For The Big And Little Kids
For The Unique:
I’m gonna start off with a slightly different one and indeed one of my personal favourites – a shop called Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop (though usually just referred to as just “Pollock’s“) which is located in Covent Garden. It’s one of London’s quaintest little toy shops and is filled with fantastic traditional toys (the kind of toys I would happily own as an adult).
Pollock’s is particularly renowned for their iconic toy theatres that they personally and lovingly make. Best of all, the prices won’t break the bank as you can nab some gifts here for around £20-30.
If you’re stuck for choice or looking for something a bit more mainstream, then Hamley’s is your best bet. The biggest one is on Regent Street so it’s not too far from Pollock’s (25-minute walk) so it’s a good idea to mix up a visit to the two which enjoying a walk around London (*or perhaps even the clothes shopping mentioned above).
The reason why Hamley’s is a firm winner on this list is again due to their huge amount of choice. You can find almost everything here – you’d struggle to find a kid that would leave this shop and not find at least one thing they love.
Sylvanian Families! These oh-so-adorable little toys have only gotten even more adorable as I’ve grown up. In fact, I’d say a lot of people who collect these nowadays are probably grown adults like myself and that’s just fine! The Sylvanian Families shop on Mountgrove Road (in North London) in pretty much a treasure trove for anyone even remotely interested in these. 😁
4.) Flowers & Plants: For The Green-Fingered
I’ll (try to) keep this one brief. 😁
For ALL The Choices:
If you’re looking for a lot of choice – you’re best to head to Columbia Road Flower Market (In East London). There’s almost no kind of flower you can’t find here so if you or the person you’re buying for is really fussy, you’ll do well here.
For The Last-Minute Flower Run:
If you’re someone who loves to leave things till the last minute, Flower Station is your place. The Baker Street store is open 24/7 so there’s always someone available to help you out if you don’t remember to buy the flowers at that last minute. 🙂
For The “Easy-To-Get-To”:
If you’re looking somewhere more central, Chez Michele in Borough Market would be perfect for you. (If you’re not as familiar with the area, it’s minutes away from London Bridge Station).
Conservatory Archives on Hackney Road (not too far from Columbia Road Flower Market). This one is more for green plants than it is for flowers per se (think cactus, ferns, creeping plants… that kinda stuff) and is chock-full of so many fun, sometimes quirky, but always amazing plants of all shapes and sizes. It’s possibly one of my favourites in the city.
SIDEBAR: This is one section where the Yolt App truly comes into its own. My friend Georgia is as plants obsessed as I am so we always end up plant-shopping for each other.
Pre-Yolt, we’d have to sit down and tally what we owed each other (we spend more than we should admit on plants 😄 – especially anything tiny and succulent) with Yolt,I just use the hashtagging to separate her stuff from mine and from the other home plants I’ve had to buy for my friends Alex and Jamie. (Doing this actually stemmed from our holiday use of Yolt and has just grown even more from there).
5.) Home: For The Design Maven
For The Widest Array Of Choices:
One of the best areas to go for homeware and goodies for the apartment is just around Goodge Street Station; here you’ll find a whole heap of beautiful design-focused stores that have everything from outrageously fluffy sofas to funky art. Make sure to pop into Heal’s and Lombok that make some pretty statement pieces.
For The Bespoke:
If you’re in other areas of the city, make sure to pop into Aram (just off Covent Garden). They have some amazing gifts for the home. Also, House of Hackney (Shoreditch High Street) is a great spot to visit for some statement and bold pieces. You’ll definitely leave with something really cool (or perhaps even a tad quirky) when you visit!
The Easiest Option:
Failing that, the Oxford Street John Lewis is probably your best bet to head to if you need to physically buy or see the item. It’s the flagship store (hence the biggest) and has the widest range of pretty much everything homeware I can think of.
6.) Antiques: For The Collector
For The Biggest Selection:
Portobello Road Market is the clear winner for me here. It’s the largest antique market in the world and easily one of the most famous – throw in the fact that it is in Notting Hill and you’ll soon find reason enough to visit! Suffice to say, you’ll be spoilt for choice here – just be prepared to haggle.
For French Antiques:
This is a bit of a different one but if you’re into all things French, Little Paris in North London is the perfect spot to find a fantastic piece or two. It’s a little further out of the way (being based in Crouch End) but is totally worth the trip up North for the potential gems you can find here.
For Vintage Map Lovers:
Head straight over to Storey’s on Cecil Ct. This little, independently owned, has some of the best vintage maps (framed or unframed) in all of London. They have lots of original prints tucked away too, so make sure you ask to see their whole library of goodies.
Although they tend to be much better for clothes, Shoreditch and Camden Market can throw up some surprises when it comes to antiques (though, you might find a few replicas in Camden). They are few and far between here but when you do find something amazing here, it makes sifting through all the other stuff here totally worth it!
7.) Quirk Gifts: For The Eclectic
This is essentially all the stuff you never need but always want. Some might end up useful, most of them will probably just sate some deep-rooted fascination with the object in question but no more than that (e.g. a tiny unicorn tea set or a Santa pencil sharpener when you can’t remember the last time you used a pencil and have absolutely zero pencils at home).
For Fun Gifts:
‘Suck UK’ has some pretty cool stuff from as little as £2 to as much as £200 in their stores in OXO Tower (fairly central, for the uninitiated) and the other is in the Westfields in Shepherd Bush (West London). It’s the kind of store that’s filled with everything and nothing you need. If that makes sense?
For Vintage Fun:
Camden generally is also great for stuff like this. In the midst of all that great food, fantastic vintage clothes and the odd antique lies a cornucopia of items you never need but absolutely want!
For Quirky Jewellery:
Head straight over to Tatty Devine on Brick Lane. Be prepared for lots of colour, plenty of iconic pieces and a cool little space that’s a perfect stopping point for more quirky jewellery.
And there you have it! The places to head to in London when you’re looking for gifts for not just other but for yourself too (*you might as well treat yourself while you’re at it). If you’ve found any hidden gems in London you’d like to share – please do below! I swear, we can all do with as much helps as possible when it comes to shopping in London. 🙂
Oh, and as promised above, here are the main features of Yolt that just help make everything money-wise so much simpler to manage.
1.) You can see everything in one place! Bank accounts, credit cards, debit cards… all meaning you don’t have to switch back and forth between different accounts. It makes it so much easier to keep an eye on all your spending across the board.
2.) There’s a budgeting tool which lets you set budgets for different things this Christmas season, from shopping to cocktails and even transport.
3.) It automatically categorizes your spending so you can see where your hard earned money is going. 🙂
4.) You can tag what you’ve spent which takes all the hassle of sorting out your finances later on. 🙂
There’s more on the Yolt website so if you need more details check it all out here. And do let me know what you think of Yolt once you’ve gotten round to using it! Happy shopping! 🙂