MAP OF CENTRAL LONDON
OXFORD AND REGENT STREETS. Oxford St. is London’s shopping center. The atmosphere is incredible in the department stores and mainstream chains of Oxford St. and Regent St. Fashionable boutiques line pedestrian South Molton Street, stretching south into Mayfair from the Bond St. Tube, and Foubert’s Place, near youth-oriented Carnaby St. The area also has a number of excellent shops.
MAYFAIR. Mayfair’s aristocratic pedigree is evident in the scores of high-priced shops, many bearing Royal Warrants to indicate their status as official palace suppliers. Bond Street is the location of choice for the biggest names. Less mainstream designers set up shop on Conduit Street, where Old Bond St. meets New Bond St.; here you’ll find Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, and Yohji Yamamoto. Cheap (relatively speaking) duds abound at Paul Smith Sale Shop, 23 Avery Row (Tube: Bond St.); find a smallish range of last-season and clearance items from the master of modem British menswear. Exclusive Sotheran’s of Sackville Street, 2-5 Sackville St. ( 7439 6151; Tube: Piccadilly Circus), founded in 1761, has a charming staff and plenty of affordable books, while the Waterstone’s at 203-206 Piccadilly ( 7851 2400; Tube: Piccadilly Circus) is Europe’s largest bookshop.
SOHO. Despite its eternal trendiness, Soho has never been much of a shopping destination. The main exception is the record stores of D’Arblay Street and Berwick Street including: Reckless Records, 26 and 30 Berwick St. (a 7437 3362 and 7437 4271); Sister Ray, 94 Berwick St. ( 7287 8385); and top DJ hangout Uptown Records,
3 D’Arblay St. ( 7434 3639; all Tube: Oxford Circus). Keeping up the musical theme are the excellent instrument and equipment shops of Denmark Street.
COVENT GARDEN. Covent Garden is increasingly mainstream, though there are enough quirky shops left to make it worth a look. North of the piazza, Floral Street is firmly established as the area’s smartest thoroughfare. Ever-popular Neal Street is a top destination for funky footwear and mid-priced clubwear, though the fashion focus has shifted to nearby Shorts Gardens, Earlham Street, and Monmouth Street A best bet for women’s clothing is BApple Tree, 51 and 62 Neal St. ( 7836 6088), which offers colorful clothing. Treat your feet at Office, 57 Neal St. f 7379 1896), the largest outlet of London’s foremost fashion footwear retailer.
BLOOMSBURY. Besides intellectuals, Bloomsbury’s main commodity is books.
The streets around the British Museum in particular are crammed with specialist and cut-price booksellers, like Unsworths, 12 Bloomsbury St. ( 7436 9836; Tube:
Tottenham Court Rd.). For a blast from the past, the small selection of vintage clothes in BDelta of Venus, 151 Drummond St. ( 7387 3037; Tube: Warren St. or Euston), is unbeatable and spans the 1960s to the early 80s. For a blast into the future, head to Tottenham Court Road for electronics.
CHELSEA AND KNIGHTSBRIDGE. No serious shopper can ignore Chelsea. If Sloane Square is too sloaney (“preppy,” to Americans), the King’s Road, with one-off boutiques at all price ranges, is all things to all shoppers. The main shopping arteries of Knightsbridge are the Old Brompton Road, with upmarket chains, and Sloane Street, full of exclusive boutiques. World’s End, 430 King’s Rd. (7352 6551) gave birth to the Sex Pistols, but has since gone mainstream. BSteinberg & Tolkein, 193 King’s Rd. (s 7376 3660) offers London’s largest collection of vintage clothing.
NOTTING HILL. The best reason to visit Notting Hill is Portobello Market, which brings an influx of color and vivacity to an otherwise gentrified area. The “Market” is actually several distinct markets occupying different parts of the street and operating on different days; Saturdays, when all come together in a mile-long row, is the best day to visit. The antiques market, north along Portobello from Chepstow Villas to Elgin Cres. (Tube: Notting Hill Gate; open Sa 7am-5pm) sells cheapish bric-a-brac, little of it truly rare or very old; the general market, from Elgin Cres. to Lancaster Rd. (Tube: Westboume Park or Ladbroke Grove; open M-W 8am-6pm, Th 9am-lpm, F-Sa 7am-7pm) sells food, flowers, and household essentials; and the clothes market, north of Lancaster Rd. (Tube:
Ladbroke Grove; open F-Sa 8am-3pm) has a wide selection of secondhand clothes, New Age bangles, and cheap clubwear. Also in the area is The Travel Bookshop, 13-15 Blenheim Cres. (7229 5260), the specialist bookshop featured in Notting Hill. Dolly Diamond, 51 Pembridge Rd. (7792 2479; Tube:
Notting Hill Gate), allows you to choose “your” look from a selection of classic 50s-70s clothes and elegant 20s-40s evening gowns.
In Camden Town, you’ll find hundreds of identical stores flogging the same chunky shoes and leather trousers they’ve been selling for years. Arrive early and have a game plan amid the dross there are genuine bargains and incredible finds. The Camden markets are located off Camden High St. and Chalk Farm Rd. (Tube: Camden Town). The Stables Market (most shops open daily) is nearest Chalk Farm and the best of the bunch, offering good vintage clothes plus some of the most outrageous club- and fetish-wear ever made. Camden Canal Market (open F-Su) is down the tunnel opposite Camden Lock, and starts out promisingly with jewelry and watches, but degenerates rapidly into sub-par clubbing duds and tourist trinkets. Camden Lock Market (most stalls open F or Sa-Su), located between the railway bridge and the canal, is arranged around a food-filled courtyard on the Regent’s Canal. The Camden Market (open F-Su), nearest to Camden Tube and correspondingly the most crowded and least innovative, offers jeans, sweaters, and designer fakes. Our favorite Camden shop is ESCyberdogCybercity, arch 14 of the Stables Market ( 7482 2842), with unbelievable club clothes for superior life forms. Try on the fluorescent body-armor, or steel corsets with rubber breast-hoses. UH
Meanwhile in Islington, the Camden Passage, Islington High St.. behind “The Mall” antiques gallery on I’pper St.. is the place for antiques, especially prints and drawmgs. Shops outnumber stalls. (Tube: Angel. Most open W and Sa 8:30am-6pm.)
In East London, the street-market tradition is alive and well, helped along by large immigrant communities. The Brick Lane Market (Tube: Shoreditch or Aldgate East; open Su 8am-2pm) has a South Asian flair, with food, rugs, spices, bolts of fabric, and strains of sitar, while the Petticoat Lane Market (Tube: Liverpool St. Aldgate, or Aldgate East; open Su 9am-2pm) has block after block of cheap clothing.