SHOPPING IN LONDON

SHOPPING IN LONDON

From its earliest days, London has been a trading city, its wealth and power built upon almost two millennia of commerce. Today, even more so than at the height of the Empire, London’s economy is truly international and thanks to the fundamentally eclectic nature of Londoners’ diverse tastes, the range of goods is unmatched anywhere. From Harrods’s proud boast to supply all things to all people to outrageous club wear in Camden, you could shop for a lifetime.

DEPARTMENT STORES

18 Hamley’s, 188-189 Regent St. ( 7734 3161). Tube: Bond St. 7 floors filled with every conceivable toy and game; dozens of strategically placed product demonstrations. Open M-F 10am-8pm, Sa 9:30am-8pm, Su noon-6pm. AmExMCV.

Selfridges, 400 Oxford St. ((0870) 837 7377). Tube: Bond St. The total department store. Covers everything from traditional tweeds to space-age clubwear. 14 eateries, hair salon, bureau de change, and hotel. Open M-W 10am-7pm, Th-F 10am-8pm, Sa 9:30am-7pm, Su noon-6pm. AmExMCV.

Liberty, 210-220 Regent St. ( 7734 1234). Tube: Oxford Circus. Focus on top-quality design and handicrafts. Enormous hat department and a whole hall of scarves. Open M-W 10am-6:30pm, Th 10am-8pm, F-Sa 10am-7pm, Su noon-6pm. AmExMCV.

Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly ( 7734 8040). Tube: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus. London’s smallest, snootiest department store, est. 1707. Famed for its sumptuous food hall. Open M-Sa 10am-6:30pm. AmExMCV.

Harrods, 87-135 Old Brompton Rd. (7730 1234). Tube: Knightsbridge. The only thing bigger than the bewildering store is the mark-up on the goods-no wonder only tourists and oil sheikhs actually shop here. Open M-Sa 10am-7pm. AmExMCVyoursoul.

Harvey Nichols, 109-125 Knightsbridge (7235 5000). Tube: Knightsbridge. Bond St. Rue St-Honore, and Fifth Avenue all rolled up into 5 floors of fashion, from the biggest names to the hippest contemporary unknowns. Open M-Tu and Sa 10am-7pm, W-F 10am-8pm, Su noon-6pm. AmExMCV.

MAJOR CHAINS

As with any large city, London retailing is dominated by chains. Fortunately, local shoppers are picky enough that buying from a chain doesn’t mean abandoning the flair and quirky stylishness for which Londoners are famed. Most chains have a flagship on or near Oxford St. Different branches have slightly different hours, but almost all the stores listed below are open daily 10am-7pm, starting later (noon) on Su and staying open an hour later one night of the week (usually Th).

Karen Millen ((01622) 664 032). 8 locations including 262-264 Regents St. (Tube: Oxford Circus) and 22-23 James St. (Tube: Covent Garden). Best known for embroidered brocade suits and evening gowns, but edging towards a more casual line.

Lush ( (01202) 668 545). 6 locations, including Garden Piazza (Tube: Covent Garden) and 40 Carnaby St. (Tube: Oxford Circus). All-natural cosmetics that look good enough to eat; soap is hand-cut from blocks masquerading as cakes and cheeses (£3-5) and guacamole-like facial masks are scooped from tubs.

FCUK ( 7529 7766). Flagship at 396 Oxford St. (Tube: Bond St.) Home of the advertising coup of the 90s, FCUK offers an extensive collection of items with their vaguely offensive, mildly subversive moniker. AmExMCV.

Jigsaw (8392 5678). Flagship at 126 New Bond St. (Tube: Bond St.). The essence of Britishness, distilled into quality mid-priced womenswear. AmExMCV.

Muji (7287 7323). Flagship at 41 Carnaby St. (Tube: Oxford Circus.) Minimalist lifestyle stores, with a Zen take on everything from clothes to kitchenware. AmExMCV. TopshopTop ManMiss Selfridge (7927 0000). Flagship at 214 Oxford St. (Tube: Oxford Circus.) 0ver-25s will feel middle-aged. Topshop sells strappy shoes and skimpy clubwear on 3 floors. Miss Selfridge has an even younger, girlier feel; Top Man is all shiny Ts and cargo pants. 10% student discount. AmExMCV.

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