The UK is a nation of diehard shoppers. Retail therapy is the country's favourite leisure activity - an all-consuming passion - and London is its beating heart. It's one of the world's most exciting shopping cities, packed with grand department stores, trend-setting boutiques, timeless traditional traders, edgy concept stores, absorbing antiques centres, eccentric novelty shops, exclusive purveyors of luxury goods, mouth-watering food emporiums, bustling markets and much more. You'll find them all featured in the pages of London's Best Shops & Markets, including many hidden gems.In the 18th century Napoleon allegedly dismissed England as 'a nation of shopkeepers' - and he wasn't wrong. Today there's an army of would-be entrepreneurs eager to follow in their ancestors' footsteps, despite the not inconsiderable financial risks, and make their fortune by ringing the tills. London's Best Shops & Markets is (with a few exceptions) a celebration of the city's independent shops, both traditional and avant-garde, many unique to the city and selling British (designed/manufactured) products; shops with lovely interiors, original goods, unique atmospheres and outstanding customer service.
Independent retailers are the life and soul of any town - and London is no exception.The city has its fair share of vast shopping centres, ubiquitous chain stores and supermarkets, yet small independent shops manage to survive (and even flourish) against the odds. Despite increasing competition, particularly from the internet, and the ever-present shadow of recession, London's independent shopping scene goes from strength to strength, and is constantly reinventing itself to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Although it's possible to spend a king's ransom in London, particularly in Bond Street - one of the world's most expensive shopping streets - you don't need a bulging wallet to enjoy shopping. The city is one of the world's leading fashion centres, where great design is available to everyone whatever their budget - and browsing is free! Most stores hold at least two major sales a year (some seem to have permanent sales), traditionally in January and July, when you can snap up extraordinary bargains. For the shrewd shopper there's a wealth of discount stores, charity shops, markets, car-boot sales and auctions.London boasts a huge number of lively markets, from the behemoths of Borough and Portobello to the bustling weekend honeypots of Brick Lane and Camden and the more sedate charms of Greenwich and Spitalfields.
Markets are a rewarding hunting ground for savvy shoppers, selling everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to handicrafts and vintage clothes, artisan foods to household goods, secondhand books to collectables. They're also great fun, particularly if you like haggling! Not much beats the thrill of finding a bargain and the city's flea markets are a great place to seek out hidden treasures. Whether you want to revitalise your wardrobe or restock your larder, buy a new computer or an antique chair, track down a designer watch or a rare first edition - or find a gift for someone who's impossible to buy for - you're bound to find inspiration in London's Best Shops & Markets, which features some 300 of the capital's very best shopping destinations. We hope you will enjoy visiting them.