If you like shopping then you’ll love London. This city is home to some of the best shopping in the world from the big chain shops and department stores that jostle for space along Oxford Street to hipster boutiques, independent designers and creative markets.
But what if you’re looking for a unique gift from London?
Well, you’re in luck.
Not surprisingly for such a creative and diverse city, London is home to stores that you simply won’t find anywhere else and many of them are ideal for finding that perfect British gift.
So, forget the traditional gift shop that sell Union Jack hats, Big Ben postcards and London Eye shopping bags, and take a look at our pick of the best places to buy the best London souvenirs.
The best gifts from London
Regardless of where you end up buying your London souvenirs from, there are a couple of department stores that you simply must visit and each of them is home to some wonderful gifts.
The designer department store Liberty first opened its doors in 1875. London lovers will swoon at the building alone – a grand Tudor revival building that was constructed from the timbers of two ships: HMS Impregnable (formerly HMS Howe) and HMS Hindustan. Famous for its ‘Liberty prints’ these make a great gift available to buy as washbags, notebooks, dressing gowns and more. Liberty London is on Great Marlborough Street in the West End of London.
On nearby Oxford Street is where you’ll find famous department store Selfridges, an emporium of fashion, homewares, make-up, kids’ goods and much more spread over nine floors. This, the flagship store, is the second largest shop in the UK and opened in 1909.
Which leads me on to Harrods, the largest shop in Britain and a brilliant place to buy unique gifts from London. The famed Food Hall has recently undergone a four-year refurbishment and is a brilliant place to buy unique London souvenirs for foodies. In 2021, Harrods opened its Chocolate Hall, which features creations by some of the best chocolatiers in the world – as well as Harrods’ own-brand chocolate range – as well as live demonstrations from Harrods’ in-house chocolate masters.
Harrods is the only UK department store that makes and sells its own chocolate in-house and all cocoa used is responsibly sourced. Personally, a box or two of Harrods chocolates is one of the best things to buy in London!
Don’t miss some of London’s markets while you’re here as these are often great places to find the perfect London souvenir. Portobello Road Market, on one of London’s most famous streets, is always fun to discover. Columbia Road Flower Market is another place to head for unique British gifts. The market is held on Sundays from 8am to around 3pm.
A gift from Buckingham Palace
The Buckingham Palace Gift Shop lies just a stone’s throw away from the Queen’s residence on Buckingham Palace Road and sells the official merchandise of Her Majesty and the rest of the Royal Family. From a portrait of The Queen and corgi-themed items (including stuffed corgi toys) to aprons, cookbooks and even shower caps, there’s something for every Royalist in your life.
If you can’t get to the store itself then take a look at the website.
London Underground Poster
One of my favourite souvenirs from London has to be the vintage London Underground posters sold by the London Transport Museum. They also sell cushions made out of the iconic moquette fabric – the exact same fabric used to upholster London’s transport vehicles.
The London Transport Museum also sells a great range of gifts for children.
Tea from Twinnings
There’s nothing quite so quintessentially British as afternoon tea. Give the gift that keeps on giving with a selection of teas from the flagship Twinnings store on the Strand. With over 300 years of history, this is the oldest tea shop in London.
A hamper from Fortnum & Mason
Another one of London’s most beautiful stores is Fortnum & Mason that was first founded in 1707. It’s a stunning shop and well worth a wander around – they also do a very good afternoon tea! Pre-prepared food hampers are a favourite but you can also choose your own food items. To be honest, anything from here would be a welcome London souvenir! Our picks include tea and biscuits, a Fortnum & Mason tote bag or even a fine china tea set.
An umbrella from James Smith & Sons
James Smith & Sons have been making umbrellas since 1830 and is the place to go for men’s and women’s umbrellas and parasols – as well as made-to-measure walking sticks. Prices range from surprisingly affordable (given the brand’s pedigree) to thousands of pounds for antique and bespoke options. It’s the ideal gift for those who love style and history.
Jewellery from Tatty Devine
This very British brand started life in London’s Portobello and Spitalfields markets when two art school friends got together and started making jewellery.
Today, Tatty Devine creates fun, colourful pieces using laser cut acrylic. Their designs might not be for everyone – necklaces can feature anything from a giant lobster to an oversized banana – but they are packed with personality and a lot of fun. They also make personalised necklaces, which make great souvenirs. There are stores in Brick Lane and Covent Garden.
Toys from Hamleys
If I’m entirely honest, I’m not the biggest fan of Hamleys but it’s the world’s oldest and largest toy store and receives some five million visitors every year so I guess I’m in the minority! If it’s your first time visiting London then it’s a great place to go and there are plenty of Hamley-themed toys that make good presents. If you live in London, go elsewhere!
Hamleys is located on Regent Street.
The All on the Board Book
Ever wondered who’s behind the clever, funny and inspirational messages that appear on the Underground boards across London?
The duo behind the #allontheboard are Jeremy Chopra and Ian Redpath who first began writing short poems of hope on customer information boards in order to cheer commuters up. Their messages have been so popular that they have an Instagram account with over half a million followers and now a book called, of course, All On the Board.
Toys from Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop
A far better bet for children’s gifts in my opinion is Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop in Covent Garden. The toy store first opened in the 1880s in Hoxton before moving to Covent Garden. It specialises in cut-out and make Victorian toy theatres, paper shadow boxes and pop-up theatres as well as books, music boxes and other traditional toys.
Biscuits from Biscuiteers
Paddington Bear gifts from the Paddington Bear Shop
The Paddington movies are some of our favourite family films set in London and now there’s a Paddington shop, too. Located, as you might expect, at Paddington Station, the Paddington Bear Shop is the place to get the perfect present. It’s the only shop in the world which is dedicated exclusively to the famous bear. Pick up up all manner of memorabilia including books, miniature replicas and your very own Paddington teddy bear.
A hat from Lock & Co Hatters
Not only is Lock & Co Hatters the oldest hat shop in London, it’s the oldest hat shop in the world! Founded in 1676, Lock & Co have dressed the heads of some of the most famous names in history including Admiral Lord Nelson, Sir Winston Churchill and Oscar Wilde. The shop is one of the oldest family-owned businesses still in existence.
Anything from Alice Through the Looking Glass
One of London’s most magical stores is Alice Through the Looking Glass. Located in Cecil Court, not far from Leicester Square, this shop is filled with gifts, memorabilia and rare editions of Lewis Carroll’s stories. It’s the perfect place for that special gift.
A wand from the Harry Potter Store
You’ll find Harry Potter merchandise for sale almost everywhere in London but every Harry Potter fan knowns that it’s worth going to the Harry Potter shop in Kings Cross Station as well. Located at Platform 9 3/4, this is the place to come to buy everything related to the boy wizard. Don’t miss the chance to have a photo taken of you pushing your trolley onto the magical platform while you’re here.
London souvenirs from We Built This City
For London souvenirs with a cool, modern edge head to We Built This City. This online store – and occasional pop-up shop – brings together some of the best London-inspired goods from the some of the city’s best creatives. There are cool maps, fun ‘Kate Middle-toe’ socks, colourful prints and much more.
Gifts from To Home from London
Another fun online store selling quirky London gifts is To Home from London. Come here for coasters, tote bags, placemats, mugs and much more, all with colourful London-inspired designs.
A book from Hatchards
London’s oldest book store opened in 1797, making it almost as old as the USA! Hatchards moved locations in 1801 and has occupied the same 187 Piccadilly address ever since – right near Piccadilly Circus. In the 1990s it was acquired by Waterstones so the interiors are not quite as historic as you, or rather I, might like but Royal Warrants are still on display as are historic photographs and old catalogues. They also stock a very good selection of books.
A travel guide from Stanfords
The UK’s leading retailer of maps and travel guides since 1853, Stanfords is a great place to go for a unique London gift. Located in Covent Garden, they have been welcoming adventure and armchair travellers alike for more than 100 years. Famous names who have walked through their doors include Florence Nightingale and Michael Palin.
For ideas on where to buy children’s books see this list of bookshops.
A print from the V&A
London’s museums house some of the best shops in the city and one of my favourites is at the Victoria & Albert Museum. As well as jewellery, books and homewares, the V&A offer made to order art prints for your home. The perfect original London gift!
Wine from Berry Bros & Rudd
Founded in 1698, Berry Bros. & Rudd is the oldest wine and spirits merchant in Britain and one of the oldest family-run businesses in the UK. It’s located in a Grade II* listed building on St. James’s Street and boats a distinguished pedigree of clients; it’s been the official wine supplier to the Royal Family since the reign of King George III.
Cheese from Paxton & Whitfield
You’ll need something to go with the wine you pick up from Berry Bros. & Rudd so head to Paxton & Whitfield, one of the oldest cheesemongers in the UK. The shop was first established in 1797 and they’ve been selling all manner of cheeses every since. They were awarded their first Royal Warrant to Queen Victoria in 1850 and today hold Royal Warrants of Appointment to Her Majesty The Queen, and HRH The Prince of Wales.
Perfume from Penhaligon’s
Penhaligon’s shops are fairly prolific these days but the perfume house dates back to the late 1860s when William Henry Penhaligon, a Cornish barber, moved to London. He became Court Barber and Perfumer to Queen Victoria. It’s flagship store sits in Covent Garden but you’ll find other branches across London. Come here for the beautiful scents, the hand wash, the candles or just to browse.
Art supplies from L. Cornelissen & Son
L. Cornelissen & Son has been supplying artists with pigments, paints, brushes, boards and more since 1855. Even if you’re not up to the standard of some of their previous clients (Francis Bacon being one), it’s a wonderful emporium of colour to explore. Plus, you’ll find the perfect gift for the artist in your life.
Stationery from Marby & Elm
Marby & Elm is fun stationery shop in Exmouth Market that stocks a range of handprinted cards as well as pencils, week planners and jewellery. They also stock candles inspired by London such as ‘Clerkenwell Blue’, ‘Bethnal Green’ and ‘Shoreditch Orange’. Some might be a little risky for presents – your gran might not appreciated ‘The Smell of Total Bollocks’ for example – but it’s all good fun.