London department stores have always been some of the best in the world. In fact, many would contend that the capital was home to the first ever department store – the Georgian emporium Grand Fashionable Magazine on Pall Mall, which opened in the closing years of the 18th century in 1796 and had four departments including furs and haberdashery. Today, London enjoys the perfect mix of luxury, glamour, innovation, affordability and practicality in its mix of department stores. Discover our definitive directory here.
One of the most revered department stores in London is Harrods. Founded in 1849 by Charles Henry Harrod, the building is still in perfect condition and stands tall over Brompton Road in Knightsbridge. Although it’s now owned by the state of Qatar via its sovereign wealth fund, it’s still an iconic piece of architecture that has centuries worth of history within its walls. The Food Hall is really something to savour, and naturally every department stocks the most luxurious products available for every category, from bedding to cigars.
Sleek, ahead of the curve and upbeat, Selfridges opened its doors in 1909 and is arguably the beating heart of Oxford Street. With exquisite window displays, storewide themes and new designer collaborations, there is always something fresh going on here.
3. Harvey Nichols
Affectionately known as Harvey Nicks, this department store in Knightsbridge is an intimate, stylish affair. Style Advisors are on hand to navigate you through the luxurious and edited collection. Drop by over lunch for some beauty pampering thanks to the Hersheson’s Blow Dry Bar and nail and lash services.
4. John Lewis
For the perfect all-round mix of affordable homeware, fashion, beauty and food, look no further than John Lewis. This family-friendly store stocks quality furniture and home essentials, high-street brands and a wide selection of beauty concessions. The fifth floor canteen-style restaurant is ideal for afternoon tea or a quick bite.
Occupying one of the most striking buildings in Central London, Liberty sits behind Regent Street like a treasure trove waiting to be discovered. Famous for its signature Liberty floral prints, the store collaborates with brands as diverse as Nike and Barbour, producing limited-edition products exclusive to the store. As Oscar Wilde said, “Liberty is the chosen resort of the artistic shopper.” Don’t miss the famous Christmas store – head there early in the year to nab the best tree decorations.
6. Dover Street Market
This concept store by Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons is six floors of pure, minimalist luxury with a twist. Dover Street Market has dedicated spaces for brands like Celine and Saint Laurent, so don’t be fooled by the name – this is no regular market. Visit the Rose Bakery (top floor) to satisfy any sweet or savoury cravings.
7. Fortnum & Mason
A visual experience both inside and out, Fortnum & Mason was established in 1707 and remains a celebrated British institution to this day. This is reportedly where the Queen gets her groceries and we say it’s worth a visit for the beautiful perfume and beauty floor alone. If you happen to pass by on the hour, walk across the street for a little surprise from Fortnum’s clock.
8. Fenwick of Bond Street
Nestled on the corner of New Bond Street and Brook Street, Fenwick was originally inspired by Le Bon Marché in Paris. The store boasts a really well curated beauty department, a tight menswear edit in the basement and a great contemporary selection of womenswear.
Debenhams features an exciting mix of brands and exclusive designer collections, all whilst staying true to high street prices. It stocks affordable lines from the likes of Henry Holland, Roksanda Ilincic and Julien Macdonald. Shop online and get free in-store delivery with their Click & Collect service.
10. House of Fraser
A gentle mix of upscale high street and middle luxury, this Oxford Street flagship carries brands like Jaeger, Michael Kors and Lulu Guinness. Whether you’re looking for a classic Barbour wax jacket or a new pair of J Brand skinny jeans, House of Fraser covers most of life’s little luxuries.