Photo: Sabrina Mazzeo
Where to shop in London for the things you’d get at home
Post Updated: November 2020
One of the most important things about being an expat in London is knowing where to shop in London!
Getting your bearings in a new city can be difficult. It’s even harder to get set up when you don’t know where to start. In this Expat Guide I focus on where to start with shopping when you’ve just arrived in London.
When I first moved to London in 2011 it was a very different place. I spent a lot of time looking for certain things I knew where to get back home, but I couldn’t seem find in my new city. It can be really frustrating! Well, I eventually found them, and this post will tell you where they are. This is by no means an exhaustive list of London shopping secrets, but I hope it will help you get started when you’re setting up your new life in London.
Department Store: John Lewis and House of Fraser
There are many options for department stores in London, but these are my two favourites. They both have a really good selection of brands and offer great service if you need help.
Shopping Centre: Westfield
The original Westfield Mall is in Shepherd’s Bush, this is where I went on my shopping excursions, and a second one opened in Stratford just before the 2012 Olympics. These are some of the biggest shopping centres in Europe and they really do have it all — food, activities, shopping, ice skating in the winter.. the list goes on. A lot of shopping in London is done ‘on the high street,’ but if you’re looking for shopping malls like back home, this is where you want to be.
Trendy Clothes: River Island
I skipped over River Island when I first moved to London, but soon realised that I could always find something to purchase. (Maybe it was better that I didn’t go in right away?). If you’re in to trendy clothes, or looking for something to wear out-out, River Island is on point and pretty reasonable price-wise.
Inexpensive Shoes: Debenhams
Okay, so shoes aren’t something we should routinely cheap out on, they set up our spine for good posture (sigh..) and also complete your outfit. That being said, sometimes you need something fast and inexpensive. The best place for shoes like these are at the Debenhams in Westfield, where they have a whole shoe boutique.
Fast Fashion: Primark
You can’t talk about where to shop in London without talking about Primark. This store is a zoo. There are several locations throughout the city, and everything is unbelievably cheap. This is definitely the fastest fashion I’ve ever seen, so if you want to be more environmentally friendly, this isn’t the place for you.
Try to avoid the Oxford Street location near Marble Arch wherever possible, it’s like Black Friday every day in there. Also, never bother going into the change room without the maximum six items, there is no point waiting in the huge queue for anything less. I find that most things don’t hang properly or fit like I’d expect, but you get what you pay for. I like to check it out every once in a while, because I’ve definitely come across a few gems that lasted years. One thing I think they do quite well are the tank tops and t-shirts — lots tons of colours, all the sizes, many styles of neckline, and all for a few quid each.
Discount Store: TK Maxx
Sound familiar? It’s exactly like the American TJ Maxx, except with a K. If you’re looking for a big-box-mix-of-everything type place, head to TK Maxx for your discount clothes, shoes, accessories, and homewares. These shops are dotted around the city.
Boots is by far my favourite drugstore. It has makeup, hair products, pharmacy items, and painkillers all under one roof! They have a great selection of makeup brands from high street to extra special at their bigger locations.
There is another popular drugstore called Superdrug, but I find them to be consistently more expensive.
Nail Polish: Barry M
In Canada I loved the 100+ colour options from Sally Hansen, which don’t seem to have completely made it across the pond. My replacement favourite nail polish brand is called Barry M. For £2.99 a bottle, I get the longest lasting nail polish I’ve ever had. I’d pick it over OPI or Revlon any day.
A popular bookstore in London, and one you’ll see frequently around the city, is Waterstones. Like the Indigo-Starbucks partnership in Canada, they offer Costa coffee at many of their locations. The best thing I discovered about buying books in the UK is the price! They are much more affordable, with standard paperbacks ringing in at under £10.
Window Shopping: The King’s Road, Chelsea
Grab a coffee, wander down the street, take in the sights and the people. On a sunny day, there’s no better place to window shop than along the King’s Road.
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