The year passes so quickly and before you know it – it’s Christmas. But no amount of Christmas lights, mince pies or Christmas markets take away the stress of finding presents for your loved ones. Luckily Christmas shopping in London doesn’t have to be painful because you have so many options; like buying a fun-packed adventure experience or even a luxury hotel stay with Christmas Afternoon Tea.
A proper London shopping day should involve a least one trip to Liberty, the timber-framed department store stocked basement-to-attic with the capital’s most covetable goods. Next on the list? Browse box-fresh streetwear at Dover Street Market, or do a gourmet gallop around Borough Market and its fiesta of food stalls. If you still have pounds in your pocket after a spree, we’ve lined up five ever-so-British gifts begging for a spot in your case. From Wonka-worthy truffles to the city’s best punch, these kitsch-free souvenirs are bound to raise a smile.
The Anglo-Israeli chef’s famous for his vibrant food, from tangy, tahini-drizzled salads to rosewater-spiked cakes. For the cook in your life, his Notting Hill deli stocks all the ingredients required, from pomegranate molasses to fragrant rose harissa, or Palestinian za’atar. Cherry-pick your own selection, adding a few sneaky treats: the lemon and vanilla marmalade always goes down well.
The capital’s best-loved artisan brolly-maker has been keeping Londoners dry since the 1830s. Ladies can choose from ‘pencil’, ‘birdcage’ or ‘walking length’ numbers; options for gents include a natty, hare-handled specimen. Just visiting the shop is a history lesson, since the premises is Grade-II listed; if you ask a cabbie driver to take you to ‘the Umbrella Shop’, they’ll know.
Founded in 1944, this Italian deli keeps Soho stocked up with fresh pasta, marinated artichokes, and wafer-thin prosciutto. It’s perfect for lunch on the run – and, as Christmas approaches, an excellent place for presents. Beautifully packaged, its traditional sweets are always a highlight, from chestnut amaretti to chocolate-covered breadsticks and rich, crumbly hazelnut nougat.
Get your cacao fix in style with help from award-winning chocolatiers Rococo. The flagship Belgravia boutique is an Aladdin’s Cave of edible treats: chocolate-dipped oranges, sea salt and mint wafer thins, rose and violet creams, caramels etc. Add a dash of Brit-pop swagger to your choc habit by investing in the Large Union Jack selection box, whose truffly lures include chilli and pink Marc de Champagne.
With its jaunty awning and hand-drawn façade, this boutique has a fairy-tale charm. Its specialty is iced biscuits, which double up as tiny works of art – think gingerbread astronauts, or pink-iced ballet shoes. Festive designs run from snowmen to reindeer, along with boxes of baubles to hang on the Christmas tree. Inspired to get icing? The café offers tutored classes and casual drop-in sessions.
What could be more British than a tea-based gin? Sipsmith’s London Cup punch pairs its award-winning London Dry Gin and Earl Grey tea – to delicious effect. Added flavour notes come courtesy of borage, lemon verbena and a bunch of other botanicals. Londoners have a thing for gin – it’s worth the trip to the boutique distillery’s HQ in leafy Chiswick for a head-turning tasting.
In situ for 40 years, this artisan cheese shop is a Covent Garden institution. The counter’s stacked with handsome cheeses, the shelves with excellent oatcakes. If in doubt, consult the clued-up staff, who always offer tasters. Come Christmas, Londoners queue round the block to assemble a festive cheeseboard, from Stitchelton (a blue cheese made from raw milk) to hunks of farmhouse cheddar.
Keep your lips shipshape by plumping your pout with organic shea butter, beeswax and sweet almond oil: components of this Hackney-made balm. Arthur’s 400-year-old emporium is, somewhat unexpectedly, a yacht-chandler on Shaftesbury Avenue. The plunder is eminently browsable: nautical flotsam and jetsam that includes Breton tops, storm-proof jumpers, brass bells and more.
For quintessentially British treats, head for Fortnum’s flagship store. Purchases here have a certain cachet, but needn’t break the bank; in in doubt, opt for a box of decadent chocolate truffles. Flavours include whisky and Sandringham coffee (a smoky, aromatic blend, first made for Queen Alexandra). Alternatively, stock up on fragrant loose-leaf tea, packaged in an impeccably elegant eau de nil tin.
Founded in 2011, Laboratory Perfumes took an oath to ‘do no harm’. These unisex scents are fuss-free and sustainable, inspired by the natural flowers, herbs and aromatic botanicals of Britain and beyond. We love the minimalist (and entirely recyclable) packaging, too. Choose from five fragrances: soul-warming, spicy Amber is top of our list. Get yours from Liberty, Lab’s London stockist.