The West End of London, which you will only hear referred to as only “The West End” is the area of Central London that is home to plenty of tourist attractions, government buildings, loads of entertainment venues with an emphasis on theaters, businesses, and tons and tons of shops. The West End has a population of over a million and a half people and encompasses a number of boroughs; Fulham, Hillingdon, Harrow, Brent, Hounslow, Hammersmith, and Ealing. The West End is known to be a high class area and has been for more than a century when compared to that of the historically sketchier “East End.” One might not go so far as to describe the West End as “haughty” but it’s definitely an upscale area.
But if you ask locals or London natives about the West End, then you’ll hear them refer to the following; Leicester Square’s entertainment district, and Covet Garden. Of course all the world famous shopping abounds on Regent Street, Bond Street, and of course Oxford Street. But let’s look at them individually and in no particular order.
Oxford Street: The latest corporate investment for department stores in the area is Debenham’s. Be sure to check out their basement level which is every woman’s fancy stocking loads of shoes and lingerie. Let’s face it; nothing gives you more confidence than knowing you’re sporting your sexiest support underneath. Yet it’s twice as potent when its capped off with a stylish heel, making you feel like a 10 feet tall runway queen. But if you don’t find your foot fancy at Debenham’s basement just stroll over to Topshop’s Flagship store (Oxford Circus) which dedicates an entire floor to nothing but awesome accessories and a sweet shoe lounge. Perhaps the only other place that out does the accessory bonanza is H & M’s sister store, but that’s listed under Regent Street.
But sticking with Oxford Street gives you loads of options. Should you start at the Marble Arch Station that lets you out near Park Lane (A4202) walking east will ensure you hit all the biggest shops. Starting with Next and Swarovski at Park Street, you’ll cross the block and hit New Look, the trendy casual option. FYI, if your into crystal, and let’s face it, their jewelry is something special, you’ll love the selection at the big location Swarovski has, and don’t forget to check out their Christmas ornaments. But going on further east you will hit another good accessories retailer in Monsoon, which will lead to the department stores of Marks & Spencer and Selfridges.
If it’s luxury leather you seek walk just a block or two further to Bottega Veneta, followed by Forever 21, and the Disney Store (at this point you will have passed Bonpoint, another childrens store).. Next is the aforementioned Debenhams, and one of my personal trend conscious, house brand favorite stores in Zara. Across the street is another Next, and then Pull & Bear clothier and Oasis which caters to women’s delights. As you continue on there is long established department store of John Lewis, some of the most comfortable shoes are available at Clark’s, and for your athletic footwear there is a large Niketown, which of course has all the athletic apparel you could want. This brings you to the intersection of Regent Street, but if you carry on past the Oxford Circus Station you will run into Wallis women’s wear, Urban Oufitters, Lush, Topshop, Topman, Gap, H&M, New Look London, Uniqlo that covers men, women, and children, Mango’s, River Island, and finally Foot Locker. Just the walk down Oxford Street alone will likely put your feet at the ready for some comfortable tennis shoes.
Regent Street: Backing up to Regent Street and staying with the landmark of the Oxford Circus Tube Station you would head south to start your shopping frenzy. You’ll first come upon the better quality British clothier of Ted Bakers, followed by the Apple Store where you can get your tunes on. If you have a tighter budget but still want the latest trends in fashion there is H & M, which will leave you at the intersection of Regent and Noel Street where a half block east brings you to the upscale Liberty London. The beautiful Tudor-revival building lets you know there’s only quality within. From high-end fashions to luxury homewares and it’s well known Liberty fabric line the only problem you’ll have is wanting absolutely everything you see.
Taking Noel back to Regent Street brings you to 222 and COS, a more moderately priced clothing store. Further South brings you back towards higher fashion once again with Hobb’s, fashion for just us ladies. Down to 188-196 Regent is Hamley’s the famous toy store with 7 floors and over 35,000 items for the kid in all of us. Then it’s back to high fashion and the BOSS store, and Michael Kors. Continuing on you’ll reach the American Denim retailers of the Levi’s store and Calvin Klein Jeans. The next corner at 156 Regent is Massimo Dutti, followed by the American designer stores of Tommy Hilfiger and J. Crew, and T.M. Lewin & Sons for the man in your life. Just another block brings you to Zara’s Home Store, and the British luxury line of Burberry. The next six-story building that you see houses Superdry, known for their trendy apparel with the Soho vintage feel. As Regent Street curves east is the American teen sensation of Hollister Co. and another UNIQLO location. This brings you to the Piccadilly Circus Station of the Tube.
Bond Street: If you travel west on Piccadilly you’ll only a short walk to Bond Street, where more luxury and designer offerings await you. What better way to start off than Tod’s Boutique, with their Italian leather shoes and accessories that never go out of style. If you venture a block West you’ll be upon Albermarle Street where you’ll find Marian Rinalidi women’s store and Paul Smith- No. 9 for men and women. Circling back to Bond brings you to another choice for Italian fine leather wear at Bottega Veneta which is just steps away from the high end designs at Dolce & Gabbana and Prada’s Bond Street locations. The fashion forwardness continues with MaxMara, JOSEPH Multibrand, then it’s back to Italian cobbler creations of Salvatore Ferragamo’s. But you won’t have to worry about finding an outfit worthy of your new Italian leather shoes with Ralph Lauren’s Flagship sky-high store, which sits acroos the street from Boodles, the high end jewelry gallery.
Hopefully you’re not designer’d out at this point for the Lauren store begins New Bond Street where more of the world’s top designer offerings awaits you. You’ll be starting with Louis Vuitton Maison, Channel, Burberry, and Tory Burch all with fashions and courter right off the runway. For the slightly less extravagant offerings there is Miu Miu and Longchamps. Then its right back to the top of the line with Jimmy Choo’s sexy and cutting edge styles, and just in time to buy your husband something designer to offset what you’ve spent is the Italian clothier Ermenegildo Zegna. Worth a half a block side trip you will find Rigby & Peller with personalized styling and designer lingerie. In staying with the high end luxury feel back on Bond is Bally’s Flagship store at Grosvenor St., followed by Anya Hindmarch’s designer wear for the elite, four floors of lingerie are available at Victoria Secrets, which is just across from Fenwick’s better department store at Brook Street.
Now that we’ve covered the three most famous streets in the West End that tourists know about world-wide, let’s move toward the more locally known haunts.
Westfield in the West End: Closest to the two Shepherd’s Bush, and Shepherd’s Bush Market Tube Stations is the destination super mall. Also very accessible from the overground that comes from Clapham Junction and Willesden Junction, but there are two bus stations within walking distance as well. Of course if you drive there are almost 5,000 parking spaces located under the mall. So if notoriously poor London weather forces your wallet workout to continue indoors you have from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. to get your weatherproof purchasing in. You won’t be short on department anchor stores like Next, Debenhams, House of Fraser, Marks and Spencer and Waitrose. Though the mall is well covered in retailers there is also a 14 screen movie theater, spa, gym, and library, all making Westfield a destination spot where many a Londoner comes to meet their mates. There is a great strip of restaurants and eateries along the Southern Terrace, and the center of the mall has a gorgeous glass ceiling with events they host underneath in the Atrium. In total there are over 265 premium and high street shops inside, representing 15 different countries.
Covent Garden: In and around Covent Garden are a number of shopping delights, all are north of the Waterloo Bridge and if you’re coming on the Tube you’ll want to exit Covent Garden Station (Piccadilly Line). This brings your right to the heart of the shopping district. There’s the large men’s vintage retailer The Vintage Showroom, and Rokit, selling fashions for all from the 1940’s-1980’s, and Blackout II Vintage selling from the 1920’s-80’s (check out the 1,000 pairs of shoes in the basement). Nearby is the large Nike store, and Hobbs Department store. For more designer fashions there’s a Paul Smith, Agnes B., Michael Kors, Cath Kidston, and Barbour. For a traditional yet design edgy hat shop there’s only Stephen Jones, Milliner across from the historic Grand Lodge. Worth a mention is the Disney store, the eastern-inspired clothier EAST, an Oakley location and Jo Malone for designer fragrances. Then its’ the spot for athletic wear with lululemon athletic wear for yoga and running, Cotswold Outdoor, and extreme sport stores The North Face and Ellis Brigham.
Camden Passage: Just slightly to the west of North Central London in Islington is Camden Passage, perhaps best known for its antiques market and second-hand fashion finds. In addition to the numerous stall vendors in the marketplace, the entire street is free of vehicles to allow for leisurely browsing and buying. There aren’t any big named stores to speak of, but you’re sure to find something if eclectic is your thing. You surely won’t want for restaurants, coffee café’s or pubs in this hopping spot.
King’s Road Chelsea: Let’s begin with the best, highest end and ultra 60’s famous Vivienne Westwood Worlds End. That’s the name that’s stuck but previously it had been Let It Rock, Sex, Seditionaries, and Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die. Her high-end couture, though not for every taste, is known world-wide. For the other extreme of second-hand charity retailers there is Octavia Foundation, The Shop at Bluebird is a chic spot for designer stuff at outlet prices, also thrifty minded is LKBennett clearance store location. It’s back to Cashmere with Brora, nearby is the Peruvian Connection, and Wilde Ones. More designer wear can be found at Mauro Guerresco, the Designers Guild showroom, and Jane Taylor Millinery. At you travel up the street there are a good number of other retailers, like Anthropologie, Boho-chic for you and your home, Oxfam Boutique, Sweaty Betty, Nike, and another lululemon athletic for the athletes, and an American favorite Gap. In addition, you’ll find Joseph, Freddy, Harvest, Reiss, Brandy Melville, Jigsaw and Rigby & Peller.
02 Centre, Finchley Road: A much smaller mall there are a fair amount of High Street Retailers located here. More of the highlights beyond the shops are the Sony digital screen’s in the Vue Cinema. Also onsite is a Virgin Active gym and an interactive play area for the kiddies with Gymboree. In addition, there are about 15 different choices of food service at this little centre.