Visiting England and wondering what are the most exciting souvenirs from London? London is without a doubt one of the greatest cities on Earth, with a near-endless string of exciting attractions ranging from royal residences and traditional tea houses to cutting edge exhibitions and modern music venues.
And with each exciting experience, there's an iconic British souvenir to bring home. The capital is packed full of fabulous street markets, unique boutiques, luxury department stores and museum gift shops, selling unique items inspired by the city around them.
Before heading home, be sure to snap up a couple of these quintessential souvenirs from London.
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An Umbrella from James Smith & Sons
London is rainy; a cliche we know all too well. But, the beautifully handcrafted brollies, housed in the charming James Smith & Sons shop, will give you an excuse to delight in even the worst British weather. The facade of the original Victorian shop, located on New Oxford Street, has hardly changed since James Smith & Sons first opened its doors in 1830. Entering the shop is like stepping back in time with mirror panelled walls, cane chairs and varnished wood. You won't find a tacky plastic umbrella in sight. Each luxury brolly is made using traditional methods and cut to the correct length for the customer. Alongside the expected traditional brollies, visitors will find other hand-crafted souvenirs including cufflinks, hip flasks and hanging horseshoes.
Tea from Fortnum & Mason
Tea is serious business in the UK; it's the cornerstone of British culture. Collectively as a nation, Brits drink around 205 million cups of the stuff every day - that's enough to fill 50,000 swimming pools. If you're visiting London, tea is definitely something you'll want to check off your to-do list. But not just any tea. I'm talking a good, old fashioned English tea time, with finger sandwiches, intricately decorated desserts and freshly baked scones served with clotted cream and a fruity jam. And they certainly know a thing or two about that at Fortnum & Mason, where traditional afternoon tea has been served for almost 100 years. The store's Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon was opened by the Queen in 2012 and is considered one of London's most traditional and elegant destinations. When your belly is full, wander downstairs to the Fortnum & Mason shop, which sells everything from expertly packed hampers and elegant wines, to British jams, exotic teas and other tasty treats.
M&Ms from M&Ms World
Situated in the heart of Leicester Square, London's giant M&M store is the largest chocolate shop in the world and draws around 5.3 million chocolate fans each year. While it's not the first M&M World - there are five others around the world - it is the first that this chocolate giant has opened in Europe and is an experience that goes well beyond a bag of chocolate beans.
As you enter the 4-story building, you are greeted by a giant blue M&M character driving a big red London bus. And that's not the store's only nod to London. The Beatles walking across Abbey Road, union jacks and Beefeaters at the Tower of London, are all part of the M&M experience.
As part of your chocolate retail therapy, you can find your favourite coloured bean at the largest candy wall in the world, and even print your own message on the chocolate candies. You can also pick up branded egg cups, mugs, plates, shirts, bowls, baby grows, purses and pillows.
Vinyls from Soho Record Store
London's Berwick Street has been a hot destination for record collectors since the 1980s when it was coined "The Golden Mile of Vinyl.” Many of the shops struggled to stay alive amid the threat of digital music, but thanks to the ongoing vinyl revival, this corner of Soho is still home to London's largest concentration of thriving independent record stores. Record stores, like Sister Ray, Reckless Records, and the Music and Video Exchange are showcasing new artists while also harbouring the classics. From the Beatles and the Beastie Boys, Blur and Bowie - it's all here. Aside from SoHo's famous record street, there are close to fifty places dotted around London where you can get your hands on classic vinyls, including Dalson, Brixton and Crouch End, to name a few.
Bulbs or Seeds From Columbia Road Flower Market
Whether you're a green finger or a gardening novice, Columbia Road Flower Market, located in London's edgy East End, should be high on your travel list. Every Sunday, between 8am-3pm, the street is transformed by rows of market stalls bursting with colourful flowers, from hot red roses to giant yellow sunflowers. Follow the intoxicating scent of jasmine, lavender and lilies as you wander through a rainbow of blooms. The distinctive chants of the barrow boys "Everythin' a fiver” adds to the market's East London charm. Don't be afraid to barter for a bargain and make sure you take plenty of cash.
The flowers change depending on the season, so spring will bring different blooms to October. Pretty bouquets in every colour take centre stage, but you can also pick up herbs, shrubs, pot plants and even garden ornaments and tools to properly kit out your garden. For a bargain, wander around in the last hour when the market is winding down, and you'll find traders dropping their prices to shift the remaining stock. Flowers aside, Columbia Road is lined with over sixty independent shops including vintage boutiques, small art galleries, Italian delis, cute cafes and antique stores.
A Book From The Notting Hill Bookshop
Located minutes from vibrant Portobello Market is the world famous Notting Hill bookshop, better known as The Travel Book Company in the rom-com, Notting Hill. The charming shop originally specialised in travel books, but today focuses on beautiful gift editions, pocket hardbacks, satin-bound classics and golden gilt leather-bounds. As a nod to the film, the back section of the shop is still called The Travel Book Co. And while you won't spot Julia Roberts declaring her love to a bumbling bookshop owner, you may still witness a little romance. Since the film was released back in ‘99, the shop has become a popular proposal spot for young lovers hoping to re-enact scenes from the popular rom-com.
London Distilled Gin
The ‘gin craze' first hit London in the ‘70s when ‘dram shops' and distilleries popped up on every corner of the city. At that time, anyone was allowed to distil their own gin and the lack of quality control caused a social breakdown which resulted in a series of Gin Acts passing.
Over the past decade, a new wave of amazing gin distilleries has brought the juniper-based drink right back to its London roots. Gin bars, distillery tours, tasting rooms and gin festivals are dotted all over the city.
So, where is the best place to procure a bottle of gin in town? You can design and distil your very own gin at the ‘Gin Lab,' or sign up for an afternoon at Ginstitute where you will learn about the history of gin, blend your own bottle and mix up a gin-inspired cocktail. The tours are highly recommended, but if time doesn't allow, you can simply grab a bottle at almost any distillery. Other popular gin venues include the City of London Distillery, Sipsmith, and Jensen's at Bermondsey Distillery.
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Butterscotch Biscuits From Harrods
Located in the heart of one of London's most exclusive neighbourhoods, the iconic Harrods department store is a must-stop on every visitor to London's list. The lavish, seven-story building contains over 330 departments selling everything from luxury furniture, ladies fashion and children's items to fancy food and wine - living up to its motto, ‘Everything For Everybody Everywhere.' Once you've checked out the luxury boutiques in the superbrands department and befriended the giant stuffed teddies in the toy store, head down to the lavishly-decorated Food Hall located on the first floor. Here, you'll find a gourmet grocer, a wine shop, chocolatiers and confectionists, a boulangerie and patisserie, a sushi bar, and more. Created with traditional British flair, the huge selection of mouth-watering biscuits, chocolates, marmalades and other tasty treats makes for a lovely gift and a charming souvenir.
Toys From Hamleys
The oldest toy store in the world and the place of all childhood dreams, Hamleys on Regent Street is a British institution and a tourist attraction in it's own right. Spanning seven floors, each packed full with soft toys, craft materials, outdoor games, dress up boxes and action toys, it's the perfect place to get lost for an afternoon. As you step through the doors, you are greeted by a colourful and energetic scene. Miniature trains wizz across the shop floor, model planes circle above your head and enthusiastic staff demonstrate toys and gadgets on every floor. If that isn't enough to get you excited, you'll find Harry Potter and his wizard friends on the lower ground floor, and a miniature LEGO land and an ice cream parlour on the fifth floor. What more could you possibly want? Hmmm, perhaps lower price tags?
Everyone loves a good fairytale. Whether you're a royalist or not, a trip to London would not be complete without a visit to one of the city's royal residences. As one of Britain's oldest institutions, the Royal Family has lasted longer than many other regal houses. The changing of the guards, anniversaries, weddings and other formal occasions are full of grandeur and are watched by countries all over the world.
Buckingham Palace is the obvious place to get your royalty fix, but don't forget about the lesser known Kensington Palace. Tucked away behind Hyde Park, the Palace has been home to royalty for over 300 years and is currently the official residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, while also remaining open to the public. After you've explored the four stately rooms, make your way to the souvenir shop where you can pick up official gifts and memorabilia inspired by the Palace's rich royal stories, past and present. Cotton tea towels, teddies, key chains, bone china, crystal brooches and antiques are just some of the elegant items on offer.
Artistic Souvenirs At The V&A
If you like your shopping with a side of culture, then head to one of the gift shops inside London's museums. Your first port of call should be the V&A - the world's largest museum of arts and design, which houses a collection of over 2.7 million objects.
There are four impressive shops at the V&A, with an enticing selection of art design, homeware and jewellery inspired by the museum's collection. At the heart of the museum, the main gift shop resembles a modern-day bazaar and specialises in exclusive pieces inspired by the museum's collection. The new exhibition Quarter Shop, located above the Sainsbury Gallery, showcases the best of contemporary design, as well as celebrating the beauty of the V&A's existing building. At the end of the Sculpture Gallery, the standalone bookshop stocks an impressive selection of books that range from fashion to art and design, and architecture to entertainment. Fashionistas should head to the V&A Fashion shop where they will find clothing, textiles and quirky accessories that reflect the dynamic exhibition programme and fashion displays in the museum. Every purchase in the shop helps to support the museum.
Harry Potter Wizarding Gifts
Potterheads can find all the wizarding supplies they could ever need at platform 9 ⅓, located at Kings Cross station. Fans of JK Rowling's best selling series will know that Kings Cross is where Harry Potter and his friends catch the Hogwarts Express to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The shop is reminiscent of Ollivander's wand shop, decked with tons of magical objects from souvenir wands, toys and Gryffindor gear. Visitors can also take home their very own Hogwarts acceptance letter or have their photo taken with the famous trolley. Embedded in the wall, the trolley is accessible at all hours and you don't have to pay to take your own photos. The shop gets busy so arrive early to make sure you're first in line.