From Harrods to Harvey Nicks: why London’s the destination for department stores

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People flock to London from all over the world and for a variety of different reasons (its world-class West End theatre shows, its magnificent museums and galleries, its unrivalled restaurants and nightlife and so on), but one of its attributes that unquestionably appeals to folk from every corner of the globe is its internationally-renowned exclusive shopping.

Indeed, for many who love nothing more than to indulge themselves via a visit to a department store, London is definitely the city-break destination to choose. Because, whether you decide to stay at the hotel San Domenico House or any other accommodation in the centre of the city, this part of town is brimming with fantastic, grand retail addresses full of different departments vending the best in fashion, homewares, gifts and so very much more…

Harrods

(87-135 Brompton Road SW1X 7XL)

Did you know that, each year, more than 15 million people visit this, surely the world’s most famous, department store? It fills seven floors and features 330 separate departments spread across 100,000 square metres of floor space. Indeed, the word palatial might even have been invented to describe the shopping experience offered by Harrods – it was the first shop in the world to have an escalator installed, features departments representing the top fashion brands on the planet and even, until very recently, boasted a pet department. Yes, really.

Harvey Nichols

(109-125 Knightsbridge SW1X 7RJ)

Just as firm a fixture of the Knightsbridge neighbourhood as Harrods (and so ideal for visiting should you be staying nearby at one of the Chelsea-located hotels near Saatchi Gallery), Harvey Nichols started out as a humble linen shop opened by Benjamin Harvey in 1831 and, today, is revered for the fantastic blend of high-class fashion brands it features, having introduced the likes of Lanvin, Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen to London shoppers back in the day. Perhaps considered the most on-trend and – to that end – arguably the most fashionable of all of London’s department stores, Harvey Nicks (no wonder then) was a favourite retail haunt of Princess Diana in the young years of her life.

House of Fraser

(318 Oxford Street W1C 1HF)

Dating all the way back to 1849 (it started out as a modest drapery shop in the Scottish city of Glasgow), House of Fraser has since grown into a department store giant with branches throughout the UK and Ireland. None are larger or grander than its Oxford Street-located flagship store, though. Of particular note in this HoF are the pampering paradises that are its ‘beauty rooms’ where treatments are the order of the day and the tax refund desk that’s available for some purchases and located on the second floor.

Selfridges

(400 Oxford Street W1A 1AB)

For many people, simply the first name in shopping in the UK capital, Selfridges’ origins are actually relatively well known thanks to a recent British TV drama that explored the subject. As was revealed in the show, the concept of window-shopping was practically invented by the smart management of this outstanding, grandiose but extremely high-quality Oxford Street store. As with House of Fraser, Selfridges prides itself in taking care of its international customers, not least via its fourth-floor-based tax-free shopping areas, which include a ‘tax refund lounge’, a pair of ‘tax free halls’ and VIP spaces for ‘high-net-worth’ shoppers, as well as a theatre desk at which West End shows and excursions to see the city’s sights can be booked.

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