Iconic London Stores Rich In History

Take the credit cards for a treat and visit 4 of London's oldest and most famous stores, which still keep up with the times.

London is a city where you have the choice of luxury department stores, vintage street markets and cutting-edge British design. It’s been a fashion leader and a trendsetter but also has always been filled with classic shopping experiences. We take a look at four of our best-loved iconic stores that have been tempting shoppers for decades.


Foyles, in its early days (©Foyles store)
Foyles, in its early days (©Foyles store)


New Home for Historic Store

Established in the early 1900s, Foyles has innovation sewn into its spine. It was the first bookseller to offer a mail-order service, and one of the first shops to initiate in-store events such as author readings and exhibitions. In June it moves into its new premises, located next door to the building it's called home since 1912. This new four-storey space – a light-filled art deco building – has been transformed into a bookshop for the 21st century with a huge atrium, a purpose-built events space, and four miles of shelving for books. 

If you’re in town June 11 to July 4, look out for its Grand Opening Festival with guests galore. New address: 107 Charing Cross Rd, London WC2H 0EB.


John Lewis, loved by Londoners for 150 years
John Lewis, loved by Londoners for 150 years (courtesy John Lewis)


John Lewis – 150 Years Young

Britain’s cherished department store turns 150 in May, which the company’s Oxford Street flagship celebrates with good cheer. Not only is it a company with a social conscience (all employees get a share of the co-operative’s profits) and renowned for its customer service, it’s also still the go-to store for many of life’s milestone events – from buying your first work outfit to furnishing your new apartment. An in-store Victorian-themed exhibition (to 23 June) depicts the story of the store through the ages, since opening on 2 May 1864, including a reconstruction of John Spedan Lewis’s office, where it all began. It’s also opened up its roof terrace to customers for the first time, transformed into a tranquil haven by expert horticulturalists – offering far-reaching views of the capital. 


Iconic frontage of Liberty of London
Iconic frontage of Liberty of London (©Tony Baggett/iStock editorial/Thinkstock)


Fabrics & Fashions At Liberty

Best known for its haberdashery department and custom-designed prints and textiles, the Tudor-revival style store has been a Regent Street shopping landmark since 1875. The dark timber beams you see on the outside were taken from two ships, HMS Impregnable and HMS Hindustan, and designed at the height of the Tudor revival. Today it still oozes heritage on its five floors of fashion and fabrics. Libertys is still renowned as the place to go for its own-brand designed silks and cottons which are updated each season – although always with a look back to its heritage designs.


Tempting window display at Hamleys
Tempting window display at Hamleys (©Stu99/iStockeditorial/Thinkstock)

Hamleys – A Seven-floor Wonderland

From the latest superheroes to high-tech electronic games and a good old traditional teddy bear, Hamleys has been bringing a smile to wide-eyed kids’ faces since its 1881. Spread over seven floors and employing around 335 staff, this mega toyshop caters for all young ‘uns, from new-born babes to, well, adults who are young at heart. Even today, you’ll still find traditional toys such as rocking horses, puppets and furry brown teddy bears. But you’ll also find the latest action toys such as Angry Birds and Ben 10 – with plenty of in-store activities and demonstrations that will bring out the inner kid in anyone.

Find out more about London's shopping scene.