Harrods, Liberty and Fortnum & Mason - The London Three

Top London Department Stores You Won't Find Anywhere Else

Christmas In London
The window displays at Fortnum&Mason are always spectacular - even when it's not Christmas. Ian Gavan / Getty Images

Harrods, Liberty and Fortnum&Mason are each unique - unlike each other and unlike any other stores in the UK.

These three London department stores are too famous for shophounds to miss and, with the pound in freefall since Brexit, you can probably buy a lot more than you imagined.

Unlike other London stores, these three have no branches outside the capital. So if you are touring and determined to visit them, don't leave it until later in your trip.

They are London one-offs.

Harrods

What can you say about Harrods that has not been said a zillion times before? It is Britain's most famous department store, and is as much a tourist attraction as a store. It is still worth a look in, if only to tell your friends you've been there.

Harrods is packed with every imaginable luxury including:

  • diamond jewelry and designer clothes
  • a department for almost anything you can think of - real estate, banking, travel, even a children's reading room
  • perfume and cosmetics departments that seem to be endless
  • a series of food halls that are legendary and not to be missed.

The store's motto, "Omnia, omnibus, ubique" means everything, for everyone, everywhere. That about says it all. Harrods may not be as comprehensive as it once was; the prices are eye-watering and the ground floor is always packed with tourists. But, if you love stores and you have never visited before, join the crush - more than 15 million people visit every year - and explore its 500 departments and 30 cafes and restaurants, spread over 7 floors.

Where to find it: Harrods is at 87-135 Brompton Road, London SW1X 7XL, You can't really miss it as it occupies a whole square block. And when darkness falls, it's lit up like a Christmas tree all year round.

Visit Harrods' website for opening hours, sale dates and online shopping.

The Capital Hotel, on Basil Street, just behind Harrods, is THE place for ladies who shop and it's restaurant, Outlaw's, has a Michelin star.

Liberty

Once they've seen it, few would disagree that Liberty, on the corner of Regent Street and Great Marlborough Street, is the most beautiful store in London. In fact, many would claim that with its half-timbered, Arts & Crafts influenced building, it is one of the most beautiful stores in the world. Founded by Arthur Liberty in the 19th century, the store was at the forefront of Arts and Crafts - England's Art Nouveau movement - led by such stars as William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelite painters.

Its imitation Tudor facade, is just a hint of the wonderful things inside. It is like an oak paneled treasure chest, stocked with eclectic collections of fashion, jewelry, household goods and decorative items. You can, of course, find various accessories in the familiar Liberty prints. But the real joys of this store are the unusual and highly covetable objects and one-off fashion collections gathered from all over the world. I've always thought that being a buyer for Liberty might just be the most fun job in the world. Visit the Liberty website to see what I mean.

Where to find it: The official address for Liberty (and by the way, that's Liberty, never Liberty's) is Regent Street, London W1B 5AH.

But don't be fooled into missing it. The actual entrance is around the corner on Great Marlborough Street.  Just along Great Marlborough Street, the Courthouse Hotel has a roof terrace bar overlooking the amazing Liberty building. And just across Regent Street in Mayfair, the No. 5 Maddox Street is a stylish boutique hotel with family rooms.

Fortnum&Mason

To call Fortnum's the top people's grocer does not begin to suggest the amazing range of goodies in this 310-year-old store on Piccadilly. Exotic foods and wines from all over the world, sweets and cakes and biscuits, caviar and pate, rare game, dozens of different mustards and honeys and sauces and chocolates and teas. And it's all served up by Fortnum's famous frock-coated shop assistants.

There are some everyday goods as well. This is the store that introduced Heinz baked beans to Britain in the 19th century and, back in the 18th, invented the Scotch Egg for travelers.

Fortnums even has its own bee hives for collecting honey. Four colonies live on the store's central London roof in Georgian-style hives. They only produce one harvest of honey a year and it is apparently so good that there is a waiting list to buy it.

Don't worry - the Fortnum's bees also gather up the taste of London summer from various locations around town - including a Thames barge near Tower Bridge! And, if you've been to Stonehenge, you might want to sample honey from Fortnum's hives on Salisbury Plain.

Upper floors have gifts and accessories for men, women and the home but it's the food halls that have a fascinating history and are the main reason for visiting. See their website to find out more. 

Where to find it: Fortnum&Mason is at 181 Piccadilly, London W1A 1ER, right across the street from the Royal Academy of Arts and the Burlington Arcade. If you really want to push the boat out, you could stay at the Ritz Hotel while shopping there. This is definitely one of the high rent districts in London. But there are always deals to be had if you search.