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U.K. Girlfriends Share London Shopping Secrets


Leila London...

Situated towards the top of Islington’s fashionable Upper Street, Leila London is one of those rare finds - a boutique selling clothes that look far more expensive than they actually are. It stocks niche brands that you won’t find everywhere else, and although there’s a real mix of styles, the emphasis is on feminine designs in flattering colors, making it a great place to shop for a wedding or party outfit. The staff are unfailingly helpful and honest, so if something doesn’t fit or look good, they’ll tell you, rather than let you buy something you’ll hate when you try it on at home.

If you’re not in the mood for buying clothes, there’s also a really good selection of reasonably-priced accessories, including bags, belts, costume jewellery and headbands, and a small but well-chosen range of homewares. You’re likely to find pretty perfume bottles, scented candles and photo frames, plus mirrored boxes and vintage-style jewellery mannequins, a particular favorite of mine.

Address: 204 Upper Street, London N1 1RQ
Nearest tube: Highbury & Islington
Bio: Andrea Dean is a homes and property journalist, writing for UK magazines and newspapers. She's lucky enough to visit a lot of shops in her line of work!
Twitter address:


Liberty Beauty Hall...

Liberty is my favourite ‘department’ store and a must for anyone visiting London. The gorgeous Tudor building sells the most contemporary wares (and of course it’s famous fabrics), including the brands in its beauty department. Everything is laid out in an easy-to-find design, and it’s light and airy so you can actually see how makeup looks on your skin, unlike most artificially lit stores. Exclusive brands such as Le Labo fragrances and Anne Semonin skincare save you a trip to Paris, and are another good reason (if you needed one) for a visit, as are fantastic Brit brands Espa, Ren, All for Eve and Miller Harris. The perfumery section is scent-tastic – the selection of cult, off-the-beaten-track fragrances is a treat for novices or ‘noses’. If you can drag yourself away from the lotions and potions, make sure you have a look at the rest of the shop – the shoe department is vast, crafts are inspiring, and anything with Liberty print on it is worth flexing your credit card for!

Address: Great Marlborough St, London W1B 5AH
Nearest tube: Oxford Circus, Bond Street or Piccadilly Circus
Bio: Janine Phillipson is a Beauty journalist, mum and now blogger – click on for great beauty tips, tricks and info for mums and mums to be. I grew up in Toronto and have lived in London for over 20 years.
Twitter address:


Columbia Road...

I recommend Columbia Road on a Sunday. Not technically a shop, but a shopping destination all the same. Every Sunday, the flower market takes over this traditional East End street. From 7am till 2pm you can wander up and down enjoying the spectacular flowers and plants. Even more colourful and enjoyable are the market traders. As well as the market, there are slots of unique little boutiques along the street - a hat shop, a jewellery shop, a candle shop, a cake shop, a tea shop galleries, antique shops and lots to eat and drink. Its worth popping into The Royal Oak pub, its steeped in history and has a great dining room upstairs serving up traditional Sunday roasts. A little gem in the East End.

Address: Columbia Road, E2
Nearest tube: Old Street Station
Bio: Orlagh O'Reilly is a Brand Consultant & Designer in London.
Twitter address:


Grays Antique Market...

A river runs through it. No kidding. When owners began to restore a derelict building to expand the market, they found the basement under six feet of water. The Tyburn River, a hidden tributary of the Thames, buried in a conduit when London grew up around it, had surfaced. London is full of underground surprises.This one was straightened, channeled, stocked with gold fish and given back its flow. But don't just go for the sightseeing. More than 200 antique, jewellery and vintage dealers cram this fabulous market with real finds. Dealers are exceptionally friendly and helpful. Try Mr. Salvi at ZMS Antiques, Unit 125, downstairs, for collectible silver, Old Sheffield plates and enamels. Or chat about fine and antique costume jewellery with Hu Ting Zhang of Tings Jewellery Box,Unit 20. Then have your purchase engraved, for a snip, while you wait, at Bennett & Thorogood, Unit 109.

Address: 58 Davies Street , London, W1K 5AB
Nearest tube: Bond Street
Bio: Ferne Arfin is a London travel writer, dedicated shop hound and's Guide to United Kingdom Travel. She is currently writing "London Shophound" an iPhone app. Follow Ferne's United Kingdom Blog and her international travel blog TimeZoneTraveler.
Twitter address:


Sylvanian Families...

Looking for toys or just want to entertain your kid with a visit to this shop? With their Edwardian dress, canal barges and caravans, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Sylvanian Families are English. They are in fact Japanese, but have been a popular toy in the UK since the 1980’s. These little, fuzzy, animal families come dressed in smart, lacy, clothes and with an astonishing array of fingernail sized accessories. Each animal has a name and character traits and their typical hobbies include sewing with an old fashioned Singer-type machine and having piano lessons. The only dedicated Sylvanian Families shop in the UK is in North London, near the Arsenal Football Stadium. This little treasure trove, on a quiet, residential street is a fun place to visit, even if you don’t want to buy. The centre of the small room is home to a large table with an outdoor diorama showcasing the best of their products. Little bears fish while pandas sunbathe. Rabbits prepare tiny burgers on a barbecue, and dogs enjoy riding in their horse and cart. As well as the standard sets, the shop also sells exclusive characters and costumes, normally only found in Japan. It’s enchanting.

Address: 68 Mountgrove Road, N5 2LT.
Closest tube: Arsenal
Bio: Victoria Wallop is a lifelong Londoner who is planning a round the world trip with her husband and three small children. She blogs about travelling with children and life in London at It's a small world after all.
Twitter address:


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