London Souvenirs: Your Guide

September 5, 2019 4:01 pm

Shopping in London can be an overwhelming experience at the best of times. But picking up the perfect souvenir to remind you of your trip can become a bit of a nightmare, the kind of thing you hope to get wrapped up in 20 minutes, but ends up niggling at you for the whole trip. To help you out, we’ve developed this guide to shopping London souvenirs, so you can find what you’re looking for without it taking up more time than you want it to.

And look: it depends what you’re looking for. Of course it does. Some people are pressed for time, some people are buying gifts for little kids, some for elderly relatives, some for colleagues that they aren’t really that keen on anyway. So we’ve come up with options for those who are looking to spend a little more money, those looking to spend a little more time, and those looking to spend neither of those things.

Alright. 100% recycled fabric tote bag on your arm. Wallets and purses at the ready. The faces of all those you need to buy for fizzing through your mind. Let’s go find some London souvenirs…

This guide contains shops for:

  • Budget buys
  • Quirky gifts
  • Luxury gifts
  • Museum and exhibit mementos
  • And more…

 

The Cheap and Cheerfuls

These are the classic London souvenirs shop spots. You can find them on Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road, and spilling out onto the streets surrounding Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square. Spot them by looking for the British flag…there’s one!

Big Ben badges and teddy bears dressed up as Beefeaters. Mugs with flags on, masks of the Queen’s face. Enough fridge magnets to cover all of Europe’s fridge doors twice over. Models of London landmarks, jigsaws of London street scenes; hats and maps and Mind the Gaps.

Once you’ve been in one, you’ve been in all of them. That’s not to denigrate what they do or what they sell: they know what they’re doing, and they sell what sells. Whilst you’re exploring Central London, you can easily dip into one and pick up a bagful of mementos for you, your parents, your sister, your brother, your boss…anyone you can think of.

The Hip Artisanals

These places put greater emphasis on creating individual designs and have a ‘less is more’ approach…though there are still plenty of Union Flag motifs going on. The prices are higher, but so is the attention to detail and – much of the time – the quality and durability of the souvenirs they sell.

To Home from London sell handcrafted souvenirs made to original designs, producing them all in their London studio. Their delightfully drawn coaster sets of famous British musicians and landmarks are particularly popular with souvenir shoppers. The business was founded by a couple from Brazil and Argentina who moved to London a few years back. They made their first designs for their own friends and family back home, to let them know how they were getting on. So they really do know a thing or two about London souvenirs. You can find them at Camden Market, and every weekend at Spitalfields and Portobello Markets.

Cath Kidston is a design brand that has exploded in popularity in recent years, with their iconic floral-patterned mugs popping up in kitchens across the nation. But the formidable homeware empire grew up from a humble West London store. Their shops on Piccadilly, Tottenham Court Road and in Covent Garden sell a range of London-themed souvenirs that celebrate the city where it all started – think tote bags, aprons and crockery – all with a hint of nostalgia in their design.

We Built This City is perhaps the coolest of the bunch. Its location doesn’t hurt, sitting as it does on Soho’s storied Carnaby Street. Their curated collections of London-inspired souvenirs aim to delight visitors, while also highlighting, hosting and helping London-based artists and designers. They sell objects, posters and prints created by over 250 London-based makers, putting the city’s creativity, cultural heritage and contemporary style front and centre. You may still only come away with a fridge magnet, but it’ll be designed with real wit and imagination by one of the city’s most creative minds. It may just be a fridge magnet…but what a fridge magnet.

The Storied Department Stores of Central London

The leading, long-standing and largely luxury department stores of Central London are visited by many who have no intention of buying anything at all. The shop windows of Selfridges, the look and layout of Liberty…these are famous London sights worth seeing all by themselves.

But it can be nice to pick up a memento or two while you’re there. It’s important to remember that just because they’re selling Gucci gowns and thousand pound earrings a few metres away, it doesn’t mean everything in the shop costs more than your flight did. Harrods, Selfridges and Liberty sell plenty of affordable souvenirs, from British-made biscuits to London-themed tote bags and many other little artisanal trinkets and accessories.

When it comes to department stores, Fortnum and Mason is the foodie’s favourite, with fine produce from across the country, a superb range of teas, and their famous picnic hampers amongst their most popular items with visitors from across the globe.

Shop as You Sightsee

If you don’t have much time to set aside for shopping, don’t worry. You can shop while you sightsee, with many of the city’s most-visited museums and galleries boasting fantastic gift shops. These sell items related to their particular collections, but also a number of items celebrating London and London Life.

The British Museum has a wealth of trinkets, jewellery and fabrics celebrating their wonderful collection of artefacts, as well as London itself. The same goes for the Tates: Tate Britain and Tate Modern. The posters here make for fantastic mementos, so consider picking up a print of the painting you’ve just seen or the exhibition you’ve just visited.

A real favourite when it comes to souvenir shopping is the London Transport Museum. It has a great gift shop, with prints of vintage posters advertising and celebrating London and its landmarks. Keep an eye out for maps of the city and its transport networks. And grab a themed trinkets on your way out (pay first, of course). Their range of items inspired by the seat patterns on different tube lines are really something special.

So that’s the lowdown on London souvenirs shop shopping. If you’ve got any tips, any London souvenirs shop shopping mishaps or missteps, let us know in the comments below. Now grab your souvenirs and head out for a drink.

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