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London’s best shops for last-minute presents

Still scrambling to gather gifts for the big day? Luckily, one trip to central London and Christmas is not only sorted, but absolutely nailed. Adopted Londoner and present-perfect supremo Hannah Ralph reveals the stores and spoils that are ready to save the day


01/12/2021

Fragrances from Floris London

Where? St James’s
Follow your nose to Jermyn Street, where just about every shop comes with a centuries-old Royal Warrant and tales of Churchill’s cigar-puffing patronage. At Floris London, the original King George IV warrant (look up, you’ll spot it) is the oldest example of its kind, since Floris has stood on this very spot for nigh on 300 years. Inside, a small museum shows off receipts from Churchill, Marilyn Monroe (she liked the rosier numbers) and Bond creator, Ian Fleming, who wore No.89. The 100ml bottles clock in at £80 each and will be gift-wrapped for you (free of charge) on site.

Head to Floris London

Flowers and plants from Botanique

Where? Exmouth Market
Head to the right places, and London can feel more like a collection of little villages than a mega metropolis. This is certainly the case at Exmouth Market, which – despite being a brisk 15-minute walk from Holborn’s theatre traffic – could be a million miles away. The village green vibes come to a head over at Botanique, where, beyond the dried flower bouquets, Christmas wreaths (the shop’s festive workshops are basically famous) and potted plants, lies a world of artisanal trinkets: bath salts, candles, chopping boards, notebooks and more, all carefully sourced by owner and woman of supreme taste, Alice Howard.

Find your fragrance

Kitchenalia from Kitchen Provisions

Where? Stoke Newington
Watch your fingers – we’re in Stoke Newington’s beloved kitchenware emporium, where knives, cleavers and all manner of glinting steel line the walls, stack the shelves and grind on the whetstones (you can bring your own knives in for sharpening, too). Run by Tom Saunders and Helen Symonds, this teeny treasure trove stocks rare Japanese kitchenware that – thanks to Helen’s time living in Japan and the couple’s frequent visits – are hard to come by elsewhere in the UK. Come away with precious gyuto knives, oroshigane graters, small batch condiments, ceramics and that warm, fuzzy feeling – Tom’s shop chat is second to none.

Browse Kitchen Provisions

Scarves from Liberty London

Where? Regent’s Street
There’s no point in beating about the classics, is there? Liberty London is as synonymous with its scarves as bread is with butter, and what special presents they make, too. Shoppers can nab them from £95 in store and online (the Power of Love print is our favourite), but it all depends how generous you’re feeling – the classic prints can ring in anywhere up to £225. For those with a tighter budget, Liberty London’s famous prints can be found on some darling accessories, such as an exclusive water bottle in collaboration with S’well and printed Christmas stockings.

Visit London’s classic department store

Brollies from James Smith & Sons

Where? New Oxford Street
At last, a shop that makes you almost grateful for British weather. With its frontage looking freshly plucked from Wes Anderson’s imagination, James Smith & Sons is a certified Victorian time capsule, sporting interiors that have barely changed since operations first began back in 1830. Famous for its kooky, hand-carved handles (the animals are the best – think ornate fox faces, ducks, cats, parrots and more), the brolliology expert can whip you up an umbrella or walking stick in a roster of rare woods. Better yet, note down the height of the recipient and either one can be cut to fit.

Explore James Smith & Sons

Camping kit from Outsiders

Where? King’s Cross
Finally, a shop that makes hard-core adventurers feel heard and outdoorsy hipsters feel seen. Part of the line-up over at Coal Drops Yard (you could easily buy all your gifts here – every boutique’s a winner), Outsiders is one of those places where you find yourself saying, “But it’ll last forever” to just about everything you pick up. Here, niche names from Scandinavia and Japan rub up against the likes of North Face, Patagonia and Rab – brands any adventurer worth their salt would go to extremes to see under the tree this Christmas. And for their stocking? Montbell’s thermo mug is a must.

Explore outdoors

Magazines from magCulture

Where? Clerkenwell
A High Life top tip: independent magazines (the not-available-in-your-nearest-Co-op kind) are a perfect way to show someone you know what they like. Know a gardening lover? They’ll lap up the new issue of Bloom. Friend’s a running fanatic? Watch them feast their eyes on Like the Wind. Foodies will keep issues of Sandwich and Table on their kitchen shelves forever, while too-cool-for-school nieces and nephews will devour i-D, Off The Rails and Interview. By this logic, Christmas shopping can be over in one fell swoop at magCulture – the Clerkenwell stalwart with hundreds of gorgeous titles in stock. You’re welcome.

Visit magCulture

Records from Rough Trade East

Where? Shoreditch
Is this one of London’s ‘hidden gem’ vinyl stores? It is not. In fact, Rough Trade East is just about as popular as it gets. But when it comes to gift-buying, the East London legend is our go-to for good reason. There’s vinyl, of course, spanning the excellently obscure to crowd-pleasing new releases, but also a symphony of stocking fillers for the music lover in your life. Biographies, jigsaws, mugs, jumpers, posters, playing cards – you could while away hours listening to tunes and picking prezzies. And, go on, snap some silly selfies in the famous photo booth before you go.

Visit Rough Trade East

Cheese from Paxton & Whitfield

Where? St James’s
We’re on to our second Jermyn Street location, which can mean only one thing: another royal warrant (in this case, actually, two). Her Majesty’s designated cheese supplier Paxton & Whitfield is one of the oldest cheesemongers in England, having started out life as a humble stall on Aldwych market in 1742. The shop, which opened on Jermyn Street in the 19th century, still has one of the dairy world’s most impressive counters (and plenty of clever cheese connoisseurs behind it). For Christmas, you’ll want to grab a box set: the Cheddar & Ale hamper is a bargain at £35.

Pick your flavour at Paxton & Whitfield

Children’s books from Round Table Books

Where? Brixton
Did you know that a mere one per cent of children’s books have a BAME main character? Round Table Books (you’ll recall King Arthur requested his table be round so no one could sit at its head) is the equality-driven, inclusive children’s bookshop that’s been taken tightly under Brixton’s wing. Founders Aimée Felone and David Stevens are also publishers: Knights Of runs from the back of the shop, whipping up stories dedicated to promoting diverse perspectives. The illustrated picture books make for especially great Christmas Day fodder, but just go in and ask for recommendations – these guys know their stuff.

Need to refuel between shopping stops? Check out these excellent London eateries en route.

Browse the shelves at Round Table Books

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