Classic Department Stores of London: A Shopping Extravaganza

April 24, 2024
Classic Department Stores Of London

If you love shopping, then London is your dream destination. The city boasts a rich shopping heritage, and its classic department stores are a testament to its vibrant retail culture. Let’s explore the iconic department stores of London that have been captivating shoppers for generations.

Fortnum & Mason

Founded in 1707 by William Fortnum and Hugh Mason, Fortnum & Mason began as a humble grocery store in St. James’s Market. Over time, it transformed into a prestigious supplier to the British royal family, earning a royal warrant from Queen Victoria in 1863. The store is renowned for introducing ready-to-eat meals, preserving meats, and offering exotic goods. Despite the challenges of World War II, Fortnum & Mason continued to operate and even survived the Blitz.

The flagship store at 181 Piccadilly underwent a £24 million refurbishment in 2007 to celebrate its tercentenary. Since then, it has expanded with additional stores at St Pancras International station, Heathrow Terminal 5, and The Royal Exchange. Although its first standalone store outside Britain in Dubai closed in 2017, Fortnum & Mason remains a symbol of British tradition and luxury.

Reasons for its iconic status:

  • Royal Connections: A long history of supplying goods to the British royal family.
  • Tradition and Heritage: Over three centuries of history, renowned for quality products and impeccable service.
  • Culinary Excellence: Celebrated for gourmet foods, teas, and luxury goods.

Top things to do in the store:

  • Enjoy afternoon tea at The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon.
  • Explore the Food Hall, Perfumery, and luxury hampers.
  • Attend events or workshops, such as tastings or cooking demonstrations.


Liberty was founded in 1875 by Arthur Lasenby Liberty as a small shop on Regent Street, specializing in ornaments, fabrics, and objets d’art from Japan and the East. It quickly gained popularity for its distinctive textiles, particularly Liberty prints. In 1924, the store moved to its current Tudor-style building on Great Marlborough Street, inspired by Tudor England and designed by Edwin T. Hall.

Throughout its history, Liberty has survived both World Wars and remained at the forefront of fashion and design. The store has collaborated with numerous notable figures and brands, including William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Yves Saint Laurent, and Dame Vivienne Westwood. Recent collaborations include Scott Henshall, Nike, Dr. Martens, Hello Kitty, and Vans.

Reasons for its iconic status:

  • Unique Identity: Renowned for its distinctively British aesthetic and iconic prints.
  • Innovative Design: History of championing innovative design and craftsmanship.
  • Cultural Hub: A hub for creativity and inspiration for generations of artists, designers, and shoppers.

Top things to do in the store:

  • Visit the Liberty Fabrics department and the Beauty Hall.
  • Enjoy a meal at the Liberty Cafe, offering views of London.


Founded in 1909 by American entrepreneur Harry Gordon Selfridge, Selfridges on Oxford Street was designed to be a lavish and luxurious department store. Selfridge’s innovative approach to marketing, including the concept of window displays as advertising, set new standards for the shopping experience. The store has expanded over the years, adding new departments, restaurants, and services.

In 2002, Selfridges underwent a significant restoration, featuring the largest photographic artwork ever produced by Sam Taylor-Wood. Selfridges has been voted the World’s Best Department Store and has additional locations in Birmingham, Manchester Exchange Square, and Trafford Manchester.

Reasons for its iconic status:

  • Innovative Marketing: Pioneered new standards for marketing, merchandising, and customer service.
  • Premium Location: Striking Art Deco facade on Oxford Street.

Top things to do in the store:

  • Explore luxury fashion brands and designer collections.
  • Visit the Beauty Hall and Food Hall.
  • Attend events and exhibitions, such as fashion shows and product launches.


Founded in 1834 by Charles Henry Harrod, Harrods started as a small shop in East London specializing in tea, coffee, and groceries. It moved to its current location in Knightsbridge in 1849. Under the ownership of Charles Digby Harrod, the store expanded significantly, transforming into a grand emporium offering a wide range of goods. Despite two fires in the 1880s, Harrods became a symbol of luxury and refinement.

The store, now a 5-acre site with over one million square feet of selling space, boasts 330 departments and 20 restaurants. Acquired by the Al-Fayed family in 1985, Harrods underwent further renovations and modernizations. Memorials for Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed are located within the store, adding to its unique allure.

Reasons for its iconic status:

  • Over 180 Years of History: One of London’s oldest and most prestigious department stores.
  • Immersive Shopping Experience: Offers a unique and immersive shopping experience.
  • World’s Most Famous Department Store: Known for luxury, exclusivity, and extravagance.

Top things to do in the store:

  • Shop for fashion and accessories from top brands like Chanel, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton.
  • Visit the Beauty Hall for luxury skincare and makeup.
  • Explore the Food Halls and Home department.
  • Enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants, such as The Harrods Tea Rooms or the Tiffany Blue Box Cafe.

Whether you’re a fashion enthusiast, a food lover, or simply enjoy the finer things in life, London’s classic department stores offer an unparalleled shopping experience. From the royal connections of Fortnum & Mason to the innovative spirit of Selfridges, these iconic stores are a must-visit for anyone exploring the city.

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