Christmas shopping in central London is not for the faint-hearted but so many people flock to the city to grab their Christmas gifts because there is a huge range of stores to choose from, meaning that the perfect gift is never too far away. Now after my fifth year of battling the crowds to get my presents I thought I would share with you the lessons I have learned;
If you are weekend shopping setting your alarm my not seem like the most appealing option however you will be grateful when you hit the shops before the crowds do. From around 12 onwards the streets get rammed and queues get even longer so aim for opening for a your best start to the day.
Make A Plan
This is key to a successful shopping trip! There are many many stores in central London and it’s easy to get both distracted and overwhelmed. Making a route plan and a rough list may seem a little too organised but is the only way I have managed to get close to getting all my Christmas gifts in one go. My favourite route is starting at Tottenham Court Road making my way along Oxford Street, turning off at Liberty, wandering around Carnaby Street before cutting along Bond Street to Selfridges, then finally making my way back along the other half of Oxford street.
Expect A Long day
There is no way you are just popping into town when taking on Christmas shopping in London so prepare yourself for the marathon ahead. I always wear comfortable shoes, take snacks and a bottle of water to give myself the best chance at an enjoyable day.
Mentally Prepare yourself for the crowds
I cannot stress enough just how busy London gets over the festive period, be ready for it and don’t let others ruin your experience. Everyone is in the same boat, so though it can be frustrating take it slow and be patient – getting stressed isn’t going to suddenly clear the streets.
My initial reaction is to try and get Christmas shopping over and done with as quickly as possible but ploughing through has not worked out well in the past. This is my 5th year in London during the run up to Christmas and I have come to the realisation that rushing is not a productiveway to shop. Taking breaks, grabbing food (or a prosecco or two) makes the whole process much more enjoyable.
We made the huge error this year and turned up to do our shopping on the day of Hamley’s toy parade which meant there were parents and children everywhere!! Unless you want to go and see one of the great Christmas events avoid days when they are on for the smoothest possible shopping experience.
Skip The Weekend
If possible avoid London shopping at the weekend, it’s the busiest time of the week and things take longer. Shops in central are open as late as 10pm over the weekend so pop in during the week and get your shopping done without having to navigate the hoards.
Shopping is hungry work so if you want to get food quickly book a table in advance if possible. Though most restaurants save 50% of their tables for walk ins expect a long wait. This year we returned to our old favourite Dirty Bones as they take your mobile number and text when a table is ready meaning that we could continue shopping around Carnaby Street instead of being stuck in a queue of hungry punters.
If you have a specific gift in mind order online and collect in store or use the shops as a gallery, getting to see the item in person then get it delivered to your door. This totally beats squeezing onto the tube with hundreds of bags.
Bring a Friend
Having someone to laugh with, moan with, get a second opinion on gifts, get drunk with and help carry the bags makes the day a whole day a lot easier and more fun.
Don’t forget it is the season to be jolly! Try not to treat the Christmas shop as a task but as a fun festive experience. So many people flock to London to get their gifts because it has an incredible selection of shops, restaurants and, with such spectacular Christmas lights even the Grinch couldn’t help feeling the Christmas spirit.
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