Harrods - 87–135 Brompton Road, London SW1X 7XL
Dossier: The most famous department store in the world – and London’s third most popular visitor attraction – is comprised of 25 acres of pure, unadulterated “retail theatre” behind the famous Harrods Green façade. The store, whose legend precedes it, once sold an alligator as a gift for Noël Coward and sent a baby elephant to Ronald Reagan. Its food halls sell every imaginable variety of luxury edible.
Exclusive: Form menswear by Petra Ecclestone; Charlotte Ronson fashions; Rafael Cennamo Haute Couture; Boadicea the Victorious luxury fragrances.
Personal service: By Appointment offers access-anything personal shopping – from fine art to luxury holidays, difficult-to-procure invitations or a private jet in a matter of hours. Public concierges, from the famous Green Men who greet you at the doors to beauty and even pet specialists, are readily available.
The season: Opera singers perform on the listed Egyptian escalators every weekend, the golf simulator arrives for you to try out new equipment and Father Christmas takes up his 101st residency in Harrods’ lavish Grotto.
Liberty - Regent Street, London W1B 5AH
Dossier: One of London’s most recognisable façades gives way to a breathtaking emporium that’s pure retail gold: a soothing and enriching gallery experience that runs throughout the balconied wooden interiors (reclaimed from two Royal Navy ships).
Exclusive: The sublime Interiors floor at the top of the building is dedicated to vintage and one-off pieces.
Personal service: The breezy Style Service enclave – more like an intimate oasis for the fashion cognoscenti – has its own private, access-all-hours entrance. It offers advance-ordering and The Atelier dressing room, which doubles as a photographic studio (Style Service can assign you a stylist or BYO). Elsewhere, there’s made-to-measure tailoring by Savile Row darling Spencer Hart.
The season: Expect ad hoc grooming and style tutorials from the likes of Paul Smith and Bobbi Brown, in addition to the introduction of 10 new menswear brands ranging from Filippa K to Moncler.
Harvey Nichols - 109–125 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7RJ
Dossier: The boutique department store famous for the “HN Edit”; eight dedicated and selectively laid-out sparkling white floors, immortalised in the British comedy Absolutely Fabulous and beloved by the late Princess Diana. Its entire roof was once an ice rink.
Exclusive: Thom Browne and Clemency London fashions; Christopher Kane’s glittering accessories for Versus; Petrossian Caviar; Nina Ricci; Jerome C Rousseau and Alexander Wang’s debut shoe collections.
Personal service: Those of a decadent leaning will love the wine-cellar management service, and personalised in-room or in-store masterclasses and tastings (which encompass everything from cocktail mixology to truffles). Personal shopping is complimentary, and the bespoke Harvey Nichols Shopping Experience, in partnership with The Berkeley, Claridges and Mandarin Oriental, gives you access to exclusive out-of-hours shopping and a dedicated personal shopper.
The season: The Christmas Food Market, with its cottage vendors, consistently delights; luminary-led events, such as Laura Mercier’s make-up lunches, draw a loyal following, and the store introduces cult young fashions by Juicy Couture, Current Elliot and Siwy.
Selfridges - 400 Oxford Street, London W1A 1AB
Dossier: This vast, cutting-edge department store celebrates having its fingers on the pulse for one hundred years. Selfridges takes full advantage of having among the largest window space in the world, showcasing works by David LaChapelle, and even human beings, in its glass. Its entire roof was once an ice rink.
Exclusive: The Wonder Room’s fabulous Concept Store sells limited-edition goods from around the world, such as Karl Lagerfeld teddy bears and Ego for Bentley laptops.
Personal service: Special guests get the VIP Client Executive from Selfridge’s generous Personal Shopping enclave visiting hotels for private consultations. Straightforward shoppers can be measured for bespoke jeans in the Bodymetrics laser portal and, during high season, seek advice from Gift Gurus schooled in the art of difficult requests.
The season: “2109” will turn the store’s windows into a fantasy vision of the world in a century’s time; expect more pop-up shops created in alliance with cult luxury products and labels (past guests have included Kidrobot and Louis Vuitton).
Fortnum & Mason - 181 Piccadilly, London W1A 1ER
Dossier: The world’s first department store, Fortnum & Mason is famous for its fine foods, luxury goods, patrician milieu and historic surrounds. It is the only department store to hold the Royal Warrant (it has all three). Fortnum’s doesn’t come with a dress code, but it should.
Exclusive: Fortnum’s is the only destination other than Buckingham Palace in which you can try food from the royal Sandringham estate, and buy decanted Caron fragrance outside Paris.
Personal Service: Who needs a personal shopper when you can be escorted by your very own buyer? Fortnum’s also offers total store closures for VIPs and, if you can’t make it in, its historic horse and cart will deliver to your door for £1,000.
The season: Don’t miss the chocolate Father Christmases made from archived Victorian moulds; Christmas storytelling, cookery demonstrations, and, of course, the hampers.
Favourite tea locations in the tea-time capital
Some of the finest, coolest, trendiest boutiques in London