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I had already written a few articles about London on my old blog but since I get many questions by email, I decided to write a little guide on the city. I get questions on the hotels but also on shops so I’ll try to be as complete as possible. I’ve tried all the sites mentionned and never got any problems.
The best way to get there is still the Eurostar. From Brussels you get there in 2h (1h actually since you have to set up your clock backward). The Eurostar drops you in the gorgeous St Pancras station where you should really do some shopping on your way home (Marks & Spencer, Monsoon, Accessorize, etc). I always book through the site. You can book maximum 3 months in advance. The sooner you book, the better the chance to get a good price (like €60 or €80). Also you can now select your coach and seat.
Once in St Pancras you can take the subway (they now sell tickets in the Eurostar so you don’t waste any time at the station) or take a taxi to go to your hotel.
This is the question that’s asked the most. It’s really up to you and the budget you have. However I think that if you want to visit the center you shouldn’t get a hotel too far. They might be cheaper but if you”re staying 2/3 days you’ll lose a lot of time in the bus/subway/etc Once again I think LondonTown is a great website to book your hotel. Most hotels don’t charge you until you check-out. This means that if you have to cancel your trip you lose nothing! You just need to warnt the hotel in advance. LondonTown lets you find hotel by type (hostel, 1 star, 2 stars,…), price, location, etc
I have already stayed at the Best Western Shaftesbury Piccadilly which is really well located on Shaftesbury Avenue. Also it’s near Chinatown, Leicester Square, etc The only downside is that it’s near a fire station so it can be a little noisy at night.
The Radisson Edwardian Hampshire is also well-located but a little anonymous because it’s so big. It’s been recently renovated (not sure if all the rooms were though). Last time I went I got upgraded because my room wasn’t in such a great shape.
My favourite stays the Radisson Leicester Square which is only a few meters away from the Hampshire. The staff is super friendly and since the hotel was renovated recently it’s super modern. It’s not super cheap but you can often find good deals on LondonTown especially if you book well in advance.
One hotel I haven’t tested but well located and cheap is the St Giles. Near Oxford Street and thus ideal for shopping.
Of course! A great site to find the shops that interest you and by neighboorhood is Street Sensation. You can order their little guide, or download it (£4) on the site. I think it’s really cool because you get a visual of the street but it’s kept up to date really well so you won’t miss a new store or disappointed because one is closed.
Here is an example for Oxford Street.
For the guide I have more or less followed the order of the mps on the website but I won’t copy them there. You can follow everything on their site if you need a visual.
If you have little time for shopping, stick to Oxford Street and Regent Street. In any case most of the high street stores are there. I’ll list here the shops that I think shouldn’t be miss and/or have a plus size line, and go up to at least a size 22 (52).
Primark – the cheapest store on Oxford Street! I never look at the clothes but they have cool accessories and shoes.
Evans – definitely the best and trendiest plus size store.
Dorothy Perkins – I gotta say I have never been able to find a UK22 in store but who knows you might be luckier!
Superdrug – awesome for makeup brands you can’t find here (Revlon, Barry M, etc)
Next – unfortunately their plus size range is not available in store but they do go up to a UK22.
New Look - no more Inspire in this one but their flagship store a little further has an amazing shoe departement.
Monsoon – up to a UK22. Amazing during the sales as they often go up to 70% off. No sales early July I think.
Russel & Bromley – really gorgeous shoes and handbags.
Faith – chaussures. Apparently they are closing?
Mark & Spencer – a lot of clothes go up to a UK22. They also have a plus size range. Great for underwear too.
Selfridges – all the luxury brands like LV, Balenciaga, etc Again awesome during the sales.
Accessorize - just like Monsoon but for accessories.
Debenhams – a couple of brands go up to a UK24+26. Great choice of shoes, accessories,… You can also find collaborations with designers like Matthew Williamson.
House of Fraser – another departement store. A bit classier than Debenhams. Plus size: Chesca, Windsmoor, etc
John Lewis – again departement store. They sell Chesca, Gerry Weber, etc
Ann Harvey – it’s a bit hit or miss with them so go in and have a look! Up to a UK30 (I think).
BHS – they used to sell the plus size brand Amelie May but it’s gone! They do go up to a UK22 and there is an Evans back in the store!
Topshop – the clothes usually go up to a UK16 but you might find something oversize if you have the time to look because the store is huge. Awesome accessories and shoes!
When you’re at Zara you just need to cross over and you’ll find yourself in Regent Street.
Jaeger – Up to UK18. Expensive but interesting during the sales. Really gorgeous accessories.
Kurt Geiger – More classic but good basic clothes (UK16/18°.
Hamleys - The famous toy store. To visit once in your life.
Anthroplogie – Clothes, accessories,…
Russel & Bromley – Shoes.
Apple Store – One of the largest Apple Store (free wifi!).
LK Bennett – Shoes.
Toy Watch – Tiny boutique of a brand of watch I’ve recently discovered. Very bling bling but I love it!
Don’t miss Liberty. It’s on the left side of Regent Street on a corner.
Then you can check CARNABY STREET which is just behind. There are a lot of boutiques like Irregular Choice.
The following streets can be visited if you already have a lot more time on your hands…
Mostly luxury brands like Armani, Louis Vuitton, etc A lot of antique dealers. But always fun to see nice things. In New Bon Street: Marina Rinaldi.
For all the geeks (like me) don’t miss Forbidden Planet.
A cool place to spend half a day. Covent Garden hosts several stores like Lush, Monsoon,… but also a craft market. Take a walk around where there are lots of little boutiques. For makeup fans there is also a M.A.C. store.
The famous neighboorhood where you can find Harrods. It’s definitely the store you have to visit once in your life. It’s just gorgeous. The plus-size department has brands like Anna Scholz, Persona, Marina Rinaldi, etc Once again it’s really interesting during the sales. Don’t make the Pet Store which is just incredible. You can basically find everything for your pet… from cookies to a collar with its name on it. You can definitely spend an entire day in Knightsbridge because there are plenty of other stores and boutiques around Harrods. A little higher stands Harvey Nichols. No plus size clothes but an amazing shoes departement with a Louboutin boutique. I am not gonna lie it’s incredibly fun to try on luxury shoes during the sales as they are on display by size and you don’t have to bother a salesperson! :P
A really gorgeous mall in the style of the American ones not far from the center of London. About £10 by taxi. You can also take the subway (about 15 minutes from the center – Sherperd’s Bush – White City). Perfect to spend the day especially if the weather is not great. You can find more or less the same stores at in Oxford Street and Regent Street. You can find all the info like opening hours on their site.
Bars, clubs, restaurants,… there are plenty of options to spend a great evening in London! My passion is theatre and musicals. So I really recommend you to see at least one musical. On Leicester Square you can buy reduced tickets on the day of the show. However people are already queuing super early so if you don’t want to waste any time buy your ticket in advance. That way you won’t be disappointed if the show you want to see is sold out when it’s your turn.
The best site is TheatreMonkey. All the shows are listed and they send you either on the theatre site to order direct or to an affiliated website. I always chose to pick up my tickets on the night of the show. All you need to do is show the email and have your credit card. The site always shows you the best places in the theatre.
If you want any recommendations don’t hesitate to ask as I can’t list everything. For the moment I think that Legally Blonde (based on the Reese Whiterspoon movie) is really for everyone. The cast is fab and the show is just hilarious.
I hope you’ll find this guide useful for a first visit in the city. If I think of something else I’ll edit it. :) Don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you liked it, or if you have any more suggestions.