Christmas shopping in historic style

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Fortnum & Mason 2012 Christmas window

London is one of the world’s great cities and its history goes back thousands of years. During Christmas visitors come from all over the world to do their shopping and the city is a veritable festive showground with brilliantly lit streets festooned with fabulous decorations. If you’re looking to combine luxury, style and something quirkily different, have a wander round the Piccadilly area.

Gloriously decadent Fortnum & Mason food emporium is in the heart of Piccadilly. Their Christmas window displays are famous. Originally serving customers from a small shop in St James’s Market in the early 1700s, Hugh Mason eventually went into partnership with William Fortnum, a footman in Queen Anne’s household, got a room in Hugh’s house and from a fledgling business supplying candles to the Royal Household a grocery legend was born.

The Princes Arcade was originally built to house the Royal Institute of Painters in Water and the Arcade itself was opened in 1933. It offers “traditional quality, luxury and style with a unique blend of small independent specialist shops and exclusive boutiques”. As with the other arcades, Christmas decorations hang languorously along its length and it’s the perfect hedonistic escape from the hurly burly of nearby Regent’s Street and Oxford St. I unashamedly covet the exquisite (Theo) Fabergé eggs and jewellery in the St Petersberg Collection. The choice in Global Luggage would satisfy the most intrepid quirky traveller.

Inside view of the Burlington Arcade

The Burlington Arcade, next to the Royal Academy, was built in 1819 by Lord George Cavendish, apparently to prevent passers-by throwing their rubbish into his garden. Just stroll along the wooden fronted shops and dream of what you would buy if you won the lottery. One of my favourite shops is Penfriend, ‘the world’s most celebrated fountain pen specialist’. If Santa brought me one of their Mont Blanc pens I’d be a very happy writer. Lulu Guinness shows off her quirky handbags – the iconic ‘Lips’ clutch can be found in a rainbow of shades and in Penhaligon’s you can select a perfume to match your every mood.

Over the road The Piccadilly Arcade (opened 1910) is a treasure trove showcasing a vast range of luxury items from modern and vintage jewellery, handmade waistcoats and tailoring to unusual and unique giftware. Beautifully festooned Christmas decadence decorates its colonnades, ornate ceiling, balconies and domes make you feel extra special as you wander along its marble floor. Bespoke tailors Benson & Clegg (est 1937) have Royal Warrants for both King George VI and HRH The Prince of Wales. If you can’t afford one of their hand-made suits then maybe purchase a pair of cufflinks to give to Dad. Santa Maria Novella was established in 1612 and is one of the oldest pharmacies in the world. The smell of their beauty products made from natural herbs and oils is temptation enough to buy an armful of product.

Whatever your taste and budget, you’re bound to find something luxuriously unusual to put under the tree on Christmas Day.

Zoë Dawes lives on the Cumbria/Lancashire border and loves looking at the world from a different angle. Follow her travels in the UK and abroad on her award-winning blog The Quirky Traveller and @quirkytraveller on Twitter.



Quirky TravellerChristmas shopping in historic style

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