londoncreativecommons.org/neiljs

Although a wonderful place for shopping all year round, during the Christmas season London comes alive with a festive air and illuminated grandeur all its own. With thousands of shops and hundreds of markets all rolling out their best goods for the holiday season, shoppers in London will be spoiled for choice. However, for visiting shoppers it may be hard to differentiate the average from the outstanding. Here are some fantastic places to start that London Christmas shopping journey...

Hamley's Toy Shop

hamleyscreativecommons.org/Charles D P Miller

While there are a number of good toy stores in London, there is really only one stop that the Christmas shopper must make - Hamley's. For the past 250 years, Hamley's Toy Shop has been the largest of its kind and leading Europe in both keeping stocked with the best new toys, yet still keeping the most time-honoured toys on the shelves. Just stepping inside the store, shoppers are greeted by a scene of colourful frenzied activity. Miniature trains chug around the store, plush toys spill over mountains of themselves and children ransack the store spread out over this massive seven story building. With more the 40,000 toys to choose from, shoppers will be sure to find the perfect toy for the child in their life. When it comes to Christmas toy shopping in London, Hamley's is the most festive tradition for local families.

The Christmas Shop

Half the fun of Christmas is dressing up the house to look festive and London has several shops dedicated to just that. The Christmas Shop near Tower Bridge has the largest collection of decorations in town to create a winter wonderland in any house. From twinkling little bits and bobs, Christmas clutter and elegant adornments, The Christmas Shop hosts every manner of Christmas decoration. Their decorations change every year so that their customers can keep their home decorated with new things every year rather than just reusing the same old knick knacks. While The Christmas Shop's wares are perfect for home decoration, they also make excellent early gifts for friends and family.

Hopscotch

London's sweet shops come alive for the Christmas season. Hopscotch is a traditional sweet shop that is sure to take their patrons back a few years to when candy was made by hand with quality ingredients. They offer 550 traditional sweet jars, handmade boxed chocolate as well as their fair share of retro candies that will take visitors right down memory lane. Between their strawberry bon-bons and their rhubarb custard, the sweets within Hopscotch make for the perfect gifts for those with a serious sweet tooth. That is, if they even make it back home. Sometimes their sweets are just too good to wrap up and give away.

Harrods

harrodscreativecommons.org/Nan Palmero

Nobody does Christmas quite like Harrods. This London department store starts off its festive celebration way before the competition in July, with the opening of its Christmas World. This means that locals and visitors alike have a full 158 days to get their Christmas shopping done early, and that is far from a bad thing. On the sprawling 185 square metre third floor, the shelves are stocked with cards, decorations and a $4,000 life size Santa Claus that no one ever buys. Of course, they also stock their finest toys, clothes and other items to give as gifts for the Christmas season. It is also where Father Christmas makes his big debut in London so children can share their Christmas lists with him, even if that suit is a little balmy in July.

Liberty

libertycreativecommons.org/Chantal Boogers

Liberty is one of the most visually inviting stores in London, sitting within its Tudor revival building on Regent Street. The Liberty store is where shoppers go for all their luxury gift needs. The store on the fourth floor is stocked with an assortment of elegant and high quality Christmas crafts, intricate decorations and endless gift opportunities. Shoppers can't go wrong with picking up one of the store's iconic Liberty prints on silk scarves, cuffs or collars. Other favourite gifts include their wide selection of embossed dairies and journals or Christmas crackers. However, shoppers at Liberty will need to have some deep pockets considering their wares don't come cheaply.

A Gold

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For those looking for a more culinary gift from their time in London, this delicatessen brings its A-game for the holiday season. A Gold deli is the perfect spot to shop for traditional British fare during the Christmas season. They specialize entirely in everything British from saffron cakes from Cornwall to clootie dumplings from Scotland. While they host excellent meats and cheeses from throughout Britain, those gifts don't always travel well. Instead, shoppers should partake in their sugar mice, honey mead or traditional handmade biscuits to take back home as gifts.

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