Looking for a London gift or souvenir? Londoners know the best places in town for special trinkets. And these days we’re often first in line for London-themed presents too. Because the London souvenir business has become seriously stylish. Yes, you can still buy a fistful of plastic keyrings or fridge magnets from stalls beside the famous landmarks. But search more carefully and you’ll light upon beautifully designed and well-priced pieces that Londoners frequently snap up for themselves. Here’s our guide to the best London gifts for all the family.
Where to find the best London gifts
London’s many museum shops are a rich source of gifts that have a good chance of being treasured for years. The same applies to our heritage stores, such as Fortnum and Mason, Liberty or Floris. And don’t forget newcomers, like Cath Kidston, that have ‘grown up’ in London and now hold prime retail spots in the centre.
I’ve lived in London for years and I’m always discovering something new when I go to the shops. So here I’ve put together a selection of London themed gifts for all the family. No matter whether you live in London, love to visit or are planning your very first trip, these are souvenirs and gifts with distinctive London flair. And just in case you need an instant London fix you can click on the links to buy online too.
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London gifts for mums, sisters, aunts and besties
Where to start? I could write a list as long as the Kings Road of little London luxuries. But I’ve edited it down to a small selection of save or splurge treats.
Everyone needs an umbrella, some cynics might say especially so in London. Our Royal Family favour the dome-shaped see-through style of brolly and this one from Fulton provides your own London skyline too, wherever you are in the world. Fulton is a well-known, reliable umbrella brand so this will be a gift that’ll keep on giving!
On the subject of Royalty…. the official Buckingham Palace shops have splendid London gifts (see photo at the top of the post). From crystal tiaras and freshwater pearls, to fine bone china and, my favourite, the Union flag merino wool blanket £165, there are plenty of grown up treats. But the shelves betray a particularly British sense of humour too. A packet of Handbag Shortbread: For Emergencies is a snip at £2.95. Or elevate a bathroom to regal heights with a beautifully fluffy white hand towel embossed with a Windsor Castle or Buckingham Palace crest, £15.95.
London is home to some wonderful high quality fragrance brands, including heritage names Penhaligon and Floris and contemporary favourites like Jo Malone and Miller Harris.
Penhaligon’s Bluebell is said to have been a fave of Princess Diana as well as Kate Moss. But check out their discovery sets and travel sprays as well as full sized bottles. These are easily packable gifts that are a lovely way to explore the fragrances without too much outlay.
Floris has been on Jermyn Street since 1730 and is the only perfumer to hold a royal warrant from the Queen.
Winston Churchill shopped here and so did Marilyn Monroe who chose their Rose Geranium fragrance. As well as scents you’ll find gifts like Rosa Centifolia hand treatment cream or their range of lovely lidded candles: Cinnamon and Tangerine smells just like Christmas.
Liberty London on Regent Street is always worth a visit for the Tudor revival store itself. And it gathers an intoxicating edit of fashion and furnishing from all over the world. The Liberty Collections include desirable gifts such as silk scarves in re-imagined prints from their archives and pjs like these in an Art Nouveau design: Jonquil Tana Lawn cotton short pyjama set, £195. But you can also slip one of Liberty’s signature patterns into your handbag or onto your desk by way of their pretty cotton-covered journals, £25, or pocket notebooks, £15.
A charm bracelet is a forward-thinking gift for a god daughter or niece as you can add to it year by year. Several London jewellers offer landmark charms: try Links of London, or Pandora’s sterling silver London Big Ben dangle charm £40 and Union Jack enamelled heart dangle, £35.
Back in the early Nineties Cath Kidston opened a little shop in West London selling vintage finds and flowery prints. Since then her clever eye for nostalgia with a modern twist has created an international lifestyle brand. It’s still beloved by Londoners and you’ll be spoilt for choice for London-themed gifts in their flagship store on Piccadilly. The London toile foldaway shopper is a smart buy at £8 whilst the London Hand and Lip tin at £12 makes a great stocking filler. If you’ve run out of room in your suitcase then the London View Foldaway Overnight Bag, £50, in PVC coated cotton, will be useful for all sorts of jobs from days’ out to gym trips when you get home.
The White Company is another well known brand with London roots. Their London Band bed linen in 200 thread count cotton percale, with sketches of iconic London sights is the perfect souvenir designed to last. It comes in cot bed and single sizes.
The London Map dressing gown by One Hundred Stars became an overnight hit when TV cook Nigella Lawson wore it in her last series. It was quickly sold out but now features in the Wallace Collection’s gifts. See if you can find the gallery itself in the design.
Also growing up in West London before spreading worldwide, Boden is another household name with its roots in the capital. It’s a reliable source of bright and cosy knits like the Estella jumper in grey melange London Scene, £75. Estella also comes in two more patterns that are a funky take on the Union Jack: Conker Flag or Chalky Pink Union Jack.
For gardeners, the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew have a world famous plant collection and a floral-inspired Kew Gardens Shop. You can buy plants and seeds here to establish your own mini-Kew at home. I particularly like the sound of the Bee Friendly box with six varieties including Cowslips, Pot Marigolds and Larkspur. (But check the small print as sadly they can’t be delivered to many countries outside Europe).
DISCOVER MORE ABOUT LONDON click here for our teen-approved guide to 105 things to do in the capital
London goodies for foodies
A formal afternoon tea might be a must-do for visitors to London, but a plain old cuppa is an everyday staple for most Brits. I pick up my Twinings at the supermarket but to shop their full range or taste a few new flavours, pop along to the historic Twinings shop in the Strand. This set of London skyline caddies containing three blends of loose tea, £15, is a cut above a humble box of teabags. Or find a smart wooden Twinings tea chest with a variety pack of teas and infusions on Amazon:
And a cup of tea is even better with a biscuit! We have lots of competition for best biscuits in London. But for the prettiest tins I’d head to Fortnum and Mason where their Musical Piccadilly Biscuit Tin £14.95, is inspired by the storefront itself. That’s only the beginning though, check out the decorative sets of Tall Tins, which you can buy individually too. Or plump for the traditional Clotted Cream Digestives in a Fortnum’s signature eau de nil coloured canister.
But the prize for the best decorated biscuits has to go to the little works of art from the Biscuiteers. Their gorgeous London Luxe keepsake tin £45, filled with 16 hand-iced London landmark biscuits, can be delivered anywhere in the world. Whilst the Queen’s Guard letterbox biscuits £25, do just that – they fit through a letterbox. Or learn some of the Biscuiteers’ secrets with this enticing book:
Back to Fortnum’s for more foodie gifts from London. Their 4 person canvas picnic backpack would suit any walker who likes to picnic in style. Or perhaps pick up a Freezable Lunch Box, £20, to keep an al desko lunch cool. And don’t forget your Fortnum’s Lobster Bag for Life to enliven the supermarket run.
Just along the road from Fortnum’s you’ll find Old Bond Street and the beautiful Royal Arcade. Here is the famous Charbonnel et Walker shop with its deliciously posh chocolate treats. One of London’s first chocolatiers it has a Royal Warrant (of course) and a fine array of be-ribboned chocolate boxes. If you’re in London at Christmas time then this is a must-visit if just to enjoy window-shopping in the arcade.
Not many of us can resist a Godiva chocolate either! Their London souvenir box would be a lovely gift for just about anyone:
London gifts for dads, boyfriends, uncles, grown-up sons
The Tower of London Shop has completely nailed the ‘gift for the man who has everything’. For what male would not appreciate a Henry VIII armour apron? The original armour, on display in the Tower, conveys the King’s ‘power, majesty and wealth’. Perfect for Christmas Day, £14.99.
Henry may not have wielded a St George corkscrew, £12.99, since they came along a couple of centuries later. But that doesn’t mean your armour-clad companion in the kitchen wouldn’t like one. He’d probably like it even better if you paired it with this luxurious leather drinks case with compartments for bottles, glasses and an internal ice bucket. It’s £700.
Still on the theme of alcohol, London gin is an obvious contender for any London gift guide. Its reputation has improved a lot since the early 18th century. Back then, in a weird reversal of fortunes, gin was cheaper than beer in London whilst tea was so expensive only the aristocracy could afford it. Gin, often adulterated, caused a wave of addiction, and even insanity, amongst London’s poor. By Victorian times it was respectable again, and had evolved into the clear, refined spirit that became a cocktail party essential. The recent rise of independent distillers has given gin a fresh spin with a profusion of new flavours. But a London Dry is the classic style: Portobello Road is a modern gin, traditionally made and is distilled in the capital too. Or try this gin tasting kit by the City of London Distillery:
Chess players might enjoy the strikingly modern London skyline chess set, £95, as they ponder their next move. It features the Shard, Big Ben and the London Eye. Find it at the National Gallery Shop. Or how about a set of Isle of Lewis chessmen, as seen at the British Museum (and in Harry Potter).
It isn’t always easy to buy clothes for the men in your life and themed items can be even more risky. Some sweatshirt souvenirs are less than stylish. That can’t be said of Boden’s cool navy Edale though with its bold applique London lettering, £55. It’ll be a weekend favourite.
And finally, socks don’t need to be boring! This striking pair is designed by the London Sock Company no less, £12 from Fortnum’s. Choose from further shades like Routemaster Red and Cannonball Grey. Or Mind the Gap with these Tube inspired socks from the Museum of London.
London treats for children – and the young at heart
The best known board game of them all is, of course, based on the streets of London. The classic Monopoly is available here, whilst Harrods stocks an updated London Underground edition, £29.95. But we’ve a couple more tried and tested recommendations for family board games with a London theme.
Scotland Yard, £21.99 at Waterstones, arrived in our household as a Christmas present when the boys were in their early teens. It’s a strategy game in which players team up as detectives to hunt Mr X around London by tube, bus and taxi. We played it again last winter and it’s stood the test of time, a fun game for 8 years and upwards that takes less than an hour.
The Sherlock themed 221B Baker Street , £23.99 at Waterstones, is another family favourite. This is one for teens and parents rather than younger children. Players compete to collect clues to solve one of Sherlock’s intriguing cases. Conveniently, and unlike most board games, it works for two players as well as up to 6. You can buy an expansion pack once you’ve solved all 75 of the mysteries in the original game.
Lego fans love the Architecture series with its detailed builds that can keep teens absorbed for days. Sadly, the striking Tower Bridge model is labelled ‘retired’ on the website but instead you can choose between London Skyline, £44.99 and Trafalgar Square £79.99. Alternatively the Creator series London Bus has an advisory age of 16+, possibly because it contains1686 pieces. It’s here too:
The Tower Bridge Shop has a selection of build-it-yourself landmarks, handy for a bit of downtime during your visit. The Build-It 3D Tower Bridge puzzle £15, suggests you might need 3 hours to complete it. The Woodcraft model on the other hand is likely to be quicker and comes as a handy flatpack, £12. If you can’t make it to the shop this Ravensburger 3D 206 piece jigsaw puzzle looks suitably perplexing!
By the way, rubber duck collectors will be pleased with the choice in London. You can find appropriate birds at nearly every landmark. The Tower Bridge Shop sells several including Beefeater and Shakespearean ducks. The Houses of Parliament has both Big Ben and Suffragette varieties. Whilst the Dickens Museum shop in Doughty Street stocks Charles Duckens, £6.99, dickensmuseum.com.
A football scarf or replica kit from a favourite team will go down well with supporters. Lillywhites in Piccadilly has a big selection of fan merchandise and team colours, including pyjamas and duvet covers for the extra keen. A Chelsea home shirt will be treasured by a fan.
Dinosaurs I know aren’t strictly speaking a London treat, but the Natural History Museum is pretty much synonymous with them. And this is where you’ll find a cuddly T. Rex in a Christmas jumper. Hurry, they’ll sell out. In fact the NHM can cater for all your paleontological needs from dino onesies for adults, £40, suitable for fun runs, apparently; to a Dinosaur edition of the Guess Who game, £20, exclusive to NHM.
Special mention again to Cath Kidston who gloriously combines dinosaurs and London landmarks in the Dinos in London print. Find it on childrens backpacks in mini, medium and large, pencil cases, drawstring bags, pyjamas and more.
And it’s impossible to write about London gifts without a mention of Harry Potter. Hogwarts may be a train journey away but Harry’s trips to Gringotts Bank take place in the city. A Gringott’s Key Necklace is £24, but a bag of chocolate coins, Galleons to be precise, is £4.95. A set of Lumos Glow-in-the-Dark Pyjamas featuring the Knight Bus screeching around London, are from £26, Boden.
London gifts for babies, toddlers and under 10s
If you know any train mad littles, make sure you have space in your bag for The City of London wooden train set, £50, from the London Transport museum. It’s compatible with Brio and Big Jigs and includes Tower Bridge as part of the track along with other landmarks.
For a similar set that includes lots of landmarks and vehicles though not Tower Bridge, try this one on Amazon:
Also compatible with wooden tracks is this set of typical London transport: red double-decker bus, black cab fire engine, police and ambulance. Plus a couple of the sporty kind of cars you might see parked outside Harrods! These seven wooden models are for ages 3+ here, £20.
Younger visitors can play I Spy with a Spotted in London t-shirt £15 at JoJo Maman Bebe which is embroidered with all the major sights. This is an inviting store for maternity wear and children under 6. Try the Kids’ London Bus top, £15, with a guardsman in the driver’s seat and doors that open! Or this Fair Isle inspired knit jumper £23, with a guardsman intarsia pattern, that’s sure to be one you’ll save to pass down.
Little feet will enjoy Boden’s London-themed socks on their next day out to the capital. Easy to pair up again in the laundry basket too!
The Historic Royal Palaces is an independent charity which looks after six of London’s landmarks including The Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace. And in their shops they have excelled themselves with desirable gifts with a London theme. The organic wool Royal Lion felt rug would be a kindly companion in any toddler bedroom. And it’s hard to resist the sweet swan felt slippers to keep toes warm.
They haven’t missed the excellent dressing up opportunities of London’s royal heritage either. The Royal Princess is a properly pretty pink velour and lace dress with medieval sleeve detail, £40. Whilst the Henry VIII costume £29.99 is inspired by portraits of the man himself and trimmed with faux fur. Wooden sword and shield sets are available in red/blue or pink/gold colour combos. Whilst the London Raven cape could be handy for Halloween too.
The Houses of Parliament Shop also has some creative souvenirs, referencing the history and workings of the home of British government. I love the handsomely dressed and handmade Mr Speaker teddy bear, £19.95. Though I’m not sure how I feel about the novelty babygrow for future politicans, inscribed pointedly with the words ‘I passed a motion’.
You’ll find guardsman and policeman teddies in most central London souvenir shops. But you can also source the Keel Toys bears on Amazon here:
CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS MAKE WONDERFUL SOUVENIRS here are some classic London baubles that you’ll treasure for years. Click the links to buy from UK or US Amazon.
London gifts for the home
Prints and posters are good travellers as long as you buy them rolled not framed. And the London Transport museum has some crackers at excellent price points. Find your favourites amongst classic transport posters from the 1920s such as Rugby at Twickenham £15, or the thoughtful penguins in For the Zoo, £20.
The Tate’s paint chart-inspired Colours of London poster £10, cleverly celebrates London’s palette from Whitehall to Black Cab. A 500 piece jigsaw to match is £30 and packed in a tube for easy transport.
This tabletop or wall-mounted London Underground roundel lightbox has a selection of 10 inserts including Mind the Gap, London, Angel and Victoria. It’s officially licensed by Transport for London too:
Emma Bridgewater’s stylish yet homely pottery is used and loved in many a London kitchen. Visit the stores on the Fulham Road or Marylebone High Street to pick your favourites or choose from the pretty and patriotic half pint mugs. I like the rousing God Save the Queen mug, £19.95 , the landmarks oblong plate £39.95 and the boxed pair of London by day and London at night, £39.95; also available here:
Back to Parliament for some stationery. To help you keep order in the house, an official looking green and gilt-edged House of Commons notebook £11, could be just the thing. Or lend some gravitas to the proceedings with a red embossed House of Lords journal, £12.
London treats for pets
If your hound demands to be treated like royalty then you’ll need the Buckingham Palace dog bowl or their red Crown squeaky toy £4.95. Or create some Holyroodhouse vibes in your own home with a dog blanket in Hunting Stewart tartan, £60.
You can source a Liberty print dog neckerchief or bow tie at Liberty London. And at the Tower Bridge Shop you’ll find the Love London dog collar, appropriately decorated with postboxes and lampposts amongst other London sights.
Finally, if you’re still looking for keyrings, pop into the V&A shop. Theirs feature three London design icons: red phone boxes, buses and letter boxes to keep your keys safe. At only £2 each you could take a handful home for friends.
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