While the UAE’s mega malls do everything bigger, the London shopping scene is an invitation to discovery – especially during the winter sales. From famed opulent department stores, such as Harrods and Selfridges, to quirky fashion pockets like Covent Garden and the chic designer boutiques of Bond Street, the scope of shopping potential is an all-year-round treat for visitors.
And just after Christmas – literally; it starts on Boxing Day – you can see something magically unique unfold. Ready-to-spend shoppers camping outside major stores and queues snaking along London’s streets, around corners and back again – all in anticipation of the double doors swinging open to reveal 70 per cent discounts. Until stocks last.
So, although it seems like a long way to travel to bag a bargain Birkin or cheap-as-chips Choos, believe us when we say the winter sales in Europe’s most exciting city are just too good to miss. And by saving thousands of dirhams on your winter wardrobe you earn every excuse in the book to splurge on other areas of your trip, like where you lay your weary head after all that shopping. That’s why we’ve selected the capital’s top winter hotels – the classically glitzy bolt-holes that’ll transform your bargain-hunting mission into a five-star mini-break. We’ve also thrown in the best of these hotel restaurants and nearby winter activities – if you have any energy left after your epic shop.
The Four Seasons Park Lane
The location: Hamilton Place
Why to stay here: With commanding views of Hyde Park and the delights of Mayfair, Green Park and Knightsbridge all within walking distance, The Four Seasons is a luxurious home from home for well-heeled travellers. The wood-panelled guest rooms, complete with gadgets and gizmos, embrace you with modern warmth, and down pillows and duvets are a luxurious touch. While elegance subtly permeates the hotel’s interiors, a spectacular rooftop spa will draw a smile from even the most pampered. An arrivals lounge is available for guests who check in early in the day, while babysitting and children’s activities are offered to those travelling with a family.
Where to eat: Italian restaurant Amaranto flows from an elegant dining room into a romantic glass conservatory. Featuring modern Italian cuisine with innovative combinations of classical and traditional flavours, dishes include green tagliolini with crab meat, baby spinach and tomato fondue (£18) and Linguine with pesto and clams (£17).
The shopping: At Selfridges, just a 20-minute walk away, you’ll find six floors of sale-packed shopping, offering style at a snip of the original price. The London store has a dedicated personal shopping service for both women and men, with each two-hour consultation enjoyed in a private room and tailored to your individual needs. While there is no charge for this service, a minimum spend of £,2000 is required.
Evening activity: Book a table at The Oscar Wilde Bar at Hotel Café Royal to enjoy The Black Cat’s Salon des Artistes cabaret, with performances by character comedians, magicians and live musicians (from £30 per person).
The lowdown: Prices from £504 per double room per night, not including breakfast.
The location: The Strand, Savoy Way, London
Why to stay here: Built in 1889, The Savoy is the epitome of elegant English heritage, and was Charlie Chaplin’s choice of London hotel, as well as Marilyn Monroe’s London bolt-hole. After a three-year revamp, the iconic British institution reopened its doors to rave reviews in 2010, and rightly so. Embracing its Edwardian and art deco heritage, the hotel retains all of its glamorous charm, and boasts 38 new River Suites, complete with personal butlers and stunning views of the Thames, from financial heartland Canary Wharf to the Houses of Parliament.
The Savoy rooms, which retain much of their original 19th-century charm, feature writing desks, iPod docking stations and bespoke furnishings (regular guests can select their own furniture to make it feel more homely on each stay), while the bathrooms, famous for their giant rainwater showerheads, offer Le Labo toiletries from shampoo and conditioner to bath salts to enjoy in the marble bath tubs in all suites.
As a special touch, guided tours by The Savoy’s archivist are available for those craving a little history, and an elegant boutique, Savoy Tea, stocks an extensive collection of teas, pastries and chocolates. And with some of London’s finest shops just a few minutes’ walk away, The Savoy is offering the Festive Shopping Experience (from £1,000), where guests receive a £100 prepaid MasterCard to spend at the store of their choice. When you tire of shopping, tea is served under the glass dome in Edwardian Thames Foyer.
Where to eat: The Savoy Grill, previously frequented by Winston Churchill and Frank Sinatra, is one of London’s most legendary restaurants. Today, Head Chef Andy Cook oversees a menu that returns to the classic grill rooms of old. Sophisticated and classic, starters include steak tartare (from £15) and Scottish lobster bisque (£16), while mains like charcoal-grilled Chateaubriand for two (£65), and Stuffed rabbit loin with herb sausage and borlotti bean cassolette (£28) make an appearance. For a unique experience, book the Chef’s Table located in the heart of the kitchen, which can accommodate up to eight people.
The shopping: Covent Garden is brimming with fashion boutiques and vintage stores, which offer great discounts over the post-Christmas sale period and it’s only a hop, skip and a jump away from The Savoy. Home to fashion favourites such as Rokit, Orla Kiely and Opening Ceremony, as well as a smattering of beauty and skincare stores like Mac and Neal’s Yard Remedies, the Seven Dials is a shopping destination like no other. Look out for new store Sabon (38 Neal Street), which offers a range of beauty products designed specifically for mother and baby.
Evening activity: Celebrate the festive season at Somerset House, a five-minute walk away, which boasts London’s most beautiful ice rink. Skate in the splendour of Somerset House’s neoclassical courtyard and, afterwards, indulge in fondue or traditional treats from Fortnum’s Lodge or the Skate Lounge (tickets start from £15).
The lowdown: Room prices from £424 per room per night (including breakfast).
Jumeirah Carlton Tower
The location: 1 Cadogan Place, London
Why to stay here: In the heart of Knightsbridge lies a 216-room hotel from Dubai-based Jumeirah Hotel Group, which will no doubt make you feel right at home even in chilly London. With service and reputation synonymous with the brand, the hotel does all it can to live up to hardened expectations. The X-factor? The staff is willing to go that extra mile. Whether it’s preparing a private meal for two, or setting up one-on-one cooking lessons with the chef, nothing is too much trouble. The hotel also has the award-winning Peak Health Club and Spa, with a state-of-the-art golf simulator that helps you perfect your swing.
Where to eat: The Rib Room Bar and Restaurant has been a London favourite for over half a century, and pays homage to this rich history. With two menus − Classic and Seasonally Modern − old Rib Room favourites like beef tartar prepared tableside (from £18) are joined by new favourites like Orkney scallops with cumin spiced cauliflower and caper sauce. For the real food lover, Head Chef Ian Rudge can tailor a menu at your request.
The shopping: With the famous Harrods sale starting on December 26, there’s no better excuse for a splurge, especially since the store is just a four-minute walk from the hotel. The Knightsbridge store’s winter sales are famous for mega savings on luxury goods from handbags to sofas, and cocktail dresses to crystal glasses. Established in 1849 as a greengrocer, today the retail haven also houses 20 restaurants and a host of specialist services, including dog coat fittings and piano tunings. The store has a personal shopping service, By Appointment & Beyond, which is offered only to Harrods’ most discerning customers. The likes of Diana Ross, Tom Jones, Pierce Brosnan and Victoria Beckham have opened the sales in the past, but the store’s is remaining tight-lipped about who we can expect this year.
Evening activity: Visit Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, a four-minute walk away, until January 4 for your festive fix of the Christmas spirit. Entry is free, but tickets for ice skating, the Magical Ice Kingdom, Zippos Circus and the Giant Wheel should be bought in advance.
The lowdown: Room prices from £454 per double room per night, not including breakfast.
The location: Whitehall Place, London
Why to stay here: Situated in the heart of London, close to the River Thames, the London Eye and Trafalgar Square, Corinthia London is shamelessly opulent. Chandeliers, modern art and palatial rooms are accentuated by a mini-branch of Harrods inside and a magnificent four-floor ESPA spa (ESPA products are stocked in every room).
It also boasts Crafty Concierge, a service that offers insider knowledge on a selection of off-the-beaten-track activities, in-the-know places to go, and secret sights that even a seasoned Londoner would envy. For those desperate to get a little shut-eye after a day trawling the shops, take a soak in the deep tub (with built-in LED TV) in your spacious Italian marble en-suite bathroom or freshen up with a tropical rain shower. Guests in a superior king room have private entrance halls to give the experience a residential feel and 24–hour access to the gym and spa. An expert sleep coach is on hand to make sure you catch quality beauty sleep.
Where to eat: Specialising in Italian seafood, Corinthia London’s Massimo Restaurant and Bar adds personality and flair with effortless panache. The upscale fish-centric restaurant and oyster bar boasts opulent art deco interior, but it’s the fresh, comforting cuisine that packs the punch. Dishes include homemade pasta with clams and chilli (£18) and prawn risotto with liquorice (£20). In addition to the à la cart menu, three-course set menus (from £30) are available.
The shopping: Liberty of London first opened its wooden mock Tudor doors in 1875, and sold hand-picked ornaments, fabrics and objets d’art, from Japan and the East. Today, Liberty plays host to a range of cutting-edge designers, including Vivienne Westwood and Dries Van Noten. Known as the last great emporium for the innovative and the eclectic, Liberty’s buyers continue to scour the globe for the unique and the avant-garde to fill its five floors. The post-Christmas sale, which offers discounts of up to 60 per cent, begins on Boxing Day and will be available throughout the store.
Evening activity: Take a night flight on the London Eye for a view of the city’s landmarks as they illuminate the night sky (from £18.85).
The lowdown: Rooms from £414 per double room per night, not including breakfast.
The location: 49 Brook St, London
Why to stay here: Located in Mayfair, with Bond Street, Hyde Park, Covent Garden and the Houses of Parliament all within easy reach, Claridge’s boasts a location second to none. The legendary art deco building dates back to 1898 and the hotel is one of city’s most renowned. If the sun isn’t shining when it’s time to hit the stores, guests can stay dry with a Burberry umbrella provided by the hotel. Suite guests can also borrow beautifully tailored Burberry trench coats so, come rain or shine, you can brave the elements in style. After a long day bargain-hunting, be sure to take a break and enjoy Claridge’s famed afternoon tea.
Where to eat: Inspired by the changing of the seasons, the Michelin-starred Fera at Claridge’s offers a creative take on modern British cuisine, and chef Simon Rogan’s ever-changing à la carte and tasting menus capture the true essence of nature. For those unfamiliar with Rogan’s cuisine, a glance at the menu will tell you all you need to know − foraged seasonal ingredients, such as trumpet mushrooms, razor clams and chestnuts feature. Although, as we are reminded on the menu, “Because Fera at Claridge’s only uses ingredients in their prime, the menu can change as often as the weather they’re grown in”. The word ‘Fera’ means ‘wild’ after all. In addition to seven-course tasting menu (£95), an à la carte option is available, featuring a selection of stunning dishes such as John Dory, grilled leeks, crosnes, borage and razor clams (£28) and warm damson compote with sorbet, honey and sea buckthorn (£10).
The shopping: With Bond Street just a three-minute stroll away, a host of fine designers, such as Louis Vuitton, David Morris and Alexander McQueen are quite literally on your doorstep. And if fashion doesn’t make your heart flutter, the celebrated street has everything from jewellery to interiors, and antiques to first editions.
Evening activity: Make the most of the hotel’s Theatre Desk and ask the staff to book you seats at a West End show; Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked and The Woman in Black are all showing in late December (ticket prices will vary).
The lowdown: Prices from £630 per room per night, not including breakfast.