We all love a cheesy souvenir, but there’s much more to gift shopping in London than Union Jack hats and miniature red phone booths. As you’d expect from a capital city known for its arts and culture scene, London boasts craft boutiques aplenty, selling everything from textiles to glassware. Here are our favorite spots around town to pick up unique and beautiful gifts.
Just a couple minutes’ walk from the British Museum is this treasure trove of rubber stamps, inkpads and other scrapbook essentials. There’s an enormous range available, whether you’re buying for kids, adults or are after something special and seasonal (the Christmas range was amazing). You can even get a stamp made to your own design.
The New Craftsmen
This Mayfair boutique, located within an unusual arts and crafts period building that was once home to a firm of leather workers, stocks top-end items by a range of artisans from across the U.K. We love Catarina Riccabona’s linen and wool throws, hand-woven right here in London, and Sheffield-based jeweler Chris Boland’s geologically inspired rings in particular, but there’s brilliant work by ceramicists, carpenters, illustrators and basket weavers, too.
Browse at dozens of craft stalls under one impressive early-20th-century glass-and-steel roof at this market in the heart of the Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage Site. There’s been a produce-and-meat market in the vicinity for hundreds of years, but it’s only been since the resurgence of the area in the 1980s that craft makers have been on the scene. Margot Lemons sells unusual embroidered images — a far cry from the crocheting your granny might have taught you — while Judith Hope’s The Bird & the Button specializes in paper products made from vintage and reclaimed materials.
Glass artist Peter Layton established this studio in 1976, one of the first of its kind in Europe. Today there are 10 resident artists at work on the site, producing the extraordinary creations available to buy in the gallery/shop. You can watch them at work or have a go yourself at an all-day beginner course (they take place twice a month; check the website for details), where you’ll end up with three or four pieces to take home with you.
William Morris Gallery
The gift stores of big London museums like the Victoria & Albert Museum are great places to shop for souvenirs these days, but we’d like to direct your gaze to this smaller institution with crafting at its very core. Learn about the history of 19th-century craftsman and designer William Morris at this charming North East London mansion, his family home from 1848 to 1856, then pick up products featuring his best-known patterns in the gift shop. You’ll find everything from jewelry to homewares, plus books about Morris and the wider arts and crafts movement.