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christmas-shopping-in-london-header - Essential Living

Christmas Shopping in London: Some Alternative Shops

Blog London Lifestyle
16.12.16

We all want to delight our family and friends with thoughtfully chosen gifts at Christmastime, but sometimes it can be hard to find those presents in the first place.

In theory, Christmas shopping should be easier now than it ever has been, because we have Amazon, ASOS and other big online retailers offering next-day delivery on hundreds of thousands of goods – and Google itself can tell us the location of pretty much any physical shop we want to find. But with this much choice and information so readily available, it can be hard to know where to actually start.

To give you some inspiration and motivation, we’ve put the spotlight on four shops in East London. They’re all independently owned, and they offer a good old-fashioned shopping experience. Take a look.

Labour and Wait

What? Homeware. Where? Shoreditch (E2 7DJ).

Brushes and the Labour and Wait Brush Museum

A photo posted by Labour and Wait (@labourandwaitlondon) on

Ever found yourself admiring a dustpan-and-brush set? No? Well, one quick look around Labour and Wait just might change that.

This carefully curated Shoreditch boutique is a shrine to classic homeware. Every item is robust and functional yet gorgeous at the same time. Deep-green enamel kettles, painted steel watering cans, Bialetti espresso makers, duck-canvas household aprons, British-made all-purpose scissors – those sorts of things.

You’ll find other bits and pieces in addition to the homeware: clothes, stationery, books and other gifty knick-knacks – all of which have that same understated and timeless look.

If you’re shopping for someone who’s quite difficult to buy presents for, or someone who has timeless tastes, this is definitely one of the places to go. Plus, there’s a strong possibility that you’ll come out of there with a little treat for yourself too.

Choosing Keeping

What? Stationery, arts and crafts. Where? Bethnal Green (E2 7RG).

#columbiaroadflowermarket good morning

A photo posted by Choosing Keeping (@choosingkeeping) on

Columbia Road is a must-visit location for Christmas shopping in general, because it has dozens of welcoming little independent shops. Choosing Keeping at no. 128 (directly opposite the main gates of Columbia Primary School) specialises in all types of gorgeous old-fashioned stationery items. And we really are talking traditional, because there’s nothing electrical or modern on offer – the mechanical pencils are probably the most high-tech things in there.

Whatever your budget, you’ll find something. The £20 Kaweco rollerball pens and the £250(+) Lamy fountain pens sit side by side. But there are more unusual options for you to choose from – how about a glass paperweight that has a dandelion or cornflower cast into it? You’ll also notice handmade Christmas cards and high-end wrapping paper, which can be useful if you need to stock up on either.

Oh, and it’s probably worth us mentioning that the renowned Pavilion Bakery is just next door, so it’d be rude not to grab a coffee and a freshly-baked mince pie while you’re there.

Rough Trade East

What? CDs, vinyl records, music-related books. Where? Shoreditch (E1 6QL).

Rough Trade East bustling right now! @radiohead streaming live ’til 8pm #lfamsp

A photo posted by Rough Trade (@roughtrade) on


We may be living in the Spotify age, but a good proportion of music-consumers still like to own physical copies of their favourite albums. In 2015, the British public bought 2.1 million new vinyl LPs, and CD sales accounted for 66% of all album purchases nationwide (including downloads).

So it’s safe to say that music is still a perfectly viable gift for the average music fan. Rough Trade East (just off Brick Lane) is one of London’s biggest and busiest record shops, and probably the very best one for brand-new copies of albums on vinyl and CD.

As you’d hope, the selection is eclectic and comprehensive – ranging from classic rock and modern indie to hip-hop and jazz – and staff members are always around to point you in the right direction or give you some advice.

The book section is also worth a browse, because there’s a good mix of paperback biographies, lyrics anthologies and big coffee-table reads.

Brick Lane Bookshop

What? Books (of course!). Where? Shoreditch (E1 6RU).

It may be around twenty times smaller than your average Waterstones, but the superbly stocked Brick Lane Bookshop offers plenty of gift potential.

The shop is rather selective in terms of what it stocks, so no shelf-space is wasted. If you’ve never been in before, you might be surprised by how extensive the selection actually is. You’ll find a mixture of classic and contemporary fiction, poetry, humour, history, philosophy, travel writing and more.

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