Harrods started out as a small grocery store in 1849. Its reputation began to grow in 1873 when the shop burnt down to the ground, but rather than boarding up the windows for a month, like most owners would, Henry simply sent his customers a letter explaining that “in consequence of the above premises being burnt down, your order will be delayed in the execution by a day or two.
Harrods still prides itself in the same can-do attitude today, boasting that it can sell you absolutely anything, from anywhere (as long as you don’t mind paying a small fortune for it, of course!). They have even been known to sell a baby elephant from their pet department.
The inside of Harrods is worth going for alone, with sumptuous decorations that wouldn’t look out of place in a Royal palace. Don’t miss the Egyptian Hall in the centre of the shop, with it’s ancient Egyptian-styled columns, serpent’s heads, palm tree leaves and sandstone carvings.
The Food Halls are also worth a visit – the sweets and chocolate section looks like something out of Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory! Even the toilets are worth a visit. (And that’s not meant as a joke – some of them are as lavish as the Food Halls.)
Harrods have been known to bar customers from stepping through the front door if they are wearing ripped jeans, beach shorts, lycra cycling shorts, athletic singlets, flip flops or sandals. And don’t think that you can sneak in, either – they have porters on the door, known as the ‘Green Men’, ready to kick out the undesirables.
> Read Craig’s review of Harrods “The last time I went to Harrods I was still getting pocket money (10p a week), so I might be able to afford something this time. But what shall I buy? I think the cheapest thing they sell in here is a cheese and ham roll for a million quid, but I’m going to have a look around anyway and see what’s on offer. The first thing that you need to know about Harrods is that they’ve got bouncers on the door. Not big burly ones with tattoos on their faces, but little elderly guys in olive green gloves and frock coats and hats. I’m pretty sure that there’s a dress code, but judging by some of the shoppers in here today maybe… continued.”
> Read Craig’s review of Christmas shopping in London “Fortnum & Mason is the closest that a shop ever gets to being a 5-star hotel. The staff dresses up in red tails and shiny shoes at Christmas, with a bit of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra on the speakers – proper chestnut tunes. When you step inside from Piccadilly it’s all posh chocolates and teas, with decorated tables full of sugarcoated bon-bons, stone-sized toffee chunks, and slabs of fudge as big as bricks. Tin biscuit-caddies with shortbreads and savouries; huge wooden advent calendars with chiseled out drawers for little gifts, and fat glass jars full of nuts and jams. Downstairs is where you’ll find all the booze – the chestnut coloured whisky bottles and frosted bottles of vodka… continued.”
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There are plenty of other big department stores in London. The best one is Selfridges in Oxford Street. You might like Fortnum & Mason in Piccadilly, and Liberty as well. Or how about the posh boutiques in Burlington Arcade and the Royal Exchange? (But remember to bring your wallet, because they’re some of the most expensive shops in London!)
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