Located in the City of Westminster in the west end of London, Oxford Street is said to be the busiest shopping street in Europe. While many londoners try and avoid Oxford Street if they can, much like New Yorkers steering clear of Times Square, the fact is this iconic street is the main artery of London shopping. Oxford Street runs for approximately one and a half miles from end to end. If you are looking for independent labels or boutique shops, don’t expect to find any here. Given the exorbitant rents of the Oxford Street real estate, only big household brands like Top Shop, New Look, ZARA, H&M, FOREVER21, HMV, M&S etc. can afford to set up shop over here. That being said, one of the big allure of shopping in Oxford Street is its offering of cheap high street shopping. Oxford Street is home to a number of major department stores, one of the most popular being Selfridges, and although it is not necessarily the most expensive or fashionable, it is considered to be the most important, and forms part of a larger shopping district with Regent Street, Bond Street and a number of other smaller nearby streets.
Before you embark on your shopping trip to Oxford Street find out where to get off on the London underground, what places to take a rest and refuel with some quality food before resuming the shopping frenzy, and most importantly the opening times of the shops so you can plan your attack schedule of the shops more efficiently.
Oxford Circus station. While this tube station is best positioned for all of the major shops, it is also uncomfortably busy especially during the weekends where the numbers swell up to tens of thousands. We recommend getting off at Tottenham Court Road station and walk down to the shops. Alternatively you could also get off at Bond St station or Marble Arch station. And contrary to popular belief, you really don’t need to get the tube up and down Oxford Street – unless you fancy squeezing in with the weekend crowd with all your shopping bags. You can get from one end to the other in 20 minutes or so depending on the crowd.
As the rent is rather high on Oxford Street, eateries and watering holes are few and far between. If you want anything more than a take away sandwich, your best bet is at the Tottenham Court road end where you would find, The Tottenham. It is the only pub on the street, and not really a place suited to rest your tired legs. We recommend walking a bit further and checking out the restaurants near Oxford Street. Here are some places that we heard are pretty decent.
- Aqua Nueva – 5th floor, 240 Regent Street, London, W1B 3BR
- Pitt Cue Co. – 1 Newburgh St, London, W1F 7RB
- Postcard Teas – 9 Dering Street, London, W1S 1AG
- Wild Honey – 12 St George Street , London, W1S 2FB
- Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s – Claridge’s, 55 Brook Street, London, W1K 4HR
- Yalla Yalla – 12 Winsley Street, London, W1W 8HQ
Oxford Street is open much later than almost anywhere else in the city of London. Most Oxford Street shops are open until 8pm on Mondays to Saturdays, and even later on Thursdays until 9pm or 10pm. The best time to go to Oxford Street is just after the shops open at 9am. Few people get here this early, and you can have a really peaceful and leisurely look around the busy shops – Topshop Oxford Circus, Primark and Selfridges before the mad crowds descend at around noon. Lunchtimes in Oxford Street are chaotic, as is the hour between 6pm-7pm. Saturdays and Sundays being the weekend, are the busiest of all.
If you’re going to spend the whole day in Oxford Street, you need to know where the restrooms are. Unlike other shopping districts, very few shops offer restroom facilities but (thankfully) all the major department stores such as Marks and Spencers, Debenhams, etc. and Topshop has toilets on their basement floor although you would have to look really hard as they are hidden away.
Changing Foreign Currency
Tourist shoppers dread this moment where they hit their cards limit and have any more cash. Time to break out the foreign currency and find a exchange bureau. First of all, don’t believe the signs advertising ‘commission free currency exchange’ at the small bureau de change shops you see at intervals along Oxford Street. The signs are ‘right’, these change shops generally don’t ‘charge’ any commission. Rather these places make money by offering nauseatingly terrible exchange rates. Don’t believe us? Go online and do a quick check and see the actual exchange rate – you will be flabbergasted at the difference. The exchange rates offered by the in-house bureau de change in the Marks and Spencer branches at Oxford Circus and Marble Arch are much better and because of that, there can be long lines so be prepared to wait for awhile.
Like any other major areas with large human traffic, pickpockets thrive on Oxford Street where there are lots of distracted people with large amounts of cash and bags. The usual rules apply – zip up your bag, don’t have your iPhone loose in your pocket. If you are carrying a backpack or rucksack, don’t keep your valuables in the front pocket as you won’t feel it being removed on the tube. For guys, keep your wallet or phone in the front pocket of your jeans (makes it harder to pick). Don’t walk along the street ‘showing off’ your expensive phone – there have been cases where thieves do a grab-and-run and disappear into the crowd. Recently there has been a gang of smart phone thieves who mainly target people outside of popular busy tube stations. They would ride up to the unsuspecting on BMX bikes, snatch the phones from the people who were busy texting or talking to notice, and ride off. In busy shops, travel as a pair so while you’re trying on that pair of shoes, your friend is watching your bags.
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