Listen… I know your type. You’re the type of tourist who isn’t interested in bringing a “Mind the Gap” t-shirt home from your London visit. You want something more inspiring and unique to bring back and always remind you of the lovely time you had in this amazing city. So in this article I’m giving you some ideas for unique souvenirs to get in London, and where you can get them. Skip the plastic mini- Big Ben (Made in China of course) and choose something truly cool.
Image Courtesy of Algerian Coffee Stores
Of course, people around the world associate England with being a tea-drinking nation, and well, it’s one of those stereotypes that are absolutely true. While tea leaves generally come from other parts of the world, like India and Sri Lanka, the English appreciate it in a way that much of the rest of the world doesn’t.
My personal favourite place to get tea that is affordable, good, and supports a small business is Algerian Coffee Stores in Soho. They have a huge selection of both looseleaf tea and coffee beans, of which you tell them how much you want, and they pop it in a bag for you and you pay by the weight. It’s a cool little shop that is also home to London’s cheapest coffee, at £1, so it’s worth a visit even if just for that.
Algerian Coffee Stores makes an appearance in my guide to Soho…
Image Courtesy of Atika
Secondhand or vintage piece of clothing or an accessory
While we have some fantastic and unique fashion boutiques in London, there’s just something so special about finding a vintage or secondhand gem when in a new city. I personally love getting vintage finds when I travel because the hunt for them makes me appreciate them more, and every time I wear the piece back at home, it reminds me of an amazing trip. Plus, it’s better for the environment and my bank account.
London is a GREAT place for vintage shopping as well as for browsing secondhand shops that stock more modern options. There’s just too much to talk about in this article so go read my Where to Go Secondhand Shopping in London guide to plan your vintage hunt.
Photo session with a professional photographer
Is it me or is it SO hard to get good photos of your ENTIRE group when you travel? There’s always someone missing (taking the photo) or the stranger you ask to take a photo for you takes the most AWFUL pictures.
If you are keen to have some nice photos to commemorate your trip to London, hire a professional photographer who will deal with the wind, crowds, cloudy skies, etc and will tell you how and where to pose for some of the most beautiful shots of you and London. After the photographer takes a few days to edit your shots, you can then share on social media and frame up in your home to always remember your trip by. It’s surely one of the most unique souvenirs to “get” in London.
We work with a fantastic photographer, so have a look here to find out more about doing a London photo session.
Image Courtesy of The Ginstitute
Spirits from a London-based distillery
Get a bottle of a London-born spirit for yourself or friends back home to bring the local London cocktail experience home with you. In London we have SO many indie distilleries that you can visit, tour, taste and of course stock up from.
A few distilleries you can pick up some unique London souvenirs from:
- The Distillery, Notting Hill – the home of Portobello Gin. Stop by their teeny gift shop in the back of their space for a bottle or two. The Distillery is also home to The Ginstitute, where you can take various masterclasses relating to gin.
- Cabbie’s Rum, Mile End – Cabbie’s is the first rum distillery in London and is a Black-owned indie business. The name comes from the founder Moses Odong’s current profession. You can book a “Rum Taxi Experience“, which gets you a drink on arrival, a tour of the distillery, an explanation of how it’s all made, and even a voucher for the gift shop.
- Victory London, Walthamstow – run by a husband and wife team, Victory London produces its spirits with cutting-edge technology that conserves energy, reduces water waste and guarantees consistently delicious products. The distillery is sat next to the Exale Brewery and the Exale Tap Room, so you’re pretty much sorted for having a few cocktails in the area before you pick up a bottle of gin at their shop.
Image Courtesy of Gay’s The Word
Books from one of London’s indie bookshops
If you’re an avid reader, I imagine you love collecting books on your travels, and a book can make for a unique souvenir to get in London. Luckily we have so many incredible independent book shops to love and support all around the city where you’ll be able to browse for your next title, whether it’s a beautiful coffee table book or a gripping fiction that comes secondhand.
Some lovely little independent bookshops around London that are personal favourites:
- Oxfam bookshops – these are run by the charity, selling secondhand books to raise money. Two locations I’ve found amazing selections in are Balham and Portobello Road, but there are quite a few around the city.
- Gay’s the Word, Russell Square – first opened in 1979, Gay’s The Word was the first bookshop in the UK devoted to LGBTQ+ literature, and is likely one of the last of its kind in the world— a unique-to-London experience. The shop is a hub for community events, all run by just three members of staff: Jim, Uli, and Erica. They are also quite accommodating for various disabilities, as per their “visit us” page. (WA)
- Broadway Books, London Fields – Broadway Books has a nice selection of fiction and non-fiction books. After stopping here, head down Broadway Market and also have a look at Artwords Bookshop for books and magazines on contemporary visual culture, and Donlon Books, “known for stocking an idiosyncratic range of new and rare titles, periodicals and printed matter, with a focus on photography, art, critical theory, LGBT literature, music, fashion, counterculture, erotica, and esoterica.”
- Roundtable Books, Brixton – if you’re looking for children’s books, Roundtable Books does an amazing job of stocking titles with children of colour as the main character, of which only 1% of kids’ books have, apparently.
Image Courtesy of Annie’s London
Antiques from London’s best antiquing spots
Portobello Road Market is the most famous place in London for antiquing but it definitely doesn’t mean it’s the best. While there are some great vendors there are also some not-so-great ones, and visiting on a weekend past morning time could mean elbowing your way through massive crowds.
Alternatively, I’d recommend heading north on Portobello Road for about fifteen minutes until you reach Golborne Road, a less crowded and higher caliber antiquing experience. Weekends are best for a visit as that’s when the majority of the street vendors are set up, selling antiques both small and large, like furniture. Then pass through the brick-and-mortar antique shops for absolutely incredible finds. They aren’t cheap, but nothing good in London ever is.
I also recommend a visit to Camden Passage, where on weekends you’ll find tables set up with lots of antiques for sale. There are also some incredible shops to pop into selling all types of antiques, like Annie’s London, with its petticoats and other truly vintage pieces on display, and Oliver Griffith Antiques, selling eclectic furniture and decor.
Image Courtesy of Flea
A piece of jewellery from a London-based maker
Pick up a beautiful piece of jewellery to remember your trip by, or to gift to someone back home. Obviously, something from an independent designer in London is extra special and unique. Markets like Flea at Vinegar Yard (WA), Broadway Market (WA) and Canopy Market in Kings Cross always have stalls run by designers selling their own jewellery (nice pieces, not kitschy stuff like you find at Camden Market).
Alternatively, Wolf & Badger in Kings Cross is a great shop to look for some pieces, as they stock a range of designs at different price points, and each line is made with ethics and sustainability in mind. Each brand is different though so be sure to check the label to see what that particular brand does to help the planet and pay its workers a fair wage.
Image Courtesy of Nelly Duff
Artwork from London artists
I know space can be limited in a suitcase, but bringing home a piece of artwork or a print made by a local London artist would give you a very unique souvenir to get in London. Try one of these spots:
- Nelly Duff Gallery, Columbia Road – Nelly Duff (partially WA) (the name is cockney rhyming slang for “puff”, or breath, aka, life) is a small gallery on the lovely Columbia Road in east London. Pop in to find colourful and fun artwork from artists all around the world. The gallery is really relaxed and easy going, unlike other art galleries.
- Well Hung, Hoxton – Well Hung (great name) is an art gallery that hosts exhibitions featuring prints and originals from some of London and the UK’s leading urban and street artists. All for sale, of course.
- Eye for London Prints, Brixton – A creative studio that designs super affordable art prints inspired by the urban culture of the city around it, with a special love for art deco and architecture appreciation show in its collections. Pick up a unique print or piece here that you won’t find anywhere else.
There you have it, a list of unique souvenirs to get in London, to take home for yourself or your friends and family back home.
More London tips:
- 11 Cool Hotels in East London to Book a Room in
- 15 Unique Museums in London to Explore
- 30+ Unique Gift Ideas for Anyone Who Loves London
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