West London is well known for its high-end department stores and shopping, but what happens when you’re looking for a special gift and don’t have time or energy to browse for hours? Sometimes you have the perfect gift in mind but can’t find it anywhere, and other times you’re relying on knowing the right thing when you see it, in which case you’re a bit stuck if your shopping trip has to end before you’ve found the ideal gift. Instead of resorting to that panic-bought toiletries gift set that screams “I didn’t know what to buy you!”, use our west London gift-buying guide to more accurately guide you towards finding the perfect present.
For beauty lovers: spa gifts and pamper days
Great gifts are normally something the recipient would love but wouldn’t get for themselves – perhaps because they seem to indulgent – and “me time” is one of the prime candidates. Most upmarket spa hotels – like the Four Seasons on Park Lane or the Berkeley in Hyde Park – offer spa experience gifts, or just book an appointment at a specialised spa like the gorgeous Victorian Porchester Spa at the Porchester Centre in Queensway. It’s always worth looking at the local deals and voucher sites too, since spa days (or weekends) remain popular and one or two feature nearly every week. If you can’t quite handle giving away all that luxury without getting a taste of it yourself, buy a voucher for two and take your friend on a surprise day out!
For foodies: food halls and farmers’ markets
The food halls in Harrods and Harvey Nichols are always an eye-opener, and lots of fun if your recipient is swayed by fancy packaging – go for something beautiful like marzipan fruits or a jar of preserve, or something with a branded tin (biscuits, tea) that can be kept and prized long after its original contents have been consumed.
But for the serious foodie it’s worth giving the department stores a miss. There is always a danger that the store has invested more money in the fancy wrapping than the quality of food (a lesson hard-learned after a couple of disappointing purchases from the much praised but overrated Fortnum & Mason). Instead, head for one of West London’s farmer’s markets – there’s a great one at Notting Hill on Saturdays between 9am and 1pm, and others at Queens Park (Sun 10am til 1pm), South Kensington (Tues & Sat 9am – 2pm), Marylebone (Sun 10am – 2pm) and Ealing (Sun 9am – 1pm) and Twickenham (Sat 9am – 1pm).
For sports fans: stadium tours
Of course you might need to be careful – you don’t want to book a tour with the wrong team! – but a stadium tour is an interesting gift for sports fans, offering a behind the scenes look a daily life for the sporting elite. Wembley and QPR offer tours for football lovers, whilst Twickenham is must-visit for rugby fans, and a tour of Lords in St John’s Wood perfect for cricket fans.
For collectors: Portobello market
It would be wrong not to mention Portobello, although it can get very crowded quickly and is not ideal for hurried gift-seeking. This is best if you know where you’re going – the antiques section is between Chepstow Villas and Elgin Crescent, closest to Notting Hill tube station, with Saturday the main trading day. Trading starts at 8.30am so this it the time to go if you want to miss the crowds which turn up around midday.
For creative fashion, including unusual dresses and accessories, there are a few interesting boutiques on Pembridge Road (right and right again out of Notting Hill Gate Station) or head to Westway (closest to Ladbroke Grove) where you’ll find a fashion market selling both second hand clothes and creations by new designers, and a general second hand market between Westway and Golbourne Road, which has some interesting vintage clothes amongst the general stalls.