SHOPPING GUIDE: THE XMAS HOT 100

Buying your presents in London? Use our guide to the capital's 100 best stores. Compiled by James Pretlove

Christmas shopping in London usually throws up two distinctly different types of experience. If you have hated it in the past, it probably means that you spent a day being pushed and shoved around Oxford Street with its human traffic jams and a selection of shops which hardly differs from any other high street in the country. Those of you who have happier tales have probably spent time scouring London's more unusual shops and areas in search of the quirky, the offbeat and the unique.

To make sure that you become an expert Christmas shopper, use this guide to the best shops in the capital, which has been compiled by London experts Time Out (also look out for its annual Time Out Shopping & Services Guide, which lists thousands of London's shops). Time Out magazine is running two special Christmas shopping editions on 26 November and 3 December, listing even more bright ideas.

With one or two exceptions, the shops listed do not have branches outside London, most specialise in merchandise you won't find elsewhere. As a lot of the stores are staffed by the people who own them, you should also enjoy a high level of service.

BOOKS & RECORDS

Books for Cooks

4 Blenheim Crescent, W11 (0171 221 1992). Ladbroke Grove or Notting Hill Gate tube. Open 9.30am-6pm Mon-Sat.

For those who think further than Delia, this shop offers wonderful cookbooks from around the world.

Compendium

234 Camden High Street, NW1 (0171 485 8944/0171 267 1525/fax 0171 267 0193). Camden Town or Chalk Farm tube. Open 10am-6pm Mon-Sat; noon-6pm Sun.

Practically the whole shop is given over to cult books, though the basement also teems with political magazines and anarchist rags.

Dillons Arts Bookshop

8 Long Acre, WC2 (0171 836 1359). Covent Garden or Leicester Square tube. Open 9.30am-10pm Mon, Wed-Sat; 10am-10pm Tue; noon-7pm Sun.

Come here for the great range of magazines and for the photography, art and architecture books.

Dress Circle

57-59 Monmouth Street, WC2 (0171 240 2227). Covent Garden or Leicester Square tube. Open 10am-7pm Mon-Sat.

If you know someone who weakens at the thought of Phantom, buy them something from Dress Circle which has CDs and tapes from every era of film and stage musical. Videos and sheet music are also available.

Edward Stanford

12-14 Long Acre, WC2 (0171 836 1915). Leicester Square tube. Open 10am- 6pm Mon, Sat; 9am-7pm Tue-Fri.

Come here for travel books, maps, globes and topographical posters.

Forbidden Planet

71-75 New Oxford Street, WC1 (0171 836 4179). Tottenham Court Road tube. Open 10am-6pm Mon-Wed, Sat; 10am- 7pm Thur, Fri.

For sci-fi and horror buffs, this is a shrine to all that's scary and strange. It specialises in books, figures, trading cards, Star Trek ties and movie posters.

Honest Jon's

276 & 278 Portobello Road, W10 (0181 969 9822). Ladbroke Grove tube. Open 10am-6pm Mon-Sat; 11am-5pm Sun.

A shop of two halves that's likely to satisfy any fan of black music. On one side there's soul and funky jazz, both on new CDs and covetable originals. On the other side there are racks of original jazz LPs, plus new releases and reissues on CD.

Murder One

71-73 Charing Cross Road, WC2 (0171 734 3485). Leicester Square or Tottenham Court Road tube. Open 10am-7pm Mon-Wed; 10am-8pm Thur-Sat.

Keep grandma quiet on Boxing Day with a mince pie and a nice bit of crime fiction. Murder One aims to stock every crime thriller that's in print in the English language.

Skoob Books

15 Sicilian Avenue, WC1 (0171 404 3063). Holborn tube. Open 10.30am-6.30pm Mon-Sat.

Skoob keeps an excellent collection of second-hand paperback fiction and always contains a few surprises. Its own guide to second-hand bookshops is a snip at pounds 7.99.

CRAFTS

L Cornelissen & Son

105 Great Russell Street, WC1 (0171 636 1045). Tottenham Court Road tube. Open 9.30am-5.30pm Mon-Fri; 9.30am-5pm Sat.

If you have a budding Andy Warhol in the family, visit Cornelissen where rows of lovingly laid-out jars of pigment are testimony to the care taken with presentation. Stock includes eight makes of pastels and 1,748 shades, as well as brushes (from pounds 4 to pounds 100 for a Kolinsky Sable).

Ells & Farrier

20 Beak Street, W1 (0171 629 9964). Oxford Circus tube. Open 9am-5.15pm Mon-Fri; 10am-5.15pm Sat.

Come December, Christmas shoppers join crowds of demanding fashion-trade and theatrical clients as they plunder Ells & Farrier's spectacular hoard of over 3,000 different beads. Stunning feathers, jewellery, findings, sequins and many other high-quality trimmings, both plain and glitzy, also attract magpie customers.

DESIGN

Ceramica Blue

10 Blenheim Crescent, W11 (0171 727 0288). Ladbroke Grove or Notting Hill Gate tube. Open 11am-5pm Mon; 10.30am-6.30pm Tue-Sat.

CB is particularly good for imported ceramics unavailable elsewhere in Britain, including vibrant work from southern Italy, especially that of the Sicilian Desimone family, who worked with Picasso. Coffee-drinkers will appreciate the giant "rocket fuel" cups from the USA (pounds 23.50).

Cockpit Arts

Cockpit Yard, Northington Street, WC1 (0171 419 1959). Chancery Lane or Holborn tube. Open by appointment only.

The Cockpit occupies two large converted warehouses - home to around 100 designers and makers in every kind of media: glass, jewellery, graphics, knitwear, painting, furniture and more. The best chance to see the tenants' work is at the open days, including one in early December.

Contemporary Applied Arts

2 Percy Street, W1 (0171 436 2344). Goodge Street or Tottenham Court Road tube. Open 10.30am-5.30pm Mon-Sat.

CAA's stylish space presents, promotes and markets the makers of jewellery, glass, ceramic, textile, wood and metal crafts. Displays change frequently and include both affordable gifts and more elaborate and costly pieces. The exhibition area above the shop also hosts a Christmas show.

Fitch's Ark

6 Clifton Road, W9 (0171 266 0202). Warwick Avenue tube. Open 11am-7pm Mon-Sat; 11am-3pm Sun.

An amazing selection of pieces of interest to animal lovers from Neil Hardy's wacky automata (pounds 29) to chimps made from chicken-wire by Kendra Haste (pounds 650). There are also toys for children (clockwork rhinos, pounds 2.40). A donation is made from every purchase to Born Free, the endangered-species charity.

DEPARTMENT STORES

Harvey Nichols

109-125 Knightsbridge, SW1 (0171 235 5000). Knightsbridge tube. Open 10am-7pm Mon, Tue, Thur, Fri; 10am-8pm Wed; 10am-7pm Sat; noon-6pm Sun.

Known to all who love her as Harvey Nicks, this Knightsbridge store is primarily a fashion emporium. It is however great for presents, whatever your budget. You could start with some small and perfectly packaged items from the New York-inspired food hall on the fifth floor, going down to the ground floor for fashion accessories and beauty products.

Liberty

210-220 Regent Street, W1 (0171 734 1234). Oxford Circus tube. Open 10am- 6.30pm Mon-Wed, Fri, Sat; 10am-7.30pm Thur; noon-6pm Sun.

From the Christmas decorations in the basement to the antique furniture on the fourth floor, Liberty presents its usual selection of the unusual, its buyers sourcing the gifts that other buyers just can't source. Try the perfumery on the ground floor, the book department on the second floor or the scarves (from pounds 50) in the breathtaking central hall.

ETHNIC STYLE

African Escape

127 Portobello Road, W11 (0171 221 6650). Notting Hill Gate tube. Open 10.30am-6pm Mon-Fri; 8.30am-6pm Sat.

African Escape is full of carved masks and drums from Ethiopia and Tanzania, plus chairs, pots, jewellery, throws and brightly coloured sarongs from Kenya.

Neal Street East

5 Neal Street, WC2 (0171 240 0135). Covent Garden or Leicester Square tube. Open 11am-7pm Mon-Wed; 10am-7pm Thur-Sat; noon-6pm Sun.

Loads to look at, from Balinese animal carvings to extravagant jewellery, heavily embroidered dresses from China, silverware, Japanese cooking utensils and tomes on self-improvement.

Nice Irma's

46 Goodge Street, W1 (0171 580 6921). Goodge Street tube. Open 10am-6pm Mon-Wed, Fri; 10am-7pm Thur; 11am-6pm Sat.

Ethnic goods including textiles, home accessories and jewellery. Stock is inexpensive and mainly from India.

World

27 Litchfield Street, WC2 (0171 379 5588). Covent Garden, Leicester Square or Tottenham Court Road tube. Open noon-7pm Mon-Sat.

An eclectic selection of goods from around the world. Think fantastic beaded jewellery from all over Africa and think cushions decorated with the faces of communist leaders.

FASHION

555 Soul

63 Camden Road, NW1 (0171 424 0538). Camden Town tube/Camden Road BR. Open 11am-7pm Mon-Sat.

If someone you know is into hip hop, 555 Soul is the place to shop for them. It sells own-label sports and workwear, as well as some of the hottest US labels (PNB Nation, Phat Farm, D-lo).

Agent Provocateur

6 Broadwick Street, W1 (0171 439 0229). Oxford Circus tube. Open 11am-7pm Mon-Sat.

Within AP's red velvet walls you'll find vintage Fifties-look underwear, brightly coloured babydolls, Vivienne West-wood corsets and Christian Dior bras. Everything is beautifully wrapped.

American Retro

35 Old Compton Street, W1 (0171 734 3477). Leicester Square or Tottenham Court Road tube. Open 10.15am- 7pm Mon-Sat.

An eclectic bag of goodies, mostly for men, including fashion must-haves from W&LT and Dolce & Gabbana, plus kooky accessories, cards and all things bright and kitsch for the home.

Antoni & Alison Factory of Light & Experiment

43 Rosebery Avenue, EC1 (0171 833 2002). Holborn tube or Farringdon tube/BR. Open 10.30am-6.30pm Mon-Sat.

The newest fashion shop in town, sells Antoni & Alison's justly famous slogan T-shirts (from pounds 30), the perfect presents with which to make a silent protest from an armchair on Christmas afternoon. For the more active, buy a set of their mittens and a bobble hat.

Browns

23-27 South Molton Street, W1 (0171 491 7833). Bond Street tube. Open 10am-6pm Mon-Wed, Fri, Sat; 10am-7pm Thur.

Browns, Browns Focus and Browns Labels for Less provide fashion presents for (nearly) every purse. The mainline shop sells a plethora of international designer labels, Browns Focus sells designer clothes for a younger crowd and Labels for Less sells everything at a discount.

Burro

19A Floral Street, WC2 (0171 240 5120). Covent Garden tube. Open 10.30am- 6.30pm Mon-Wed, Fri, Sat; 10.30am-7pm Thur; 1-5pm Sun.

If you were thinking of buying novelty boxer shorts for your man, don't. Instead, buy Burro's ironic-chic Y-front and vest sets in delicious gingham patterns (pounds 6.99 and pounds 19.99 respectively).

Chanel

31 Sloane Street, SW1 (0171 235 6631). Knightsbridge tube. Open 10am- 6pm Mon-Fri; 10am-6pm Sat.

Recently refurbished to resemble Mlle Chanel's original boutique in the rue Cambon, the best bets for Christmas presents are the four Chanel perfumes it sells exclusively in the UK and, of course, its quilted bags.

Damart

235 Regent Street, W1 (0171 629 6475). Oxford Circus tube. Open 9.30am- 5.30pm Mon-Sat.

Damart, purveyor of thermals to grandma, is also a place to head to if you're buying for the young and trendy. Its unusual fabric blends and large range of underwear make it worth a call. Prices start at pounds 5.99 for briefs.

Delta of Venus

151 Drummond Street, NW1 (0171 387 3037). Euston Square or Warren Street tube. Open 11am-6pm Mon, Tue; 10am-7pm Wed-Fri; 11am-6pm Sat.

London's most highly recommended second-hand clothes shop, DofV has a mellow vibe and clued-up staff. It stocks pop paraphernalia such as annuals, original Sixties rings (pounds 5), Biba badges, pendants, and space-age clocks. You may get misty-eyed over the retro Fifties furniture.

Joseph

23 Old Bond Street, W1 (0171 629 3713). Green Park tube. Open 10am-6.30pm Mon-Wed, Fri, Sat; 10am-7pm Thur.

Joseph sells Margiela, Helmut Lang, Prada, Balenciaga and others alongside the Joseph line which is designed to work with these clothes. Fashion experts swear by Joseph's trousers and fashion novices can start with the new Joseph parfum de jour. Also visit the branches in South Kensington.

Jungle

21 Earlham Street, WC2 (0171 379 5379). Covent Garden tube. Open 10am- 6.30pm Mon-Sat; noon-6pm Sun.

An army-surplus shop frequented by hip Soho types. We recommend basic buys: combat vests (pounds 25), black boots (pounds 25), camouflage trousers (pounds 20) and T-shirts (pounds 7). Perfect cover for those who want to merge with the urban jungle.

Koh Samui

65 Monmouth Street, WC2 (0171 240 4280). Covent Garden or Leicester Square tube. Open 11am-7pm Mon-Sat.

Koh Samui stocks the work of young British designers including Stephen Fuller and Clements Ribeiro.

Malapa

41 Clerkenwell Road, EC1 (0171 490 5229). Farringdon tube/BR. Open 10.30am- 7pm Mon-Wed; 10.30am-8pm Thur-Fri; noon-5pm Sat.

Filled with the work of fashion graduates from the RCA and St Martins, Malapa is the place to go if you want to buy one-off pieces which are as much investments as they are clothes to wear. Try the Darja raincoats (pounds 295) or clothes from Eugene Rocha.

Ozwald Boateng

9 Vigo Street, W1 (0171 734 6868). Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus tube. Open 10am-6pm Mon-Sat.

The perfect place to buy presents for the sharpest-dressed men you know. If you're feeling really generous go for the fabulous merino rollnecks (pounds 195); if times are slightly harder try the enamel cufflinks at pounds 80 or ties at pounds 60.

Shop

4 Brewer Street, W1 (0171 437 1259). Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus tube. Open 10am-6.30pm Mon-Sat.

Shop has a host of lovely things for fashionable young women. As well as covetable Tocca dresses (pounds 120), try Shop's own range of jewellery made for it by Erickson Beamon (prices from from pounds 9). Best of all for Christmas is Mini nail polish from LA's X-Large which changes colour on your nails.

Souled Out

Unit 25, Portobello Green Arcade, W10 (0181 964 1121). Ladbroke Grove tube. Open 10am-6pm Mon; 12.30-6pm Tue-Thur; 10am-6pm Fri, Sat.

Souled Out bounces back with its own-label collection, Inner City Blues, inspired by the immigrant populations of London. The brightly coloured furry helmets make ideal presents (pounds 20).

Steinberg & Tolkien

193 King's Road, SW3 (0171 376 3660). Sloane Square tube/11, 19, 22 bus. Open 10.30am-7pm Mon-Sat; noon-6pm Sun.

Steinberg & Tolkein has the largest collection of vintage clothing in London, and drips with elaborate costume jewellery and beaded accessories. The clothing is downstairs, with designer wear from Schiaparelli, Courreges, Hermes, Dior and Saint Laurent.

FASHION ACCESSORIES

Bill Amberg

10 Chepstow Road, W2 (0171 727 3560). Notting Hill Gate or Westbourne Park tube. Open 10am-6pm Mon, Tue, Thur-Sat; 10am-7pm Wed.

Come to Bill Amberg for bags which will turn anyone into a budding Patsy Stone - where else would you find a handmade turquoise leather tote? Men are catered for with Amberg's large Gladstone travelling bags (pounds 400).

Electrum Gallery

21 South Molton Street, W1 (0171 629 6325). Bond Street tube. Open 10am- 6pm Mon-Fri; 10am-2pm Sat.

Head to Electrum if you want to buy a unique piece of jewellery from the work of over 100 international designers. It sells precious and non- precious jewellery, so prices range from pounds 30 to several thousand.

Erickson Beamon

38 Elizabeth Street, SW1 (0171 259 0202). Sloane Square or Victoria tube/BR. Open 10am-6pm Mon-Fri; 11am-5pm Sat.

Erickson Beamon has provided costume jewellery for the catwalk shows of John Galliano, Givenchy, Dries van Noten, Alexander McQueen, Hamnett, and many more. Prices from pounds 30.

Johnny Moke

396 King's Road, SW10 (0171 351 2232). Sloane Square tube, then 11, 19, 22 bus. Open 10.30am-6.30pm Mon-Sat.

If you want to make someone happy with a pair of cool shoes, then head for Johnny Moke and his selection of men's and women's footwear (men's from pounds 175, women's from pounds 95).

Lesley Craze Gallery

33-35 Clerkenwell Green, EC1 (0171 608 0393). Farringdon tube/BR. Open 10am-5.30pm Mon-Sat.

Lesley Craze's gathering of shops is a showcase for British jewellery, as well as London's only gallery dedicated to contemporary textile design. Jewellery prices start at around pounds 10.

Stephen Jones

36 Great Queen Street, WC2 (0171 242 0770). Covent Garden or Holborn tube. Open noon-7pm Tue-Fri; 11am-5pm Sat.

Stephen Jones makes hats for Dior and Galliano, but he also makes hats for you. With styles for men and women from pounds 45, we suggest you make your way to his salon's hushed lilac interior.

FOOD & DRINK

& Clarke's

122 Kensington Church Street, W8 (0171 229 2190). Notting Hill Gate tube. Open 8am-8pm Mon-Fri; 9am-4pm Sat.

& Clarke's is next door to the elegant Clarke's restaurant and is packed with homemade-looking chutneys (pounds 4.75), plus Californian wines and pastries.

Algerian Coffee Stores

52 Old Compton Street, W1 (0171 437 2480). Leicester Square tube. Open 9am-7pm Mon-Sat.

Shop at this Soho institution for original coffees such as Costa Rica Tres Rios (pounds 5.64/lb) and the rich, nutty Esotico (pounds 5.28/lb). Flavoured coffees and 150 blends of tea are also on offer.

The Beer Shop

14 Pitfield Street, N1 (0171 739 3701). Old Street tube/BR. Open 11am-7pm Mon-Fri; 10am-4pm Sat.

Everything required for the brewing, drinking and ultimate enjoyment of ale. And now that the shop has its own in-house brewery, there's an ever-changing line of limited-edition brews.

Bibendum

113 Regent's Park Road, NW1 (0171 722 5577). Chalk Farm tube. Open 10am-6.30pm Mon-Sat.

This fashionable wine merchant is constantly sending drinkers off in new directions. This year it introduced regulars to Alamos Ridge from Argentina and Grangehurst from South Africa.

Carluccio's

28a Neal Street, WC2 (0171 240 1487). Covent Garden tube. Open 11am-7pm Mon-Thur; 10am-7pm Fri; 10am-6pm Sat.

Stylish packaging makes Carluccio's products perfect for Christmas and helps to underline the superb pedigree of all the foodstuffs selected by Antonio and Priscilla Carluccio. Best bets include regional olive oils from Liguria, Tuscany, Abruzzo, Puglia and Sicily.

Neal's Yard Dairy

17 Short's Gardens, WC2 (0171 379 7646). Covent Garden tube. Open 9am- 7pm Mon-Sat; 10am-5pm Sun.

Great British and Irish cheeses are sold at Neal's Yard. Truckles are brought to peak in store rooms before being sold.

Planet Organic

42 Westbourne Grove, W2 (0171 221 7171). Bayswater tube. Open 9am-8pm Mon-Sat; 11am-5pm Sun.

This is where to come if you want to give organic food as a present. Shop here for everything from organic cornflakes to gluten-free amaranth seeds.

Rococo

321 King's Road, SW3 (0171 352 5857). Sloane Square tube. Open 10am-6.30pm Mon-Sat; noon-5pm Sun.

Founded by Chantal Coady of Choco-late Society fame, Rococo's assortment includes Naomi's Nipples (caramel-filled chocolates), realistic chocolate quails' eggs (pounds 4.95 a dozen) and seriously rich truffles. Everything comes beautifully wrapped.

Reza Patisserie, Meats & Greengrocery

347 Kensington High Street, W8 (0171 603 0924). High Street Kensington tube. Open 8.30am-8.30pm daily.

Reza's patisserie has a wonderful selection of rich baklava and macaroon- style pastries as well as Turkish delight. Next door is a great selection of delicacies (not least of which is Iranian caviar), together with dried herbs and colourful tableware.

The Spice Shop

1 Blenheim Crescent, W11 (0171 221 4448). Ladbroke Grove or Notting Hill Gate tube. Open 9.30am-6pm Mon-Sat.

This shop is stuffed with every spice imaginable, including rarities such as pequin chillies and wynard peppers. Medicinal herbs are also stocked.

The Tea House

15a Neal Street, WC2 (0171 240 7539). Covent Garden tube. Open 10am-7pm Mon-Sat; noon-6pm Sun.

Tea and tea paraphernalia is crammed into every nook and cranny. Try the gunpowder and mint tea or Christmas-pudding flavour (around pounds 1.80/100g).

Villandry

170 Great Portland Street, W1 (0171 631 3131). Great Portland Street tube. Open 7.30am-10.30pm Mon-Sat

The new Villandry is a gourmet food shop which will supply treats for the most jaded palate. Golden Moon white Persian melon tea is pounds 7.85, O Olive Oil's toasted virgin pecan-nut oil pounds 12.50, and Kreutzkamm's cinnamon stars pounds 9.50.

GOOD FOR MEN

JJ Fox (St James's)

19 St James's Street, SW1 (0171 493 9009). Green Park or Piccadilly Circus tube. Open 9.30-5.30pm Mon-Fri; 9am-4pm Sat.

The wood-panelled walls of this fine store display a vast selection of cigars, including brands smoked by previous customers Churchill and Wilde.

Leading Edge

Unit 115, Whiteley's, Queensway, W2 (0171 229 3338). Bayswater or Queensway tube. Open 10am-10pm Mon-Sat, noon-6pm Sun.

Everything a gadget lover could want including the Miracle Thaw defrosting tray, the Tanita body-fat monitor, a clock-cum-light light which projects the time onto the ceiling or a wall and, perhaps best of all, Lavalamps.

Lillywhite's

24-36 Lower Regent Street, SW1 (0171 930 3181). Piccadilly Circus tube. Open 9.30am-7pm Mon-Fri; 9.30am-6pm Sat; 11am-5pm Sun.

Gifts for anybody who has an interest in any sport you can think of, as well as a few you can't. Six floors, including a converted ballroom, stock all the top names in clothing and equipment.

Rose, Morris & Co

11 Denmark Street, WC2 (0171 836 0991/sheet music 0171 836 4766). Tottenham Court Road tube. Open 10am-6.30pm Mon-Wed, Fri; 10am-7pm Thur; 10am-6pm Sat.

Budding musicians will be satisfied if you visit Rose, Morris & Co on their behalf. Stock includes guitars, sheet music and keyboards.

Soccer Scene

30-31 Great Marlborough Street, W1 (0171 439 0778/0171 437 0242). Oxford Circus tube. Open 9.30am-6pm Mon-Wed, Fri, Sat; 9.30am-7pm Thur.

Premiership, Italian, Brazilian and other top team strips (from pounds 35), souvenir accessories, scarves and, of course, footballs. There are also some Rugby League and Union shirts and boots.

HEALTH & BEAUTY

Culpeper Herbalists

8 The Market, Covent Garden Piazza, WC2 (0171 379 6698). Covent Garden tube. Open 10am-8pm Mon-Thur; 9am-8pm Fri, Sat; 10am-6pm Sun.

Visit Culpeper for its preservative-free shampoos, hand creams and bath salts.

Molton Brown

58 South Molton Street, W1 (0171 499 6474). Bond Street tube. Open 10am- 6pm Mon-Wed, Fri, Sat; 10am-7pm Thur.

Molton Brown's beautifully packaged own-label body products provide the perfect presents for anyone who loves to pamper him or herself. Goodies include Eye Rescue eye gel pounds 17.50 and Body Satiniser body lotion pounds 19.50.

Screenface

48 Monmouth Street, WC2 (0171 836 3955). Leicester Square tube. Open 10am-7pm Mon-Sat.

For men who are either too embarrassed or too rushed to try and put together a selection of cosmetics as a gift, Screenface sells giftpacks from pounds 10. If you want something unusual, go for the heated eyelash curlers at pounds 12.95.

Space NK

307 Brompton Road, SW3 (0171 589 8250). South Kensington tube. Open 10am- 6pm Mon-Sat; noon-5pm Sun.

Space NK is known as the shop which turned the selling of beauty products into a very glamorous and exciting business - and it is one of the better places to head for Christmas gifts, especially for the rare and cult brands in which this shop specialises. Best bets include the Espa mini oil collection (pounds 27.50), a selection of six miniature bottles of aromatherapy oils.

HOME AND GARDEN

Aero

96 Westbourne Grove, W2 (0171 221 1950). Bayswater or Notting Hill Gate tube. Open 10am-6.30pm Mon-Fri; 10am-6pm Sat; noon-5pm Sun.

Aero is one of the few British companies manufacturing, retailing and promoting modern furniture, lighting and accessories. Among the most striking designs are Nazanin Kamali's nesting tables (in metal and glass) and the classic plywood and steel Techno chair.

After Noah

121 Upper Street, N1 (0171 359 4281). Angel tube or Highbury & Islington tube/BR. Open 10am-6pm Mon-Sat; noon-5pm Sun.

A mixture of small items (apart from the bedsteads), both repro and original, from the Thirties to the Fifties. There's chrome and characterful wooden furniture, mirrors, jewellery and a children's section with old toys. There's a branch at 261 King's Road, SW3.

Anything Left-handed

57 Brewer Street, W1 (0171 437 3910). Piccadilly Circus tube. Open 9.30am- 5pm Mon-Fri; 10am-5pm Sat.

The utilitarian mishmash of paraphernalia stocked here - including scissors, pencil-sharpeners and corkscrews - will make great and unusual presents for long-suffering lefties.

Bedstock

26 Portobello Green Arcade, 281 Portobello Road, W10 (0181 964 1547). Ladbroke Grove tube. Open 10am-6pm Mon-Sat.

Bedstock should be your first stop for trendy bedlinen. It also stocks faux-fur throws, bedspreads and cushion covers, and there are night-shirts, pyjamas, dressing gowns and towels.

Cath Kidston

8 Clarendon Cross, W11 (0171 221 4000). Holland Park tube. Open 10.30am- 6pm Mon-Fri; 11am-6pm Sat.

Cath Kidston's shop resembles a Fifties bedroom and kitchen. Best of the second-hand goods on sale are the old fabrics and curtains, in naive colourful designs, from which her own new designs take influence. There are also odd second-hand bits of kitchenware.

The Chelsea Gardener

125 Sydney Street, SW3 (0171 352 5656). South Kensington tube. Open 10am- 6pm Mon-Sat; noon-6pm Sun.

The Chelsea Gardener is expensive, but though you will find few bargains it is sensibly laid out and an enjoyable place in which to browse: pansies are 99p each; camellias start at pounds 19.95; fruit trees cost from pounds 19.95.

Clifton Little Venice

3 Warwick Place, W9 (0171 289 7894). Warwick Avenue tube. Open 9.30am-5.30pm Mon-Sat.

Expensive but unique gifts are the order of the day at Clifton which is renowned for its decorative garden and architectural antiques, plaster replicas of classical statuary, planters, urns, fountain masks and plinths.

The Conran Shop

55 Marylebone High Street, W1 (0171 723 2223). Open 10am-6pm Mon-Wed; 10am-7pm Thur 10am-6pm Fri, Sat; noon-5pm Sun.

One of the best places to do your shopping under one roof is this new branch of The Conran Shop. Look out for the Conran collection, the best parts of which are the stationery and china.

Divertimenti

45-47 Wigmore Street, W1 (0171 935 0689). Bond Street tube. Open 9.30am- 6pm Mon-Fri; 10am-6pm Sat.

Everything for the kitchen including the very useful Le Pentole and Le Cuisinox stainless-steel pans. They sit comfortably with the ceramics and wooden accessories also on sale.

General Trading Company

144 Sloane Street, SW1 (0171 730 0411). Sloane Square tube. Open 9.30am- 6pm Mon, Tue, Thur-Sat; 9.30am-7pm Wed.

The General Trading Company is jolly posh, but is a reliable source of kitchen utensils, glassware and tableware, as well as candlesticks and photo frames.

The Holding Company

243-245 King's Road, SW3 (0171 352 1600). Bus 11, 19, 22. Open 10am-7pm Mon-Sat; noon-6pm Sun.

Boxes, racks, bags and hangers for storing wayward household items. There are organisers for everything, as well as sturdy plastic chests of drawers and brightly coloured boxes.

Jerry's Home Store

163-167 Fulham Road, SW6 (0171 225 2246). South Kensington tube. Open 10am-6.30pm Mon-Sat; noon-5.30pm Sun.

Household goods Uncle Sam-style. Here you'll find tableware, glasses, towels, kitchenware and office accessories, plus electrical gadgets and a pets' corner featuring jewel-encrusted feeding bowls.

LassCo

St Michael's Church, Mark Street (off Paul Street), EC2 (0171 739 0448). Old Street tube. Open 10am-5pm daily.

All sorts of unusual (but mainly large) antiques and fittings. If you're looking for something for the person who has everything, why not try a 19th-century Gothic altarpiece?

Muji

157 Kensington High Street, W8 (0171 376 2484). High Street Kensington tube. Open 10am-7pm Mon-Wed, Sat; 10am-7.30pm Thur, Fri; noon-6pm Sun.

Japanese purveyor of minimalist accessories, Muji is perfect for Christmas shopping, whatever your budget. Cardboard storage boxes come in 10 styles (from pounds 3.95); noodle bowls start at pounds 3.50; clear glass tumblers, pounds 2.50.

Purves & Purves

80-81 & 83 Tottenham Court Road, W1 (0171 580 8223). Goodge Street tube. Open 9.30am-6pm Mon-Wed, Fri, Sat; 9.30am-7.30pm Thur.

The best of British and international furniture. Prices start at pounds 69 for cute Rotor coffee tables, quickly rising to pounds 1,795 for Adrian Reynolds's Crystal Ball bed and beyond. Accessories are sold two doors down.

Shaker

25 Harcourt Street, W1 (0171 724 7672). Edgware Road tube or Marylebone tube/BR. Open 10am-6pm Mon-Sat.

The perfectly proportioned wooden furniture the Shakers built is crossing the Atlantic to Harcourt Street. Classics such as the dining chairs cost from around pounds 200, or considerably less if you have the courage and skill to assemble them yourself. There's also an ever-expanding collection of gifts. Branch: 322 King's Road, SW3.

The Source

26-40 Kensington High Street, W8 (0171 937 2626). High Street Kensington tube. Open 10am-7pm Mon-Wed, Fri; 10am-8pm Thur; 9am-6pm Sat; noon-6pm Sun.

A crop of household goods at very affordable prices. The kitchen and bathroom are well catered for: shower curtains cost from pounds 5.95, a double- handled wok is pounds 9.95. You'll also find vases, candles, quilts and cushions.

Thomas Goode & Co

19 South Audley Street, W1 (0171 499 2823). Bond Street, Green Park or Marble Arch tube. Open 10am-6pm Mon-Sat.

Enter this shop and you are in a magical world. Elegant cabinets hold china and glass from around the world. Everything is ravishing, down to the napkins trimmed with gold organza.

KIDS' STUFF

Benjamin Pollock's Toy Shop

44 The Market, Covent Garden, WC2 (0171 379 7866). Covent Garden tube. Open 10.30am-6pm Mon-Sat; noon-5pm Sun.

Quaint and cluttered, this delightful shop is always popular with visitors to London. Favourites for children (and adults too) are the Victorian- style paper-making books and the handmade miniature figures.

Children's Book Centre

237 Kensington High Street, W8 (0171 937 7497). High Street Kensington tube. Open 9.30am-6.30pm Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat; 9.30am-6pm Tue; 9.30am-7pm Thur; noon-6pm Sun.

You should head for here even if you don't really know the child you're buying the book for, as the staff here are willing to recommend books for different ages. In the basement you'll find non-fiction books, games and toys.

Daisy & Tom's

181-3 King's Road, SW3 (0171 349 0667). Sloane Square tube. Open 10am-7pm Mon-Fri; 9.30am-6.30pm Sat; noon-6pm Sun.

Everything you would ever need to buy for a child up to the age of 10. This includes books, toys, clothes, shoes, posters, gift wrap and cards.

Davenport's Magic Shop

7 Charing Cross Underground Shopping Concourse, Strand, WC2 (0171 836 0408). Charing Cross tube/BR. Open 9.30am-5.30pm Mon-Fri; 10.15am-4pm Sat.

Enter the womb-like interior of Daven-port's and prepare to be completely enchanted - until of course you come to the whoopee cushions. Tricks for amateurs and professionals alike are also on offer here.

The Hill Toy Company

71 Abingdon Road, W8 (0171 937 8797). High Street Kensington tube. Open 9.30am-5.30pm Mon-Fri; 10am-5pm Sat.

This immaculate little shop stocks attractive wooden, fake-fur and canvas toys, as well as Emma Jefferson's fun height charts, paper masks and cardboard animals sets.

Science Museum

Exhibition Road, SW7 (0171 938 8187). South Kensington tube. Open 10am-6pm daily.

Lots of high-tech knick-knacks and daft innovations that will appeal to children. Few can resist skeleton pyjamas (pounds 14.99), which glow in the dark.

Tridias

25 Bute Street, SW7 (0171 584 2330). South Kensington tube. Open 9.30am- 6pm Mon-Fri; 10am-6pm Sat.

From a plastic fly for 1p to a rocking horse for pounds 595. A top stocking- filler is the miniature wooden village that comes in a net bag (pounds 2.95).

What a Circus

8-10 Kingswalk Shopping Mall, 122 King's Road, SW3 (0171 584 0217). Sloane Square tube. Open 10am-6pm Mon-Sat.

Kids will love this place with its tented ceiling and amusements such as a caged tiger eating his cereal over the Bengali Times, and two leopards redecorating their home in leopard-skin-print wallpaper. Prices mid-range to high.

MARKETS

Alfie's Antique Market

13-25 Church Street, NW8 (0171 723 6066). Edgware Road tube or Marylebone tube/BR. Open 10am-6pm Tue-Sat.

A popular antiques arcade with some excellent specialist stands. Collectors of ceramics are well catered for, with stalls dedicated to the work of Midwinter, Susie Cooper and Clarice Cliff, as well as 20th-century design, glass, lighting and textiles.

Portobello Road Market

Portobello Road, W10 and W11; Golborne Road, W10. Ladbroke Grove, Notting Hill Gate or Westbourne Park tube. Open Antiques 7am-6pm Sat. General market 9am-5pm Mon-Wed; 9am-1pm Thur; 7am-6pm Fri, Sat. Organic market 11am-6pm Thur. Clothes & bric-a-brac 7am-4pm Fri; 8am-5pm Sat; 9am-4pm Sun.

From the Notting Hill end of this massive street-fest, you first encounter the antiques traders, more than 2,000 of them. Presents for collectors can be found here: silverware, jewellery and crockery abound, as do collectors displaying cigarette cards and Dinky toys. If you pass under the Westway, an elevated part of the A40, you'll find a tented area housing stalls of vintage clothing, including the second-hand cashmere stall, where you can buy a cashmere jumper for under pounds 30. Prices are generally not cheap, so haggle.

STATIONERY

Ordning & Reda

22 New Row, WC2 (0171 240 8090). Leicester Square tube. Open 10am-8pm Mon-Sat; noon-6pm Sun.

Stylish Swedish handmade stationery, photo albums, address books and diaries. It's pricey.

Paperchase

213 Tottenham Court Road, W1 (0171 580 8496). Goodge Street tube. Open 9.30am-6.30pm Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat; 10am-6.30pm Tue; 9.30am-7.30pm Thur.

Recycled stationery, cards, wrapping paper, photo albums and jewel-coloured leather Filofaxes. The first floor holds a fine selection of artists' papers and accessories, and at this time of year, a special Christmas department.

Smythson

40 New Bond Street, W1 (0171 629 8558). Bond Street tube. Open 9.30am-6pm Mon-Fri; 10am-6pm Sat.

Smythson has wonderfully ridiculous presents, including three-section address books marked London, Paris and New York. There is also a bewildering array of stationery.

STOCKING FILLERS

The Museum Store

37 The Market, The Piazza, WC2 (0171 240 5760). Covent Garden tube. Open 10.30am-6.30pm Mon-Sat; 11am-5pm Sun.

The best and most off-beat ideas from museum stores across the world, with gifts available at all price levels.

The Tintin Shop

62a Sloane Avenue, SW3 (0171 838 0901). South Kensington tube. Open 10am- 6pm Mon-Sat; noon-5pm Sun.

Two floors dedicated to our little Belgian friend and all his pals. You'll find lots of silly crockery and towels bearing the trademark quiff, but also a mind-boggling choice of books.

Wong Singh Jones

253 Portobello Road, W10 (0171 792 2001). Ladbroke Grove or Notting Hill Gate tube. Open 10.30am-6.30pm Mon-Fri; 10am-6.30pm Sat; 11am-5.30pm Sun.

Those wanting kitsch stocking fillers for adults should come here. Stock includes nodding dogs (from pounds 9.90) and seven-colour beaded door-curtains.

TAXIDERMY

Get Stuffed

105 Essex Road, N1 (0171 226 1364). Highbury & Islington tube/BR/38, 56, 73, 171A bus. Open 1-5pm Mon; noon-5pm Tue, Wed, Fri; 1-3pm Sat.

This taxidermist may be the strangest shop in London and will certainly provide the oddest presents. The birds and animals died of natural causes or were turned into objects long ago.

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