London’s Shopping Shrines: Hamleys and Harrods

Now who goes to a city like London and doesn’t shop at least a little bit? OK, perhaps C would, but not I, RMT’ers! While London is chock full of shops, stores, and stalls to get your shop on, I’m going to highlight two of the top draws for most who live in and visit this wonderful shopping city: Hamleys and Harrods.

Our London Holiday, March 31-through-April 9, 2013:
1. British Airways LAX-LHR
2. The Waldorf Hilton, London
3. Covent Garden Neighborhood, London
4. London Transport Museum
5. Day Out in London: Traditional Landmarks
6. Diana, Princess of Wales’ Memorial Playground, Kensington Gardens, and Green Park/Buckingham Palace
7. Muggles and Magicians: The Harry Potter Experience
8. Family Remembrance and Celebration: Brookwood Cemetery and The Lion King at The Lyceum Theatre
9. Day-Trip Out of London: Isle of Wight and Portsmouth, UK
10. Where Time Began: Greenwich, UK
11. All Along the Watchtower: The Tower of London
12. London’s Shopping Shrines: Hamleys Toys and Harrods TODAY’S POST

Hamleys on Regent Street is London's renowned toy store.

Hamleys on Regent Street in the West End is London’s infamous toy store.

Hamleys is London’s premiere toy store. Established in London in 1760 (that’s not a typo!) on Regent Street in the West End, Hamleys is very much like the old-time toy stores where workers demonstrated and displayed various toys to customers as part of the overall shopping experience (and as part of their marketing and advertising plan, of course!). If you’ve seen the movie Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, it’s very much like that toy store, magic included.

I have a funny story about our time at Hamleys… well, about our first time that T and I tried going to Hamleys anyway. I mentioned before that T had been obsessed with going into a couple of the chain toy stores close to our hotel in Covent Garden. Well, one Sunday morning, I gave in and allowed him a small purchase at the Build-a-Bear around the corner from our hotel.

01 covent garden b a bear

The clerk at the Covent Garden Build-a-Bear gave T a few consolation “bear bows” due to their not having what we’d come in to buy. They were all very sweet and patient with me also while happily giving me directions to the next-closest Build-a-Bear location, which happened to be inside of Hamleys on nearby Regent Street.

While C was out running a few loads of laundry, T and I went on a date to Build-a-Bear to get T Jr. (his bear) implanted with Sound #12: Star Wars Theme. I was under the impression that this would be a quick trip since we’d visited “the sound” a few times before committing to the surgery. However, on the morning of the scheduled surgery, Sound #12 was out of stock. But guess who had it? Yes, Hamleys! The clerk called there to ask, and she told us that Hamleys has all of the sounds because they can “record any sound there.” Like I said, Hamleys is a magical place.

T and I on our Sunday morning date together. We even got to ride on the Underground during our adventures!

T and I on our Sunday morning date together. We even got to ride on the Underground during our sound-seeking adventures!

T on Regent Street on the way to Hamleys.

T on Regent Street on the way to Hamleys. This is one of London’s most posh shopping districts, so I didn’t mind the walk one bit.

T in front of Hamleys. They were not open when we got there on Sunday morning. Whoops.

T in front of Hamleys. They were not open when we got there on Sunday morning. In fact, none of the stores along Regent Street appeared open on Sunday morning. Whoops. Oh, we silly Americans and our shopping needs!

It was killing T not to be able to get inside Hamleys. At least there were some good window displays to look at as we waited.

It was killing T not to be able to get inside of Hamleys that Sunday morning. Oh well, at least there were some good window displays to look at before we returned to the hotel.

I then asked T if he wanted to go on an adventure with me to seek out this sound; he quickly agreed and off we went! We hopped on the Underground at Covent Garden and got off for Hamleys at Piccadilly Circus (just one stop up the Piccadilly Line) and finished the journey on foot up Regent Street to Hamleys! But, um, guess what? It was Sunday morning, which meant that the store was not open until Noon at the earliest. It was 11:15 a.m., and we were not able to wait it out that long at that time of day on that particular day (it was that afternoon we were to meet C back at the hotel and then trek down to the Tower of London after our “sound trip” and C’s laundry chores). To say T was bummed about missing out on Hamleys would be a serious understatement. I must say I was pretty bummed myself!

T in the "special seat" on Bus 15, the line that runs right in front of Hamleys toy store on Regent Street.

T in the “special seat” on Bus 15, the line that runs right in front of Hamleys toy store on Regent Street. We happened to catch this line from the Tower of London straight to the store. What luck!

T Jr. underwent his sound surgery at the Build-a-Bear department of Hamleys toy store in London. He's doing great!

T Jr. underwent sound surgery in the Build-a-Bear department of Hamleys toy store in London. He did great!

Wooden toy kits on sale at Hamleys in London.

Wooden toy kits at Hamleys in London.

A worker demo's a RC helicopter inside of Hamleys toy store on London's Regent Street.

A worker demonstrating a RC helicopter inside of Hamleys toy store on London’s Regent Street. He was trying to land it on T’s head, but wasn’t successful as that meant T had to stay very still (which didn’t happen).

At this station, a Hamleys worker showed us how this DIY sticker kit worked. T got to keep the sticker they made together.

At this station, a Hamleys worker showed us how this DIY sticker kit worked. T got to keep the sticker they made together.

Speaking of stickers, T loved the sticker books for sale at Hamleys in London.

Speaking of stickers, T loved the sticker book display at Hamleys in London. I still regret not getting him that Harry Potter LEGO one, but I am sure we can find it here Stateside.

But that didn’t end our Hamleys experience, RMT’ers! C, T, and I returned to Hamleys later in the day via Bus 15, which just happens to run directly from the Tower of London stop up and around to Regent Street (the stop for Hamleys). What luck… or maybe it was that ol’ Hamleys magic! So in the end, T Jr. got his surgery, T got his sound, and the three of us got to browse one of London’s most infamous shopping destinations. We even picked up additional toys along the way, too (of course).

Hey, it's the 3,192-piece LEGO that I always tell T he most likely will never see in person let alone get! Well, at least T can say he got to see it in person. Where? At Hamleys in London, of course!

Hey, it’s the 3,152-piece LEGO that I always tell T he most likely will never see in person let alone get! Well, at least T can say he got to see it in person. Where? At Hamleys in London, of course! Oh that there in T’s left hand is T Jr. Yes, he is dressed as Darth “Bear”der, and that’s why Sound #12 was such an important mission for T.

Look at all that LEGO! Yes, that's a display of just architecture sets ther in the back-right of the photo.

Look at all that LEGO! Yes, that’s a display of just architecture sets there in the back-right of the photo.

Need to make a LEGO phone call? Try this London phone booth out at Hamleys! For display purposes only, RMT'ers.

Need to make a phone call? Then check out this LEGO-built London phone booth at Hamleys! For display purposes only, RMT’ers.

The Royal Family greets visitors at Hamleys in London.

The Royal Family greeted visitors at Hamleys in London while we were there!

I am thrilled T got to have his photo taken with Queen Elizabeth II!

I am thrilled T got to have his photo taken with Queen Elizabeth II!

Oh, and I have to give a special shout-out to the LEGO displays and offerings at Hamleys. It was seriously unreal. Not only were several LEGO kits on sale here that we’ve only seen in catalogs and online, but LEGO also has some remarkable, life-size brick builds on display here that capture some of London’s local flavour. Yes, I meant to spell flavor that way, RMT’ers. Oh, and the Queen says hello, too. I still can’t believe T got to meet her and at Hamleys of all places!

Welcome to the London neighborhood of Knightsbridge,home of Harrods!

Welcome to the London neighborhood of Knightsbridge, home of Harrods!

05 harrods

Speaking of remarkable merchandising displays and renowned shopping destinations, what’s a visit to London without seeing the foods, flowers, and fashions of Harrods?! Much like my retail cathedral here in Southern California, Harrods is a shopping shrine for anyone who considers themselves a seasoned shopper (which I do and am, TYVM). So, please, let’s take a moment and give thanks for all things Harrods.

Sweet treats line the food halls of Harrods.

Sweet treats line the food halls of Harrods.

I so wish it'd been a nicer day so we could have taken lunch out from Harrods. Maybe next time!

I so wish it’d been a nicer day so we could have taken lunch out from Harrods. Maybe next time!

There's a grocery store part to the food halls of Harrods, too. Yummy!

There’s a grocery store part to the food halls of Harrods, too. Yummy!

Beautiful blooms at Harrods.

Beautiful blooms at Harrods.

Why this cologne-sprayer thought T wanted to sample whatever he was spraying I'll never know! Maybe the kids who shop at Harrods are fancier than us Americans (?!).

Why this cologne-sprayer thought T wanted to sample whatever he was spraying I’ll never know! Maybe the kids who shop at Harrods are fancier than us Americans (?!).

T and C walk through one of the fine jewelry halls at Harrods.

T and C walk through one of the fine jewelry halls at Harrods. No close-up photos were allowed of most of the fine gems on display and for sale here (understandable).

T with one of the Harrods Bears on guard in the gift department of the store.

T with one of the Harrods Bears on guard in the gift department of the store.

A wider view of the gift shop at Harrods. This is one popular spot in the store and no wonder... it's really one area of the place that most can afford a teensy something to take home, either as a gift or for themselves (or both!).

A wider view of the gift shop at Harrods. This is one popular spot in the store and no wonder, as it’s really one area of the place that most can afford a teensy something to take home, either as a gift or for themselves (or both!).

At Harrods, it’s not about what one buys but what one sees, and you really do need to see Harrods to believe it. Where else can one grab a fancy snack, duck around the corner for a fine piece of jewelry, and then head upstairs for gifts and trinkets for loved ones back home? Harrods really is in a class of shopping by itself; to simply refer to it as a department store does it a great disservice.

Inside of The Tea Clipper in Knightsbridge, a lovely pub near Harrods and also on the way to many museums nearby, too.

Inside of The Tea Clipper in Knightsbridge, a lovely pub near Harrods. It’s on the way to many museums nearby, too.

T and what's left of his fish stick sandwich. I guess he liked the fish at The Tea Clipper!

T and what’s left of his fish stick sandwich. I guess he liked the fish at The Tea Clipper!

T and I in front of The Tea Clipper pub.

T and I in front of The Tea Clipper pub in Knightsbridge, London.

T taking a shopping break to... pick grass outside of The Tea Clipper.

T taking a shopping break to… pick grass outside of The Tea Clipper. I’m surprised C wasn’t down there with T watching the grass grow because it is more interesting to him than shopping after all!

Sadly, we didn’t get to partake in lunch at Harrods (a wee bit pricey and not exactly kid-friendly), and getting take-away from the food halls and going for a picnic in the park wasn’t a good option that day (weather!). But our Harrods food loss meant a great pub win at the nearby Tea Clipper Knightsbridge. Here we found a tasty, simple, and affordable family-friendly lunch of meat pies and fish sandwiches. I may love to shop, but I love a good find even more.

RMT’ers, do you love to shop? Love a bargain even more? If yes and yes, then just a more local reminder for you that the Nordstrom Half-Yearly Sale for Women and Kids started this week! You can go here for the sales online and here to find a store in your area. Have fun, and go get those deals!

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One response to “London’s Shopping Shrines: Hamleys and Harrods

  1. Pingback: Goodbye, London: Two More Museums and Five Future Sites to See | Real Mom Time (RMT)

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