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Harrods

Listed under Great Shops in London, United Kingdom.

  • Photo of Harrods
  • Photo of Harrods
  • Photo of Harrods
  • Photo of Harrods
  • Photo of Harrods
  • Photo of Harrods
  • Photo of Harrods
Photo of Harrods
Photo by Ryan W. Judge
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Life is short. A manic fear of mortality drives our peers to make this point on almost a daily basis. But there isn’t enough time on Earth for them to adequately hammer this point into the ground, so instead they have erected massive monuments to remind us that we have an expiration date, even after they have died. The temples, the cathedrals, the grand altars to state and culture: these monuments stand in praise of a common deity. These monuments, however, pale in comparison - for some at least - to the massive one that stands on Brompton Road in Knightsbridge. There, with one sole purpose, Harrods demands worship of the almighty dollar and in return bestows the gifts of commerce on all.

All drama and soapbox paranoia of consumer society aside, the ‘largest department store in the world’ has a sobering sense of scale to it. Going through the doors and walking up the stairs, I was already lost. Turning the corners, everything looked at once familiar and drastically different than the corner before. I stumbled into the electronics section, gazing cross-eyed at expensive gadgets with knobs and buttons I could never understand.

In this department store that sells everything, I had a sudden urge to see a puppy. In the pet section, sadly the puppies lay asleep. Waiting for feeding time was out of the question. But the pet apparel section was something else: here, you could find outfits that qualify as both cute and cruel to animals. Never once possessing the impulse to dress my terrier in a denim jacket, leggings and a cowboy hat, I shrugged the experience off as one of those demographic differences that I would never understand. After a quick peek at the toys and sporting goods, I called it a day and headed for the exit – which took twenty minutes and every second-hand Boy Scout trick I knew.

There is an interesting contrast between what Harrods looks like from the street and what lies inside. At first glance, the store appears on the skyline like a cathedral, with its domed structure lording its wares over the bustling city streets. The interior, however, is about what you would expect from a large emporium. While Harrods has an atmosphere that pushes it above and beyond the average, it is still very much a department store. Toys, vacuum cleaners, clothes, washing machines, televisions; the whole shebang is housed in an area that is much larger than the average Macy’s or Sears – but then not very different from them after all.

Those seeking a shopping experience will have already put this on their list of places to visit in London. Like Macy’s in New York City, Harrods is a place that will attract tourists and natives alike. Those seeking to separate themselves from crowds of busy shoppers and their gawking tourist counterparts should look elsewhere. For those who wish to experience a store that has everything you could think of contained in a space that spans an area larger than a city block (far and away from the womb of Wal-Mart), Harrods may find itself high on your list.

Written by  Ryan Judge.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Why - on so many levels, why?

How does what is essentially a department store selling mostly the same products as other department stores become a travel destination? How about be a one-off for starters. And being known for selling premium brands can’t hurt either. A historic façade and carefully designed rooms and ‘galleries’ certainly make the experience of shopping there feel a bit different to the mall, as do the smells which waft invitingly from the plentifully and richly stocked Food Hall. How about an annual Boxing Day sale known for its beyond belief discounts – who wants to buy a TV for 1 penny? Me! but is it worth queuing for two days for the pleasure over a London Christmas? To some people yes.

Is the Boxing Day Sale one of those things we should all do once? Probably.

Harrods is a part of London’s history. It had the world’s first moving staircase – us modern people would call it an escalator – the pioneer travellers on it were given brandy at the top to stave off a potential shock or fear, sadly not a practice still practiced. Its walls also house two memorials to Princess Diana.

If you want to shop like the royal family there is probably no store with more guilt and gold paint. The Egyptian escalators aren’t the easiest to navigate but they’re awfully opulent and the wood on each floor has an expensive gleam. As do the tiles in the Food Halls.

A Harrods hamper, or its branded or premium food products, are probably the best things to walk away with pacted in the signature green and real gold. Their other departments have some unusual brands and some very desirable 'items' your materialistic tongue will loll over, but you’ll probably pay more than you strictly need to.

Best tip: the bakery – a delicious selection a pastries and fresh breads that almost anyone can afford.

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