Hammersmith is not really a common stop for London tourists, in fact the locals will probably tell you to stay away from it! Possibly in part its because it feels like it’s the old shopping center that went downhill when the new mega shopping mall came to town. BUT, the reason I decided to head out this way again was because of a recommendation and subsequent successful trip out the last time I was in London, the two main draw cards being, TK Maxx and Primark.

TK Maxx is very similar to the big brand items clearance items at shopping centres like DFO or Harbourtown but all in one store. Womenswear takes a fair chunk and the whole lower level, handily arranged by clothing type on racks. Upstairs there’s menswear, footwear and household items. Brands vary but it all depends on when you go, this time there seemed to be a fresh shipment of Britian’s popular activewear, Bench. Sneakers were sadly lacking this time, unlike my last visit where Adidas Muppet or Mr Men collabs were being thrown away for ~50BP, a year later appearing on sneaker sites for $200+AU! They do however have a good range of hiking shoes, boots and technical runners which go well with a large selection of out of season jackets, parkas, windbreakers etc.

Primark is probably just as avoidable for Londanites as Lowes or Valleygirl is to most Aussies but their range and prices are unmistakably good value. If you’re looking for general business/office basics then this is definitely the place to go. Plain colours, simple, clean designs with a modern touch and best of all original enough to still look just a little bit different back home in Australia.

While both these spots were disappointing this time, a third reason has appeared in the last few years one tube stop away at the newly built Wood Lane or upgraded Shephard’s Bush stations, Westfield London.

Westfield London

I know what you’re thinking, ANOTHER Westfiled, but this thing is something else. It’s the only one in London and being only a few years old, the place looks super modern and is huge with 300+ stores and an open air feel thanks to the high glass ceilings. The centre boasts 319 stores, (search the whole list here) some of the staples are Onitsuka, Vans, Adidas, Puma and Nike, which are all on par for their respective names. Nike had a second story but again all regular fare. For variety in sneakers and clothing and sale items Sole, Foot Asylum, JD Sports and Sports Direct were worthy stop-ins.

Lego Deathstar

Lego Tower Bridge

One other must see is the Lego store, the (fully operational) Death Star or detailed model of the London Tower bridge will draw you in but the wall of coloured bricks sold by the soda cupful will make you want to stay! Only the basic bricks were available in this manner but they were in every colour ever made. In hindsight even one kg of bricks could’ve easily fit sprinkled through out my luggage. There are also stations to test build your own creations or customise your own Lego man. They of course, also have a good range of Lego merchandise.

Wall o' Lego

Lastly if you’re looking for the Wetzels Pretzels stand, sadly it is no longer there. Those poms don’t know what they’re missing!

Covent Garden and Soho are next on the shopping list.

London 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Soho Shopping
London 2011 part #2 – Central London sight seeing
London 2011 part #3 – Chelsea Flower show
London 2011 part #5 – Shopping – Covent Garden and Soho
London 2011 part #6 – Shopping – Camden
London 2011 part #7 – Shopping – Shoreditch
London 2011 part #8 – Hyde park, Piccadilly Circus

London photo gallery here
Chelsea flower show photo gallery here

The best thing about seeing the sights in central London is their close proximity, barely a couple km’s separates the majority of them so a few hours and footpower is all you’ll need. The trade off is of course having to compete with thousands of other tourists.

Trafalgar Square

Getting the Tube to Charing Cross will pop you up at fountains galore, Trafalgar sq. Like with alot of popular tourist spots there are always scammers, pick pockets and crazy bums accusing you of stealing their sandals so keep your wits about you and know where or how to contact police/security. Security here patrol the area and are easily visible.

Buckingham Palace

Fountain at Buckingham Palace

From here we took a short walk down to Buckingham palace where less than a month before Prince Willy and Cath tied the official knot. If you time it right you’ll also get to witness the famous “changing of the guard”. You can then cut through the gardens to the back of Cavalry Museum where you find guards on foot and on horse back ready to be demeaned with peace symbols and cheesy grins in a photo.

Mounted guard at Cavalry Museum

Big Ben

Westminster Abbey

A couple blocks from here are 2 unintentionally gloomy buildings thanks to period architecture and a typically overcast London day, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament featuring Big Ben. There always seems to be road or building works in this area so you may need to cross the road a few times to get a good spot. On the plus side, with the tower being a lot taller than the adjacent buildings you can get a photo of it from just about anywhere.

London Eye

From here its another short walk across Westminster Bridge to the London Eye. Even with the typical London haze and boring skies it’s a great way to see a broad view of the city and if you time it right you might even score some sweet sunset photos.

Tower Bridge - Lego version ;)

Tower Bridge - Lego version ;)

If you have time to spare, continue along Southbank. There’s usually artists and small market stalls set up along the way and the rug store closing down sale style of the “Under croft”, London’s longest running central skatepark dating back to the 70s. Further along there’s the Tate modern museum, Millennium bridge, London bridge and then the Tower bridge (what people think is London bridge).

Travel tip: If you’re catching the Tube back from this end of town, try not to get stuck at Monument or Bank stations during peak hour. This is a major business area and center for multiple interchanges. If you’re new to Tubing, its definitely not for the faint hearted (or short of patience/fitness). Also note, even though on the map the interchanges look close together there are some considerably long tunnel/escalator runs so it may actually be quicker to spend longer on a train than running through tunnels, especially if you have luggage.

London 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Soho Shopping
London 2011 part #3 – Chelsea Flower show
London 2011 part #4 – Shopping – Hammersmith
London 2011 part #5 – Shopping – Covent Garden and Soho
London 2011 part #6 – Shopping – Camden
London 2011 part #7 – Shopping – Shoreditch
London 2011 part #8 – Hyde park, Piccadilly Circus

London photo gallery here
Chelsea flower show photo gallery here