Liberty department store
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A different kind of entertainment awaits in Theatreland, London’s version of Broadway. The first West End theater opened in 1663, and there are dozens operating today, including Queen’s Theatre. Its production of Les Misérables is superb, but be prepared to hum “Master of the House” for a long, long time afterward.
Treats often served at the Sanderson’s Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea
For decades, England’s newspaper industry was clustered along Fleet Street. It’s not quite the same now, but you can soak up the historic atmosphere over a heaping plate of delicious fish and chips at Ye Olde Cock Tavern. Head west beyond the Royal Courts of Justice and you’ll see where the interior shots of Gringotts Wizarding Bank were filmed for one of the Harry Potter movies (the Australian Embassy). And don’t worry: Muggles are welcome.
At Penhaligon’s, you can sit for a personal fragrance profiling and listen as store manager Alexandra Kostadinova explains why scent is such a powerful sense. She will be friendly and utterly convincing, and you will be compelled to buy a bottle of Blenheim Bouquet or Bluebell (one of the late Princess Diana’s favorites). Penhaligon’s supplies scents to some members of the royal family, and it has helped the likes of Winston Churchill and Rudyard Kipling achieve greatness, olfactorily speaking.
Once upon a time, the East India Company was a world power unto itself, trading in everything from diamonds to exotic animals to silk, spices and foodstuff. It had its own army and controlled 50 percent of the entire world’s trade. The company was dissolved in 1873, but it has been relaunched as a purveyor of fine teas, chocolates, coffees and exquisite gifts from around the globe.
Where else but London can you shop in a store that traces its heritage all the way back to two Royal Navy ships? The current incarnation of Liberty, just off Regent Street, was built in 1924 with timbers from the HMS Impregnable and the HMS Hindustan. These days, you can browse an eclectic mix of jewelry, clothes, accessories, artwork, fabric and stationery.