Looking for Christmas pressie inspiration? Here's our hand selected gift guide, featuring exclusive Londony present ideas, and beautiful things crafted by independent companies in the city. By the end of this article, you might have most of your festive shopping done!
Gifts for transport geeks
Any transport lover will by now be more than au fait with the London Transport Museum shop, and its embarrassment of transport-themed riches. But there are oodles of other stores where you can pick up wheely good gifts.
Adam Nathaniel Furman's trippy take on the classic London Underground motifs (designs including 'Bakerloo Boogie Woogie' and 'Mighty Metropolitan') make for some eye-catching cushions, mugs, backpacks and sweaters. Makes a change from the usual moquette designs which everyone now seems to be wearing as socks (us included).
How about a tube map with a twist to adorn your giftee's wall? This City of Women London map — co-curated by Reni Eddo-Lodge, Rebecca Solnit and Emma Watson, and released earlier in 2022 — charts hundreds of pioneering women, from Mary Seacole to Michaela Coel, who've made their mark on the city.
Tube (and architecture) nerds will drool over Tube Station Anthology 1924-1961, a coffee table tome that captures in vivid vignettes those interwar (and beyond) London Underground stations masterminded by Leslie Green, Stanley Heaps and co.
Shopping for more of a bus anorak? London Bus Museum's online store is chocca with double-decker themed tea towels, calendars and jigsaw puzzles. And while we're talking buses, Londonist contributor Harry Rosehill has written a marvellous (and marvellously illustrated) tome — Routemasters of the Universe — which explores where 50 of London's former Routemaster buses have wound up.
London walking tour gift vouchers
If you're after a present for someone who likes nothing more than wandering London's storied streets while gleaning new trivia, they'll surely appreciate walking tour vouchers.
The ever-fascinating Look Up London sells gift vouchers for private guided tours, where you can choose from a long list of neighbourhoods, from Bankside to Soho to Waterloo. There's a much-lauded feminist Jack the Ripper tour, too.
The sagacious Footprints of London team — with who we've enjoyed numerous enlightening wanders over the years — offer a range of vouchers for public, private, and even virtual, tours exploring the city's nooks and crannies.
Living London History — aka Jack, who's an Open City trained tour guide — also sells gift vouchers, which can be ussed on a tantalising range of walks, covering everything from Lambeth's legendary trailblazers to Westminster's saints and scoundrels.
Things that smell nice (and Londony)
If you know someone who likes their home to smell dreamy, you can't go far wrong with the gift of scented candles. Swerve the sweet-smelling horrorshow that is the TK Maxx candle section, and instead buy from a local independent business. Tribal Unicorn Candle Bar makes its products from environmentally friendly, raw materials — and there are some seriously swoonworthy scents, including the Notting Hill candle, which channels 'barrel cooked Jerk chicken, mango sauce, sipping on a tropical rum punch and vibing out to a steel pan band'.
Taking the concept of London neighbourhood-inspired aromas, and running with it is Soapsmith. This Walthamstow-based setup crafts soaps and bath soaks with names including Brick Lane, Lavender Hill and Marble Arch.
Booze crafted by Londoners
Every beer disciple has their favourite London breweries, and you might want to do your own online browsing, but among our personal prefs are Peckham's Brick Brewery (currently selling a box set of their superb Martini and Manhattan sours), Walthamstow's Exale (who've some snappily-presented gift cases that come with illustrated glasses), and —for drivers/non drinkers — Big Drop (really enjoyed their selection of booze-free bevvies when taking it easy last yuletide). A shout-out too, to Eko Brewery, who do African-inspired vegan beers: the 12-can mix and match pack, featuring IPA, porter, pils and more, will make a welcome present for any hop head in your life.
If it's vino you seek, make sure it's a London label: Blackbook make "bloody good wine" in their Battersea winery, thanks to grapes sourced from vineyards a stone's throw from the capital. The artwork for their Sea of Love pinot blanc surely takes its cue from David Bowie/the Victoria line tiles, which in itself has us sold. Otherwise, pick up a mixed case of reds, whites and sparklings from E17's Renegade Urban Winery, and dish them out among your mates.
Feeling in a spirited mood? Eschew the usual supermarket biggies like Gordon's et al, and plump instead for something a little more unique. Cabby's Rum — distilled in London by a taxi driver — will perk up any festive punch. They also do a delish gin. We've also heard good things about Fatty's organic London dry gin, crafted in small batches in Dulwich. (The magic ingredient, we're told, is dill.)
By the way, you can find more mother's ruin-laced inspo in our Best London Gins... Delivered To Your Door.
Want to gift a little liquid literature on the side? Hoxton Mini Press recently released a thirst-inducing book featuring vintage pictures of pubs, which is a must-have for those who swoon over a proper London boozer. Meanwhile, What's in a London Pub Name? goes in search of the etymology of 650 pub names (a handful of which sound a little rude). And speaking of books...
2022's been another bumper year for books about London. Antony Badsey-Ellis' The London That Never Happened charts a city-that-could've been where monorails run down Piccadilly, and Camden Town station went seriously sci-fi.
In London's Lost Department Stores: A Vanished World of Dazzle and Dreams, Tessa Boase looks into the demise of London's grand commercial institutions, discovering how they've evolved into other things, in spite of a world of online shopping. And there's more sepia-lensed nostalgia with Berris Conolly's London 1977-1987, and Alec Forshaw's 1980s London: Portrait of a Decade of Change.
For your near and dear who've enjoyed previous publications from the King of London History, Peter Ackroyd, he's got a new book out, in which he dives into the capital's spectrum of colour.
In Bollardology, meanwhile, Cathy Ross reveals the not-so-pedestrian secrets behind the City of London's bollards.
Perhaps you and someone share fond — if fuzzy — memories of the golden days of London's dubsteps scene? In which case, Drumz Of The South: The Dubstep Years is a shoo-in for a present.
Another favourite book of the year was Jim Grover's in-depth photo essay on the life of Clapham haberdasher, Maurice Dorfman: a highly recommended buy, especially if you're buying for someone well acquainted with Clapham.
As for giftees who like to venture out into the countryside surrounding the urban sprawl, we nudge you in the direction of Julia Smith's Walks for Each Season, which documents 26 walks close enough to do as day trips from London.
Guess this is also the place to remind you that we have not one, but two incredibly-illustrated tomes: Londonist Mapped (a gorgeous cartographic voyage around London Trivia), and Londonist Drinks, which overflows with knowledge on liquid London — from gin to craft beer to milkrounds. Our Editor-at-Large Matt Brown also has an epic coffee table book on the shelves, Atlas of Imagined Places, that'll delight anyone with an iota of interest in film, TV or literature. (That's everyone, right?)
For further bookish inspo, check out our map of independent London bookshops.
The answer to the question: 'what do I get the person who has everything?' is often: 'tickets to a West End show'. even if said person has seen EVERYTHING so far on the theatreland stage, they can't have ticked off the shows that only launch in 2023. To name a few:
- The Unfriend — usually sinister, always hilarious, Reece Shearsmith stars in this dark comedy about remaining polite however far you're pushed (opens January)
- Oklahoma! — the Rogers and Hammerstein musical returns to the stage, dancing cowboys and all (opens February)
- The Great British Bake Off Musical — we thought someone was doing a funny too, but no — apparently this is no half-baked concept (opens February)
- Ain't Too Proud — the musical journey of Detroit hitmakers The Temptations will have everyone swaying in the aisles (opens March)
Londony stocking fillers
Looking for something dainty (and relatively cheap) to slip into a stocking? You might find the answer at Open City's gift shop, where there are smart municipal-themed socks and soap bars, as well as construct-it-yourself cardboard models of the Trellick Tower, Tolworth Tower and Dawson's Heights. Swoon.
Blue Crow Media are perennially excellent at producing maps you instantly need to buy, and one of their 2022 offering was the Black History Map London. Get one as a gift, and then another for yourself.
Another cosmic little stocking filler is the joyously bizarre Ad Astra Per Croydon: The Lost History of London's Forgotten Spaceport, a whimsical fantasy zine which imagines a Croydon at the heart of the 1960s space race.
Londonist merch (aka the shameless plug section)
From t shirts to prints to mugs to tea towels, the Londonist shop is brimming with Londonist merch that you won't find anywhere else. Plenty here for smashing secret santas, stocking fillers and main pressies, even if we do say so ourselves.
Still got some bits and pieces to tick off your shopping list? Read London's Best Christmas Markets And Festive Fairs For 2022.