Not many department stores can boast being a world-famous tourist attraction with over 15 million visitors every year. But with jaw-dropping architecture (not to mention some of the most luxurious brands known to man-kind), Harrods is the ultimate destination in London for both shopping enthusiasts and non-shopping enthusiasts alike.
Located in the heart of one of London's richest neighbourhoods (Knightsbridge), Harrods is hands-down the biggest department store in Europe, as it spans over seven floors, 90,000 square metres and 330 different departments.
Harrods was established in 1849 by Charles Henry Harrod, who was a businessman involved in retail trade with a special interest in tea trading. Originally Harrods was designed to be a single-room store selling tea and groceries, with only two employees and one messenger boy. However, by 1880, Harrods expanded into a thriving department store which offered everything from luxury clothing brands to budget household items.
Today Harrods is more than just a department stare. It's an international and highly-desirable brand, and it even boasts its own bank, optician and pharmacy, as well as Harrods Aviation, Air Harrods and Harrods Estates.
Harrods is currently owned by Qatar Holdings, and was purchased by the Al-Fayed family in 2010. Mohamed Fayed is the father of Dodi Fayed, who was with Princess Diana in Paris when the car they were riding in crashed and killed both of them (including the driver) instantly. In their honour, Fayed set up a memorial for them in Harrods, which is located next to the escalators.
With its motto “Omnia Omnibus Ubique – All Things For All People, Everywhere,” it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that Harrods covers nearly every type of product and designer brand imaginable.
With names like Dolce and Gabbana, Oscar de la Renta, Heidi Klein, and Estée Lauder scattered throughout its many departments, and products ranging from designer clothes, make-up, jewellery, furniture, shoes, cigars, and so much more, there's no telling what you'll walk out of the store with when shopping at Harrods.
If you don't have time to check out all 330 of its departments, then at least stroll around its Superbrands department (located on the first floor) which features 17 boutiques from some of the top international designers, or Salon du Parfums, which boasts some of the most exclusive perfumes on the planet. The Toy Department is another fan-favourite among both children and parents alike, as it contains some of the biggest stuffed animals and unique toys you certainly won't find anywhere else in London, or possibly even the world.
Harrods also has fascinating architecture featuring Egyptian designs, terracotta tiles, Art Nouveau windows and a baroque-style dome. If you feel like doing some sightseeing around Harrods, then be sure to check out the lavishly-decorated Food Hall with 27 different restaurants located on the lower floor, which was decorated with artwork by Williams James Neatby. Also be sure to check out the Egyptian Halls and Crystal Rooms; and, most importantly, the majestic central Egyptian-styled escalators.
During the holiday season, Harrods is transformed into a wintry wonderland, with its Brompton Road windows decorated in a delightful Christmas theme, and customers can also visit Father Christmas at its annual Christmas Grotto area.
Harrods hosts a variety of events throughout the year, ranging from wine events, childrens' workshops and much more. Before you visit, make sure you check out Harrods' official website to see if there is an event taking place on the day that you visit.
- Because Harrods attracts some of the wealthiest and famous stars in London, keep an eye out for celebrities while you're strolling around; (but don't take their picture unless you are given permission to do so).
- Make sure you take advantage of Harrods' winter and summer sales – be prepared for big crowds and long queues though.
- If you do decide to buy something at Harrods, make sure you leave the store with its signature green bag!