Festive Shopping Gemsby Burlington Bertie
Like everybody else I enjoy trawling for gifts in London West End's historic department stores like Fortnum and Mason, Harvey Nichols, Harrods, Liberty's and Selfridges. If I am looking for a gift for a friend overseas or a gift with special character, however, I will visit one of London's great museums and art galleries. They all have shops selling both facsimile pieces and items inspired by their collections.
The Victoria & Albert Museum's shop in Kensington, the British Museum's shop in Bloomsbury, the Royal Academy shop in Piccadilly and, last but not least, Buckingham Palace's Royal Collection shops, are special favorites of mine.
These shops are always in or adjacent to the museum or gallery entrance, so it is not necessary to pay any applicable entrance fee, (as at the Royal Academy or the Buckingham Palace Queen's Gallery). Where entry is free, as in the V&A and British Museums, an hour or two spent looking at historic art and artifacts is a treasured bonus to a day's shopping.
The V&A shop is remarkable, having some 3,000 different items on display,many exclusively commissioned for the V&A, as well as the best in contemporary design and fashion from all over the world.
The British Museum shop is interesting for its selection of facsimile classical Celtic and medieval jewelry, gold or silver-plated and set with paste or Swarovski stones. As well as books, games and fashion accessories, the shop also has a stunning array of busts, figurines and plaques ranging in price from 30 - 5,000, all modelled on the museum's originals from ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt, and artifacts from cultures of bygone days.
The Royal Collection shop has a superb selection of palace and National Trust inspired china and glassware, jewelry, toiletries, kitchenware and edibles, together with a range of magnificently illustrated art books.
This being the Queen's Jubilee Year, I decided to buy my Festive Holiday gifts for friends overseas from the Royal Collection. I visited the shop at the Queen's Gallery in Buckingham Gate and spent a pleasant hour browsing before choosing some beautifully packaged chocolates, shortbreads and teas, which the shop arranged to dispatch for me. These goodies, beautifully packaged in colorful collectable palace or historic royal coat of arms tins, are an ever-popular souvenir item with summer visitors to Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. They make a fun and reasonably priced present at any time of year.
Like London's great department stores, Museum, Gallery and Royal Collection shops also sell online and dispatch goods for customers, taking much of the hassle out of shopping. The online pages regrettably do not show all items, but give a good selection from their most popular ranges. I note, incidentally, that while some department stores are not yet opening their doors for the winter Sales, they are already offering considerable online discounts.
Buckingham Palace's Queen's Gallery where I shopped, began life in 1831 as a conservatory and was designed by palace architect John Nash in the form of an Ionic temple. Queen Victoria converted it into the palace chapel. It was destroyed in an air raid on the palace during the German Luftwaffe's London Blitz of 1940 and redeveloped as a gallery for the Royal Collection in 1962.
The Queen's Gallery and its Royal Collection shop are open daily 10am-5.30pm. I strongly recommend a visit to the current exhibition before you browse and buy in the shop. The Northern Renaissance: Durer to Holbein includes some 100 works by the greatest Northern European artists of the period; prints and drawings by Albrecht Durer, mythological paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder, and preparatory drawings by Hans Holbein the Younger displayed alongside his finished oil portraits. The exhibition, (entry 9.50 with concessions), lasts until 14 April, 2013.
Links and online shopping
Victoria and Albert Museum
British Museum Shop
Royal Academy Shop
Royal Collection Shop
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