The Oxford Street Survival Guide


Oxford Street is famous, and with fame comes danger. It has become so busy that visiting it requires planning, strategy, a strict budget and lots of stamina. While it’s open late into the night and on weekends, technically free, and you could theoretically go whenever you please, a smart visitor will weigh their options carefully before hitting the street. Choosing your route and planning your day carefully can be the difference between a fun, memorable experience and an exhausting nightmare. Oxford Street is still a wonderful place where you can shop your heart out and find unique, beautiful things to take home and show off.

The most important choice you’ll have to make is when to visit. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that Saturday or a weeknight is the best time to go – but they couldn’t be more wrong. The problem is that everybody else in London also chooses those times to visit Oxford Street and as a result, the street is crowded beyond belief. Even if you’re used to big cities, it can be overwhelming and exhausting, sending you right back to your rooms at one of the Piccadilly London West End hotels. The solution is to treat Oxford Street not like a casual shopping trip but like any one of London’s attractions: something you schedule into your itinerary at a set time. Shopping during the day on a weekday is the best way to enjoy yourself; crowds are at their lowest, inventories haven’t been totally depleted, and shop assistants are at their freshest.

The next point to consider is location. There are shops of every kind all up and down Oxford Street, including several H&Ms, two Primarks, several high-end department stores and plenty of boutiques and flagship stores. But take a look at a map before you get off the Tube at Oxford Circus; you’ll see that that station is in fact halfway up Oxford Street, so that to see the entire street you’d have to double back – not to mention that it’s one of the most crowded stations in London and very difficult to navigate. Instead, get off at Marble Arch, just two stops away. Not only can you enjoy Marble Arch and its nearby attractions such as Hyde Park, but you are now right at the western end of Oxford Street ready to make your way all the way along to its other end at Tottenham Court Road. Your first shop is a gigantic Primark full of incredibly cheap clothes and home furnishings, which should be entered with your “game face” on: it’s a bit like a Moroccan souk in there at the best of times. Don’t worry if you didn’t find what you wanted, though: there’s another Primark almost as big at the other end of Oxford Street.

If you’re a full-time student, take advantage of any discounts you can find to lessen the hit to your wallet. You can get 10 to 20% off at most major stores just by showing your student card. Shops don’t always advertise this for obvious reasons, but you can check online or simply ask at the counter.

Don’t forget to take time to explore! Wandering through Selfridges department store is a London experience all on its own – it’s full of luxury goods, including a basement where cutting-edge toys like underwater scooters are sold. Even if it’s way over your budget, treat it like a museum and marvel at the loveliness on display. Keep your eye out for famous faces, too: Selfridges is a popular haunt for Britain’s elite as well as visiting celebrities. You can also take a detour onto one of the many side streets, such as Carnaby Street which is full of interesting little shops, while Regent Street is where you’ll find Hamley’s toy shop as well as plenty of high-end brands on the walk towards Piccadilly Circus.