This treasure trove of children's toys can be found in the South Piazza of the covered market in Covent Garden. Traditional toys of all descriptions are displayed in jars, crammed onto shelves and dangled from the ceiling in an inviting spectacle of childhood nostalgia. Find the beautifully crafted marionettes, spinning tops, Jack in the Boxes, Russian dolls, glove puppets, toy soldiers, and even a rather unusual Praxinoscope, which lets children experiment with simple animation. That's not all; Benjamin Pollock's Toyshop is probably best known for its delightful selection of toy theatres. You can get anything from a matchbox theatre set to a to a fashion theatre to a magnetic theatre, all of which allow children to let their imagination run riot. Covent Garden Market itself is a real treat at Christmas, with its grand display of seasonal lights including a 32 foot topiary reindeer. As well as shopping, visitors can enjoy the experienced and entertaining street artists performing throughout the day, and the seasonal fare offered by the local stallholders. For an infusion of culture, why not drop into the fantastic London Transport Museum on the Piazza, or see some high art at the Royal Opera House.
Christmas Toy Shopping
Covent Garden is home to toy treasure chest established by Benjamin Pollock in 1880.
44 The Market, Covent Garden, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 8RF
For hand crafted traditional gifts for animal loving youngsters try Chelsea Toys.
Chelsea Green, 53 Godfrey Street, Chelsea, London, SW3 3SX
Tube: South Kensington Station
This Chelsea favourite has a corner position, with two large picture windows facing both road fronts; all the better to show off its wares. Chelsea Toys is a treasure trove of beautifully crafted playthings: cars, trains, planes, musical boxes, helicopters, trucks, puzzles and building blocks. We particularly like the beautiful range of wooden animals, characters and nativity figures, which are all hand made using German Maple and Beech wood. The shop also sells wooden Noah's Arc ships – at a Chelsea price tag of course, but they are lovely (prices start at £360). They also stock a great selection of elaborate and nostalgic advent calenders and tons of smaller stocking fillers. Chelsea Toys aims to stock toys and games that are timeless, with an appeal that stretches beyond fads and trends. The V & A, the Natural History Museum (and ice rink) and the Science Museum are all within walking distance if you fancy a break from toy shopping.
Inject a little magic and mystery into your Christmas with a trip to Davenports Magic.
7 Charing Cross Underground Shopping Arcade, Covent Garden, London, WC2N 4HZ
Even Derren Brown and Paul Daniels had to start somewhere… and for magic and mystery, this is as good a place as any you'll find in London. Davenports Magic Shop was established in 1898 by Lewis Davenport and is a haven for tricksters of every ability. From sleight of hand to escapology, from card tricks to levitation, whatever your interest, you'll find the books and props to make it all possible. The shop is friendly and family-run, with professional magicians giving regular demonstrations and magic courses. Davenports even has a range of items made exclusively for the shop, so head here if you want a magic wand like no other. Browsing is just as much fun as buying, and it's a great place for stocking fillers as well as 'the main event' presents.
Honeyjam - owned by two toy-loving friends - is chock full of stocking fillers.
2 Blenheim Crescent, Notting Hill, London, W11 1NN
Tube: Ladbroke Grove Station
Right in the heart of trendy Notting Hill, Honeyjam is a favourite with nostalgia-hungry parents with deep pockets. The independent shop can count Claudia Schiffer and Sophie Dahl amongst its customers and recently celebrated its sixth birthday. They stock a range of products sourced from all around the world, some (like the dolls houses) come with a Chelsea price tag, but they also sell plenty of reasonably priced treats (including their popular magic kits) and stocking filler bargains such as magic snow (£2.50). It's all so enticingly laid out, with toys, games, dressing up outfits and other gems displayed in a deceptively random fashion over shelves, on the floor and on the walls. The brainchild of Irish model Jasmine Guinness (nickname 'Jam') and lifelong friend Honey Bowdrey, Honeyjam evolved because the two women couldn't find toys they wanted for their kids. Adults and children alike are charmed by the lovely things on display, and will want to pick up just about everything and take it home with them. Pirate ships and castles, dolls' houses and fairy wands… There's something for just about everyone.
This pink and twinkly wonderland is sure to please all budding young fairy princesses.
12 Flask Walk, London, NW3 1HE
Tube: Hampstead Station
This Hampstead little girls' shop resembles Santa's grotto all year round. Thousands of small and gorgeous trinkets hang down from silver branches criss-crossing the ceiling. The shelves around the walls reach from floor to ceiling and are laden with fairy paraphernalia, and all things princess, ballerina, elf and pixie. There are tea sets, books, sticker strips, games, puzzles, soft toys and stationary as well as clothing, jewellery and bedding on a feminised mystical theme. At Christmas, extra decorations transform Mystical Fairies into a full-blown winter wonderland. At the back of the shop, there's a dressing-up section, and that's the only spot where boys get a look-in. Fairy makeovers are available every day, while the ever-popular Fairy Schools take place on 11th, 13th and 18th, 19th and 20th December for 4-8 year-olds, and on 14th and 21st December for toddlers. You can gather some presents while your youngsters learn the art of "fairying". If all this pretty, girly stuff gets a bit stifling, you can always reconnect with their inner tomboy by going straight to nearby Hampstead Heath for a spot of tree-climbing afterwards.
Never Never Land sells everything from King Arthur's Castle to musical donkeys.
3 Mildhurst Parade, Fortis Green, London, N10 3EJ
Tube: East Finchley Station
Muswell Hill's Fortis Green Road is full of these small but perfectly formed shop units with their enticingly large bay windows revealing the delights inside. Never Never Land is around the corner from the main stretch, but it's worth seeking out. The devoted owner is particularly expert at seeking out unusual wooden toys and puppets – look out for the owl puppet with her three finger puppet babies (great for re-enacting the popular children's book Owl Babies, in which Sarah, Percy and Bill wait for their mummy to return) or the adorable family of mice living in a block of cheese. It has an unusually large range of lovely wooden dolls' houses for youngsters looking to get on the property ladder, they are exclusive to the shop and range from a Tudor Mansion to a River Cottage. You can buy them in kit form, or pre-made and painted. What's more, the shop also sells a fantastically detailed range of furniture, wallpaper, dolls and accessories to furnish the houses. Plus a wonderful selection of wooden role play toys which cover everything from a puppet theatre to a continental breakfast (complete with wooden croissant). With choices this brilliant, it will be impossible to leave this toy emporium empty handed. They will be open on Christmas Eve until lunchtime.
Patrick's have been in business for well over 60 years and stock a great range of models and Scalextric.
107 Lillie Road, Fulham, London, SW6 7SX
Tube: West Kensington Station
Patrick's Toys is a family business that has been delighting children for over 60 years. The shop specialises in traditional toys and games and is also a hobbyist mecca for Hornby train sets, Scalextric tracks and cars and paintable action figures. There's something for all ages, with colourful baby and pre-school toys, rocking horses, toy cots, Ty soft toys, Lego and dolls galore. Patrick's stock fewer board games than it used to, because demand has decreased with the rise of the computer game, but there's still a decent choice on display. Remote control cars, helicopters, boats and planes are still as popular as ever though, and the pedal cars always fascinate children too.
Whether you're six or sixty, a trip to Hamleys is a real London must.
188-196 Regent Street, Soho, London, W1B 5BT
Tube: Oxford Circus Station
Stepping into Hamleys you are greeted by a colourful scene of frenetic activity. Miniature trains career under escalators, model planes circle above your head and mountains of soft toys spill across the floor. Famed as the one of the largest of its kind across Europe, Hamleys has been the leading toy shop for over 250 years. Founded by William Hamley in 1760, it first opened in a poky shop in Holborn before moving to Regent Street in 1881. Hamleys keeps up with the latest gadgets and trends as well as stocking the more time-honoured toys. From tin soldiers to the latest in Jedi fighting equipment, kiddies can feast their eyes on over 40,000 different toys. There is something for every price range, however don't be surprised by some of the wildly steep price tags. Adults and children swarm around the store, eyes shining with excitement. The experience alone is worth a visit. Many of the toys are out of the boxes and can be endlessly tossed, shaken, driven, built or cuddled. With seven floors of fun your raucous bunch can charge from floor to floor with glee.
Events at Hamleys
23rd November to 24th December 2013 - Various Times | child £45, adv booking essential via www.hamleys.com/Imetfatherchristmas
Seasonal stories, songs, games and activities and a bag of gifts.
8th December 2013
IN THIS ARTICLE
Benjamin Pollock's Toyshop
Never Never Land
Christmas in London
Christmas Lights in London
London Ice Skating
London Christmas Markets and Fairs
Christmas Shopping in London
London Christmas Carols
Christmas Grottos in London
Christmas Trees in London
London Christmas Shows, Pantos & Attractions
Christmas and Boxing Day in London
New Year's Eve in London
Christmas Restaurant Booking in London
Christmas Hotels in London
- Christmas Lights in London
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