Almost every major town in the UK has a sizeable shopping complex, and in the smaller towns you will find local shopping centres that will more than adequately service your needs. Shops in local centres are generally open from 9am to 5pm, though in larger towns and in the out-of-town complexes, the opening hours will be longer. Shopping complexes (malls) tend to open from around 10am and close much later in the evening, around 9pm. Here are the top 20 shopping centres in the UK in order of size:
MetroCentre - Gateshead
Trafford Centre - Manchester
Westfield Stratford City - Stratford, London
Bluewater - Greenhithe
Liverpool One - Liverpool
Westfield London - Shepherd's Bush
Intu Merry Hill - Dudley
Manchester Arndale - Manchester
Meadowhall - Sheffield
Lakeside - Thurrock
St. David's - Cardiff
Bullring - Birmingham
Eldon Square - Newcastle
thecentre:mk - Milton Keynes
Whitgift - Croydon
Highcross - Leicester
Intu Derby - Derby
East Kilbride Shopping Centre - East Kilbride
Kingfisher - Redditch
Festival Place - Basingstoke
London has its own fair share of shopping centres dotted around the capital, but there are a number of retail districts and shopping streets you won't want to miss out on. Here is a short video about the main shopping areas of London:
The heart of London shopping, bustling Oxford Street has more than 300 shops, designer outlets and landmark stores. Home to the legendary Selfridges, it also boasts a range of famous department stores such as John Lewis and Debenhams scattered among every well-known high street chain imaginable. Get off the beaten track by slipping into a side street, such as St Christopher's Place and Berwick Street, where you'll find some real treats.
Nearest tube: Oxford Circus, Bond Street or Tottenham Court Road
Regent Street and Jermyn Street
An impressively elegant shopping street, Regent Street offers a good range of mid-priced fashion stores alongside some of the city's oldest and most famous shops, including Hamleys, Liberty and The Apple Store. Nearby, historic Jermyn Street is renowned for men's clothing shops and is so typically British it's enough to bring out the old-fashioned gent in anyone! Jermyn Street is particularly well known for its bespoke shirt makers such as Benson & Clegg and shoe shops including John Lobb.
Nearest Tube: Piccadilly Circus or Oxford Circus
Bond Street and Mayfair
Whether you've got money to burn and want to splash out on the very best in designer clothes, or just love luxury window shopping, Bond Street and Mayfair are the ideal places to go for some extravagant retail therapy. Popular with celebrities on a spree, this is probably London's most exclusive shopping area, home to big names, including Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co. Neighbouring South Molton Street boasts iconic fashion store, Browns.
Nearest Tube: Bond Street or Piccadilly Circus
Westfield has two major shopping malls in London at White City and Stratford. Westfield London is home to high street favourites including Debenhams, Next, Marks & Spencer and House of Fraser, along with luxury brands, such as Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, All Saints and Ted Baker. There's also a cinema, gym, several bars and restaurants, all under one roof! If you're a fan of shopping centres, don't miss Westfield Stratford City in East London, which boasts 250 shops plus 70 places to dine, making it the largest shopping mall in Europe.
Nearest tube: White City or Shepherds Bush for Westfield London, and Stratford for Westfield Stratford City
The birthplace of the fashion and cultural revolution during the Swinging 60s, Carnaby Street and the 13 surrounding streets are two minutes away from Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus and feature more than 150 brands and over 50 independent restaurants and bars. Step under the iconic arch and you'll find an intriguing mix of stores as well as independent boutiques, heritage brands, and new designer names, as well as a choice of restaurants, bars, cafés and great English pubs will real ale, and real history. Refuel at restaurant hub Kingly Court, just off Carnaby Street.
Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus
Whether you want hip fashion, unique gifts, rare sweets or one-off handmade jewellery, Covent Garden is a great place to explore. You can stock up on the latest urban streetwear, funky cosmetics and shoes on Neal Street, check out imaginative arts and crafts at Covent Garden Market or just window shop around the stores. Don't miss Floral Street, Monmouth Street, St Martin's Courtyard, Shorts Gardens, Seven Dials and picture-pretty Neal's Yard for a true taste of London's most distinctive shopping area.
Nearest Tube: Covent Garden or Leicester Square
Shopping is the King's Road's main obsession – here you'll find an eclectic mix of trendy boutiques, unique labels, designer shops and high-street staples, alongside a vast array of cafes and eateries. It's also a great place for inspirational interior design, with Peter Jones, Heal's and Cath Kidston all vying for attention. Be sure to check out the store where punk was born in the 70s, Vivienne Westwood's shop and the treasure trove of antiques at the Chelsea Antiques Market.
Nearest Tube: Sloane Square
Visitors from around the world flock to Knightsbridge and Brompton Road to visit the illustrious shops and department stores. This is the place to go if you're looking for prestigious brands and up-to-the-minute trends from the world's fashion elite. Best known for Harrods and Harvey Nichols, you'll also find a whole host of big-name fashion designers on Sloane Street. Showing Knightsbridge caters to all tastes, there's a branch of Topshop opposite Harrods.
Nearest Tube: Knightsbridge
Known worldwide as the home of bespoke British tailoring, Savile Row is the place to come if you want a handmade suit crafted the old-fashioned way (with a price tag to match). Credited with inventing the tuxedo Henry Poole & Co – also the first Savile Row tailor – is still cutting cloth at No 15. Other big names include Gieves & Hawkes, Huntsman & Sons and Ozwald Boateng. On the corner of this "golden mile" of tailoring you'll also find the flagship Abercrombie & Fitch store.
Nearest Tube: Bond Street or Piccadilly Circus
Famous worldwide thanks to the film of the same name, Notting Hill offers a vast array of small, unique shops selling unusual and vintage clothing, rare antiques, quirky gifts, books and organic food. There's also the unmissable Portobello Road Market – a mile-long (1.6km) street with a vibrant array of different stalls set out daily. Nearby Westbourne Grove offers more high-end shopping, with stylish designer shops dotted between a mix of quirky boho boutiques, hip cafes and art galleries.
Nearest Tube: Notting Hill Gate, Ladbroke Grove or Westbourne Park
Canada Square, in London's Docklands, is home to many of the UK's leading businesses, but it also has a great shopping centre, open seven days a week. Sleek and modern, Canada Square boasts more than 200 shops, with all the major high-street chains as well as a good selection of designer stores. Look out for big names like Oasis and Zara plus lingerie brand Myla and luxurious fragrance store Jo Malone. If you can avoid the weekday lunch-hour rush, it's one of London's most chilled-out shopping experiences.
Nearest Tube: Canary Wharf
Based in the heart of East London, Boxpark Shoreditch is the world's first pop-up mall and the home of the pop-up store. Opened in 2011 by founder and CEO Roger Wade, the mall will be open for the next four years. Constructed of stripped and refitted shipping containers, Boxpark is filled with a mix of fashion and lifestyle brands, galleries, cafés and restaurants.
Nearest Tube: Old Street and Liverpool Street
Food & household shopping
Household shopping in the UK is generally focused around four main providers who dominate the market: ASDA, Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Tesco. Historically, pricing competition has been fierce among the chains, with confusing offers put out to tempt customers looking for the best deal. This has become more acute since the successes of discount outlets Aldi and Lidl in recent years. Other notable chains are the Co-op, Iceland, Marks & Spencer, and Waitrose, the latter two being more upmarket.
All of the main supermarkets offer a delivery service but look around for the best deal as they can vary greatly. You should also look out for suitable substitutions if the product you ordered wasn't available, and check the best-by and use-by dates.
In the UK, you are going to find a plethora of independent fast-food outlets, from the fish and chip shop (chippy) that you will find in even the smallest village, to the now famous curry house (or Indian restaurant as they are generally called, which is a misnomer as Pakistanis run these restaurants, too) with Chinese takeaways, pizza parlours, fried chicken joints and greasy spoons (cafes generally serving fried breakfast all day) in-between. Then you will spot the familiar chains, such as McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, Pizza Express, La Tasca, Nandos.
Many pubs now serve food, especially the chains, and the food can vary from a standard menu to a carvery serving Sunday style roast dinner. Pub chains sometimes offer a club night offering a different style of food on specific nights. If you can find a country pub, you can generally enjoy pretty decent food in pleasant surroundings.
The Brits have sharpened up their palate, with many Michelin-starred establishments - 61 in London and 100 in the rest of the UK - and if you are looking for good quality, you can find it without paying the Michelin tag, as long as you know where to look. A pretty reliable guide is the AA's pub and restaurant finder. The AA awards Rosettes in a scheme similar to that of the Michelin guides, although it applies to more affordable establishments. The long-established Rosette scheme recognises successful cooking at different levels across the UK. Success or failure in achieving Rosettes is based on one or more visits by an AA inspector to a hotel or restaurant. Essentially the visit is a snapshot, whereby the entire meal, including ancillary items (when served), is assessed. About 10% of restaurants nationwide are of a standard that is worthy of One Rosette and above.
Beyond that, Trip Advisor has become a much used source of eateries and you can search by area and see an ordered list of the highest ranking establishments.
In London, the choice is almost overwhelming - with food available from almost every corner of the globe on almost every street corner, you won't know where to start, but if you need a helping hand, VISITLONDON.COM very helpfully categorises so you can search by afternoon tea, burgers, steaks and grills, cafes, pubs and bars, and restaurants.
Fitness & sport
Local governments and private companies provide sports facilities such as swimming pools, tennis courts, football pitches, dry ski slopes and gyms. To find your local council's facilities you can search on their website for further details.
The UK hosted the Olympic games in 1908, 1948 and 2012. The main Olympic site for the 2012 Games was in Stratford, East London. The Paralympic Games for 2012 were also hosted in London.
Cricket originated in England. Games can last up to five days but there is now a short-form of the game called Twenty20, or T20, that last about 3 hours, which is a bit more palatable and practical. The idiosyncratic nature of the game and its complex laws are said to reflect the best of the British character and sense of fair play. You may come across expressions such as "rain stopped play" or "it’s just not cricket", which have passed into everyday usage. The most famous competition is the Ashes, which is a series of Test matches played between England and Australia.
Football is the UK’s most popular sport. It has a long history in the UK and the first professional football clubs were formed in the late 19th century.
England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each have separate leagues in which clubs representing different towns and cities compete. The English Premier League attracts a huge international audience and many international players. Some UK teams also compete in competitions such as the UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) Champions League, against other teams from Europe. Most towns and cities have a professional club and people take great pride in supporting their home team. There can be great rivalry between different football clubs and among fans.
Each country in the UK also has its own national team that competes with other national teams across the world in tournaments such as the FIFA (Fédération International de Football Association) World Cup and the UEFA European Football Championships.
Football is also a popular sport in many local communities, with people playing amateur games every week in parks all over the UK, particularly on Sunday mornings.
Rugby originated in England in the early 19th century. There are two different types of rugby, which have different rules: union and league. Both have separate leagues and national teams in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (who play with the Irish Republic). The most famous rugby union competition is the Six Nation Championship between England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France and Italy. The Super League is the most well-known rugby league (club) competition.
There is a very long history of horse racing in Britain, with evidence of events taking place as far back as Roman times. The sport has a long association with royalty. Famous horse racing events include: Royal Ascot, a five day race meeting in Berkshire attended by members of the Royal Family; the Grand National at Aintree near Liverpool; and the Scottish Grand National at Ayr. There is a National Horseracing Museum in Newmarket, Suffolk.
The modern game of golf can be traced back to 15th century Scotland. It is a popular sport played socially as well as professionally. St Andrews in Scotland is known as the home of golf. The Open Championship is the only "Major" tournament held outside the United States. It is hosted by a different golf course every year.
Modern tennis evolved in England in the late 19th century. The first tennis club was founded in Leamington Spa in 1872. The most famous tournament hosted in Britain is The Wimbledon Championships, which takes place each year at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. It is the oldest tennis tournament in the world and the only "Grand Slam" event played on grass.
Sailing continues to be popular in the UK, reflecting our maritime heritage and many sailing events are held throughout the UK, the most famous of which is at Cowes on the Isle of Wight.
Rowing is also popular, both as a leisure activity and as a competitive sport. There is a popular yearly race on the Thames between Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
There is a long history of motor sport in the UK, for both cars and motor cycles. Motor car racing in the UK started in 1902. The UK continues to be a world leader in the development and manufacture of motor-sport technology. A Formula 1 Grand Prix event is held in the UK each year and a number of British Grand Prix drivers have won the Formula 1 World Championship. Recent British winners include Damon Hill, Lewis Hamilton and Jensen Button.
Skiing is increasingly popular in the UK. Many people go abroad to ski and there are also dry ski slopes throughout the UK. Skiing on snow may also be possible during the winter. There are five ski centres in Scotland, as well as Europe’s longest dry ski slope near Edinburgh.
Media of the United Kingdom consist of several different types of communications media: television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and web sites. The United Kingdom has a diverse range of providers, the most prominent being the state-owned public service broadcaster, the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). The BBC's largest competitors are ITV, which operates 11 of the 15 regional television broadcasters that make up the ITV Network, and News Corporation, which holds a large stake in satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting and also operate a number of leading national newspapers. Regional media is covered by local radio, television and print newspapers.
Traditionally British newspapers have been divided into "quality", serious-minded newspapers (usually referred to as "broadsheets" because of their large size) and the more populist, "tabloid" varieties. For convenience of reading many traditional broadsheets have switched to a more compact-sized format, traditionally used by tabloids. In 2008 The Sun had the highest circulation of any daily newspaper in the UK at 3.1 million, approximately a quarter of the market. Its sister paper, the News of the World, had the highest circulation in the Sunday newspaper market, and traditionally focused on celebrity-led stories until its closure in 2011. The Daily Telegraph, a centre-right broadsheet paper, is the highest-selling of the "quality" newspapers. The Guardian is a more liberal "quality" broadsheet and the Financial Times is the main business newspaper, printed on distinctive salmon-pink broadsheet paper. Trinity Mirror operates 240 local and regional newspapers in the UK, as well as national newspapers such as the Daily Mirror and the Sunday Mirror.
Scotland has a distinct tradition of newspaper readership. The tabloid Daily Record has the highest circulation of any daily newspaper, outselling The Scottish Sun by four to one, while its sister paper the Sunday Mail similarly leads the Sunday newspaper market. The leading "quality" daily newspaper in Scotland is The Herald, though it is the sister paper of The Scotsman, and the Scotland on Sunday that leads in the Sunday newspaper market.
A large range of magazines are sold in the UK covering most interests and potential topics. British magazines and journals that have achieved worldwide circulation include The Economist, Nature, and New Scientist, Private Eye, Hello!, The Spectator, the Radio Times and NME.
Radio in the UK is dominated by the BBC, which operates radio stations both in the UK and abroad. The BBC World Service radio network is broadcast in 33 languages globally. Domestically the BBC also operates ten national networks and over 40 local radio stations including services in Welsh on BBC Radio Cymru, Gaelic on BBC Radio nan Gàidheal in Scotland and Irish in Northern Ireland. The domestic services of the BBC are funded by the television licence. The internationally targeted BBC World Service Radio is funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, though since 2014 it has been funded by the television licence. The most popular radio station by number of listeners is BBC Radio 2, closely followed by BBC Radio 4. Advances in digital radio technology have enabled the launch of several new stations by the Corporation.
Rather than operating as independent entities, many commercial local radio stations are owned by large radio groups which broadcast a similar format to many areas. The largest operator of radio stations is Global Radio, owner of the major Heart and Galaxy radio brands. It also owns Classic FM and London's most popular commercial radio station, 95.8 CapitalFM. Other owners are UTV Radio, with stations broadcasting in large city areas and Bauer Radio, holding radio in the North of England. There are also regional stations, like Real Radio and the Century Network, broadcasting in some main parts of England, Wales and Scotland, and a number of licensed community radio stations which broadcast to local audiences.
Terrestrial television in the United Kingdom is made up of two chartered public broadcasting companies, the BBC and Channel 4 and two franchised commercial television companies, (ITV and Channel 5). There are five major nationwide television channels: BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 - transmitted by digital terrestrial, free-to-air signals with the latter three channels funded by commercial advertising. The UK now has a large number of digital terrestrial channels. The vast majority of digital cable television services are provided by Virgin Media with satellite television available from Freesat or British Sky Broadcasting and free-to-air digital terrestrial television by Freeview. The entire country switched to digital in 2012.
Channel 4 is chartered to the BBC, with a remit to provide public service broadcasting and schools programs, however it runs commercial advertisements to provide a revenue stream. It produces Channel 4, as well as E4, More 4 and Film4.
The commercial operators rely on advertising for their revenue, and are run as commercial ventures, in contrast to the public service operators. The ITV franchise transmits the channel known as ITV1 (in England, Wales, Scottish Borders, Isle of Man and Channel Islands), STV (In Central and Northern Scotland), and UTV in Northern Ireland. Channel 5 transmits one channel.
All the major broadcasters provide additional channels on the free-to-air Freeview digital television service, and all of these channels can be accessed via a cable or satellite provider, such as Virgin Media or BSkyB.