Much of London, for the tourist anyway, is historical. Ancient buildings and centuries old monuments. Palaces and works of art from the ages. But not Harrods. Harrods, even while its origins are from over 150 years ago, is as up-to-date as the latest computer. The world’s greatest department store was established on its current site in 1849 by Charles Henry Harrod, a wholesale grocer. Harrod’s son Charles Digby rapidly grew the business and by 1880 employed 100 staff.
Never one to be bowed by setbacks, not even a devastating fire in 1883, Harrods went on to make all its Christmas deliveries in that year and many since. Whether flying fresh fish to Alfred Hitchcock or embalming Sigmund Freud’s body, the store that promises ‘Everything to Everybody Everywhere’ never fails to deliver.
Much of the architectural additions – including terracotta tiles and Art Nouveau windows topped with a baroque dome – can still be seen by a careful observer. What you won’t see is the original Winnie-the-Pooh. A.A. Milne took that home for his son, Christopher Robin.
Throughout the decades Harrods has housed a funeral service, a lending library, and even sold airplanes and elephants. Today, the selection is possibly larger. The expansion began when the Fayed family acquired the House of Fraser Group (and thereby Harrods) for £615 million ($1.1 billion) in 1985. Another £300 million investment for refurbishment has brought the department store to its current peak.
For those looking not merely to buy – but to experience – on any given day you may find opera singers performing at the top of the Egyptian Escalators or a future star serving at one of the counters. Pierce Brosnan once worked in the Pharmacy and the original Darth Vader was a fitness consultant in the sports department.
While your ‘assistant’ is booking theater tickets, have a facial in the salon or relax at the Irish spa. When you’re done, visit Donatella Versace discussing a new perfume.
But for those who do want to shop… Wow!
In these seven floors, once housing the world’s first escalator, can be found 4.5 acres of… well, everything. And thanks to the 12,000 lightbulbs you’ll have no difficulty seeing it. Even if all you want is a humble drink of cool water, you can have a sip drawn from one of the under-the-site artesian wells. (The deepest is 489 ft, 149 m).
Here you can purchase any of over 300 varieties of cheese or have a unique chocolate drink, such as an Italian ‘suckao’ available from the Chocolate Bar. You could even purchase your own custom-made Madame Tussaud’s waxwork – for a mere £250,000 ($442,000). If you’re on a budget, you can bid for the £20,000 ($35,000) 24-karat gold Lindt bunny.
On the way out, since you haven’t any money left, take a look at the extraordinary chandeliers or the specialized jewelry. But be sure to bring your ear plugs and elbow pads. Harrods is full not only of a million square feet of merchandise, but hordes of shoppers and visitors from all over the world.
Harrods is easily accessible via the tube (the London Underground subway system). Exit at the Knightsbridge station.