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When it comes to finding the perfect souvenir of your stay in the capital, there are a few things to consider. Firstly, the item should be absolutely representative of London. Secondly, it's got to be something permanent – there's no denying that a quality food product makes a great souvenir, but in all likelihood it won't be long before you've eaten or drunk it all, and then where will you be? Thirdly, the perfect souvenir should be aesthetically pleasing in itself – tacky tourist gifts may be fun at first, but really you're looking for something that you'll be able to appreciate for a long time to come. Fourthly, the item must be easy to transport: small, light and not liable to get you into trouble at customs.
The one object that meets all these criteria? A poster map of the London Underground. Conceived by electrical engineer Harry Beck in 1931, it's a design classic, worthy of being framed and hung on a living room wall. It will fit easily into your luggage, won't ever go off and makes a great conversation starter. As individual station names catch your eye you'll be reminded not just of your trip in general, but of specific details: that walk in Green Park; climbing the Monument; shopping in Knightsbridge. It'll even allow you to start planning what to do on your next trip to London – and what could be better than that?
London is packed with shops and stalls selling touristy mementos that typically involve red telephone boxes, black cabs or royal post boxes. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s suggestions for more memorable souvenirs to bring home from London.
1. Food hampers. Luxury English food hampers can be found in many London stores – including luxe department stores like Harrods or Fortnum & Mason – and will usually contain traditional English preserves and chutneys, tea and coffee, cheese and biscuits, Belgian chocolates and perhaps some fine wine.
2. Children’s toys. A trip to the world’s largest toy shop, Hamleys on Regent Street, is a thoroughly unique shopping experience, and the perfect place to pick up a quintessentially English toy for a souvenir. Games like Subbuteo, hobby models like Airfix and teddy bears like Paddington are all hard to find in other countries.
3. Museum trinkets. Probably the best places to pick up meaningful mementos of your trip to London are the varied gift shops in its museums and tourist attractions. As well as selling the same typical tourist tidbits, these stores are also home to a wide variety of more upscale items directly related to the venue—whether it’s watercolor paintings, photographs, biographical books or historical reproductions.
4. Challenging food. Despite the huge improvements in British gastronomy over the last 30 years, there are still some favorite local foodstuffs that baffle visitors—so why not share your bafflement with friends and family? A jar of Marmite, a pork pie, a black pudding, a tin of treacle—the options are endless. You can find these at the same locations as the above mentioned food hampers—namely Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and Selfridges.
5. Sports memorabilia. Walk around London and you’ll see Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and West Ham football shirts sold everywhere. But if you really want some sports memorabilia to remind you of England, why not try choosing a lesser-known sport: a national rugby shirt or cricket bat are ideal mementos. Find them at Piccadilly Circus’s Lillywhites.