Saturday, 29 November 2008

Doing the Rounds

I'm not ashamed to admit that I love museum gift shops. There's something about an overwhelming amount of magnets with Monet's waterlilies on them that just warms my heart.  Since Christmas is just around the corner, and shopping is inevitable, I thought I'd offer a quick review of the best museum gift shops in London.

1.  Victoria & Albert Museum Gift Shop.  I think this gift shop has some of the nicest inventory in London. They have a huge range of items, from unique jewelry to scarfs to handbags to books to doo-dahs.  The quality is really much higher than the norm, and they also have lots of relatively unusual items that don't scream "I got this at a gift shop."  The quantity of items you might actually buy far outnumber the quantity of special erasers with "V&A" printed on them.  It's pretty design oriented, so it's a fun place to browse.  Highly recommended.

2.  Gift shop in the Crypt of St. Martin in the Fields.  I discovered this gift shop last year.  They have REALLY cute Christmas decorations this time of year, and they are a bargain.  My parents and I did a little comparison shopping between the merchandise here, at Harrod's, and at Fortnum and Mason.  Often times, they have physically identical items here as at the high end department stores, and literally for half or a quarter of the price.  They have lots of old-fashioned style Christmas ornaments and decorations, which I love.

3. Tate Modern.  After slamming their Rothko exhibit, I figure I should say something nice about the Tate.  We found really cute Christmas cards here a few years back, and they also have a really huge selection of interesting art books.  It's almost like a specialist bookstore inside a gift shop.  Pretty great.

No list of recommendations is complete without a list of duds.  The gift shops at the National Gallery and the British Museum leave a lot to be desired.  They are pretty run-of-the-mill, and occasionally border on boring and tacky.  Large quantities of bendable pencils with the museum's names on them.  The bright side of this is that it leaves you more time with the actual museums themselves.  And everyone knows how I feel about the National Gallery.  

Also, today, while at the V&A, we saw some really atrocious museum behaviour, which I've added to the wall of shame.  Everyone loves a misbehaving tourist!

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