Harrod's

HarrodsHarrod's in upmarket Knightsbridge is Britain's most famous department store, with an illustrious 150-year history and an enviable reputation for fine produce and luxury goods. On a good day it draws 300 000 customers, many of them tourists come to drink in a little glamour.

But Harrod's began life humbly in 1834, as Charles Henry Harrod's grocery store in Stepney. Charles moved the store to its present location in 1851 to take advantage of the passing trade from the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park.

Though the new business started small - one room, two messenger boys - Harrod's son, Charles Digby Harrod, built it up; by 1880 he employed a hundred people and his shop was turning into the grand department store we recognise today. Particular emphasis was placed on delivering the finest British produce to homesick Empire builders abroad, but it also had a distinguished local client list that included Oscar Wilde and Sigmund Freud as well as many members of the royal family. In 1898 the store opened the world's first escalator, with staff on hand to administer a tot of brandy to anyone shaken by the novel experience.

Today Harrod's is seven storeys high, and is owned by Eygptian tycoon Mohammed Al Fayed. As well as selling upmarket products, there are 28 restaurants, and services such as a personal shopping program, a bank, a wine steward, a spa and salon, and they'll even make you a made-to-order perfume. The food hall is justifiably celebrated, and here you'll find the delicious Harrod's picnic hampers.

The store lives by its brand, and protects its name ruthlessly, as a grocer called Mister Harrod in a small New Zealand town discovered when lawyers told him to change the name of his shop or be sued - though when other shops in the area started changing their name in support, the action was dropped.

Al Fayed's son Dodi was tragically killed with Princess Diana in a car crash in Paris, and in the store today are two rather mawkish memorials to the couple, one containing a relic from Diana's last meal - a wine glass smudged with her lipstick. Look out for them on the ground floor. If you're just visiting Harrod's to check it out and don't want to pay astronomical prices for luxury goods, visit the food hall for a tasty pastry, or the souvenir shop for the famous Harrod's teddy bears and green bags with the store logo.

Harrods is located at 87-135 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, London SW1X7XL