Harrods, in London’s Knightsbridge, is probably the most famous store in Britain. Founded by Charles Henry Harrod in 1849 it has been owned since 1989 by the Fayed brothers and has effectively been run by Mohammed Fayed.


Charles Harrod moved to a single shop on the block that the current store occupies back in 1851, to capitalise on the business generated by Prince Albert’s ‘Great Exhibition’ held in nearby Hyde Park. By 1880 the operation had expanded into the neighbouring shops until in 1883 the opportunity to build a single store arose by a fortuitous (in hindsight) fire that razed the block to the ground.


The current store occupies a four and a half acre site on Brompton Road adjacent to the Knightsbridge underground station, and has over a million square feet of selling space over six floors.

Several Egyptian influenced features have been introduced during Mohammed Fayed’s reign. These include the ‘Egyptian Room’ at the front centre of the store, where sphinxes with Mohammed Fayed’s face gaze benevolently down on shoppers;  and the ‘Egyptian Escalators’ in the centre of the building which feature ornate decorations that would do any pharaoh’s tomb proud.  The Egyptian Escalator is home to the memorial to Dodi Fayed and Princess Diana, who were killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997 and is host to live opera singers at weekends.


Harrods is undeniably opulent, with a host of fashion designers and luxury jewellers, but is perhaps best known for its food halls. The fish section has a sculpture (no photography allowed) that is recreated daily, made from fish;  and there are no less than 28 dining and drinking establishments within the store’s bounds. My personal favourite being the ‘Green Man’ pub on the lower ground floor,  named for Harrods green liveried staff.  

Something that not many tourists (or Brits for that matter) may be aware of is ‘The Wager’ which can also be found in the lower ground floor near the Harrods Bank – at the start of the 20th Century there was a wager between Harrods and Selfridges as to which store would have the highest turnover. Harrods won the wager and, as a result, sterling silver model of the store is on display, a ‘gift’ from Selfridges.  

It’s a great place to visit, and they do a roaring trade in Harrods branded merchandise, but at the end of the day, and for all its hyperbole, it’s a department store. Britain’s largest, and one of the largest in the world, but still a department store.