When it comes to shopping, everyone needs a bit of quirk. By that we mean finding those shops that are a little unconventional but fascinating and charming at the same time. With Leicester’s doors open and ready to welcome our new and returning students, here’s 13 places in Leicester we know you’ll love.
No shopping trip in Leicester is complete without heading down these winding streets that are full to brimming with fantastic independent shops. Everything from designer clothes stores and tattoo parlours to jewellery shops and florists are harboured behind historic Victorian shop fronts. There’s also an abundance of coffee shops, cafés, pubs and restaurants with smart little terraces, allowing time for that essential people watching part we love during a shopping trip.
We’re not talking about fruit machines here. Leicester’s main arcades – Odeon, Royal, Malcom and Silver - are mini shopping centres in their own right, connecting the High Street to The Lanes and Leicester Market. If any area takes you off-piste and away from the chain stores this is it. At No 1 Royal Arcade is Maynard & Bradley, a gallery and bookshop showcasing antique maps, vintage prints and posters with a framing service to boot. At the other end, in Odeon Arcade, is Pommygranit Clothing, stocking essentials for anyone who falls into the alternative/gothic/emo/steampunk category. If you can imagine anything between these two extremes involving food, clothing, curios and accessories, you’ll probably find it in these arcades.
St Martin’s Square
Has main entrances in Cank Street and Silver Street that lead you into a picturesque shopping square full of great independents as well as bars, coffee shops and restaurants. This is where to come for your Fairtrade clothing, homeware, accessories, haircuts or, if making your own clothes is your thing, stocking up on material at Crafty Sew & So, which also runs workshops. It’s also home to Gelato Village which serves the best ice-cream outside of Italy (says everyone on Trip Advisor).
Tin Drum Books, Narborough Road
If you have ever read a novel that features a book shop in it, we reckon it was probably based on Tin Drum Books. If the books - both old and new - are not sitting higgledy-piggledy in the floor to ceiling shelves then they are stacked high on every other surface going spare. As one Facebook poster wrote in their review: “The browsing potential is limitless!”. Prepare to spend many a happy hour perusing, fuelled by the anticipation that you never know what you might find. If you need texts to help with your studies, start here.
Rockaboom, Malcolm Arcade
Every great city has a great independent record shop. Ours is called Rockaboom. If you have a passion for music, or more specifically playing music on vinyl, then you have to visit. It’s a Leicester institution. So if you’re into rock, reggae, jazz, soul, metal, house, electronica, funk, disco, pop, African, Latin or blues, this is the place to go for new or bargain second-hand stock. Owner Carl’s knowledge and service is second-to-none. If you prefer digital, classic CDs are also a bargain. Look out for queues around the block for the annual Record Store Day.
The Very Bazaar, Silver Street
Another Leicester institution that may well have invented the word ‘alternative’. The shop has occupied a site in the city for decades and had a stall at Glastonbury in 1972! Brilliant for browsing as well as buying, this is where to go for Eastern-inspired goods from incense sticks to mandala-design bedspreads. They also stock jewellery, handbags, tarot cards, crystals, ornaments – the list goes on. Look out for special sessions of Mehndi art in henna, Chakra realignment and tarot readings.
The Wardrobe, Royal Arcade
Stocks men’s and women’s vintage clothing from dungarees and catsuits to shirts and tees. Accessories include bags and socks and, of course, vintage sunglasses. This is also the place for anyone who likes their checks and polka dots. Nice parkas and Harrington jackets too. Perfectly quirky for anyone who endeavours to do their own thing.
NADA, St Martin’s Square
Leicester’s only zero waste, plastic-free bulk-buy store. This is the place to come for sustainable shopping. Bring a container and only buy what you need, saving on food waste too. You can choose from seeds, flours, pasta, nuts, vegan chocolate, cereals and spices as well as cosmetics, detergents and cleaning products. It’s all environmentally safe and sourced as locally as possible to cut down on haulage emissions. Founder Lauren has previously won the Sustainability Award at the Leicester Business Woman of the Year.
Pink Pigeon, Silver Street
A part of Leicester for more than ten years, Pink Pigeon continues the weighing theme – but this time it’s for vintage clothes. Head upstairs and rummage around for the clothing you want then pay for it by weight. It’s £15 per kilo. What’s not to love about that? We told you Leicester has its shopping quirks.
Ye Olde Sweet Shoppe, Hotel Street
Tucked away where Cank Street meets Hotel Street, this is the shop to take the mums or dads who reminisce about the time when sweets were weighed out and handed to you in a paper bag. The window is full of old-fashioned sweet containers brimming with classics such as cola cubes, sherbet lemons, pear drops, barley sugars and humbugs. Just tell them how much you want and they’ll tip them on the scales then hand them to you in the all-important rustly bag. Who said the 70s weren’t environmentally friendly?
Sue Ryder Vintage and Retro Shop, Loseby Lane
We make no apology for listing lots of vintage shops. These are the go-to places for any student looking to dress well for less. The Sue Ryder is a charity shop that raises money for palliative, neurological and bereavement support and knows its clothing. It also stocks a range of books and records as well as kitchen items.
It’s probably been said a million times but if students want to stock up on fruit and veg for not very much money, then this is the place to go (see our previous listicle on '13 things you never knew you needed to know about Leicester'). But Leicester Market sells so much more at bargain prices. There’s clothes, rugs, make-up, bedding, flowers, plants, second-hand vinyl, CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, car accessories, leather goods, birthday cards (from about 25p) and phone cases for about a fiver. Saturday is the busiest day with the widest range of stalls.
The Vintage Scene, Silver Street
This is the standout place to go for your vintage sportswear from the likes of Adidas, Nike and Reebok, as well as designer gear from Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. The tops date back to the 80s and 90s and most cost less than £30. There’s also retro NBL, NFL and baseball gear in stock.
Posted on Wednesday 12th August 2020