This London Souvenir Shop Captures the City’s Indie Spirit

Move over, fridge magnets: We Built This City wants you to rethink your London souvenir purchases.

If your fridge magnets, key rings and mugs are gathering dust back home and you’re looking for unique mementos from your holiday in London, then look no further than We Built This City.

This funky shop on Carnaby Street—a shopping hub with a strong London personality—sells creative keepsakes by London-based artists, so there’s not a snow globe or Union Jack teddy in sight. Instead, you’ll find quality goods ranging from a limited-edition illustration of the London skyline, to a handy city map printed on fabric.

We Built This City boutique, London, UK

"I got the idea for the shop in 2012, while working for an online retailer that sold art products from galleries from around the world," said Alice Mayor, founder of We Built This City. "I kept meeting independent artists who spent more time selling their work than creating it."

"I also realised that artists were being pushed to the edges of the city—to creative corners like Peckham and Dalston—where most tourists don’t go. So I set up a pop up shop, then opened We Built This City on Carnaby Street in May 2015."

The shop opened with artwork by 90 artists. Since then, the number has grown to 350.

"Our quarterly collection is a mix of items featuring the skyline, landmarks, historic and royal imagery and cultural icons such as David Bowie and Amy Winehouse," said Mayor. "My favourite piece? Easy–it’s a supersized pigeon print by Pui. Pigeons are universally loved!"

We Built This City, London, UK

The shop hosts regular events from piñata making to silk screen printing, giving you chance to interact with artists. Look out for regular sessions, which could be artistic papercutting—want to produce a pineapple from a piece of A4 paper?—to personalising leather accessories.

So whether you’re buying a present for yourself or a gift for a loved one we reckon that a handmade leather accessory beats a plastic Buckingham Palace any day, don’t you?