Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published September 10th 2010
Today Hamleys is only ONE of the world's largest toy stores, but when I was a kid I'm pretty sure I was told it was THE BIGGEST. This tale could have gone as far back as my grandparents, who may have been told the same thing as they waited, expectant eyes firmly fixed on the space under the Christmas tree, hoping that anything Santa couldn't make himself he'd have found time to pick up from Hamleys.
A place of legend, I was told that Hamleys was like a whole department store just for toys – and it is – seven floors of toy after toy after toy... The legend has been growing since 1760, but the flagship Regents Street store has been around since 1881 – so it could very well have been your great-grandparents who've been passing down tales of this Toy Heaven.
The seven floors are packed with plenty of things you'll be wanting to spend your pocket money on – young or old. The magic starts at the doors, where people in dress ups welcome you in, and staff demonstrate the latest must-have interactive toys and gadgets. The rest of the ground floor is for plushes: giant stuffed giraffes and life size plush lions, as well as some beautiful, more appropriately sized soft toys in all the shades of the animal kingdom from turtles to bats.
Lego, and other construction type toys, and the electronics department is in the basement.
First floor for board games, jigsaws and the Build your own Bear factory: Choose their skin, stuff them to taste, insert a heart, stitch them all up, then finish with an outfit or bow to suit their personality. The second floor is for the little 'uns – preschool age and under. The third floor is the girly floor – here be Barbie and friends, fourth floor is hobbies and fifth floor is boys – with toy trains, action figures, remote control cars and other such battery powered wonders. There's also a cafe, but it's a bit scrappy from all the kids messing around in over-excited pleasure.
Obviously Christmas is a special time in a place like this, but it's important to pace your visit to avoid the stress induced crying (parents as well as children) that you'll see here in those last precious days before Santa's due date. But time it right and the decorations and lights, and all those little overjoyed faces, will remind you how exciting a time Christmas really is. Visit before the 1st of December and it will give you a warm, happy glow – especially if you pick up a gift to put under one of the giving trees which collect presents for less fortunate kids.
P.S. I'm sure there's a secret floor or two in the Hamleys building where retired toys go to live out their days playing with the newbies each night after the grown ups have all gone home...