It’s looking a lot like Christmas… gift giving gets an extra boost if you are able to find presents that help people learn or do extra special things. Nicola Baird from islingtonfacesblog.com takes a look around Angel to find just the right present for friends and family

1 PAUL A YOUNG

This shop smells simply divine. At Christmas time it’s a bubbling emporium of hot chocolate laced with cinnamon plus a range of delicious, freshly made truffles and brownies. For a real treat in 2015 you can always learn how to make sea salted caramels (with just six other students) at a £175 workshop in Islington – that’s a gift that will keep on giving.

33 Camden Passage N1 7EA; 020 7424 5750; paulayoung.co.uk/shops/camden-passage-islington

15 Islington places for Christmas gifts

You can find all manner of gifts at After Noah

 2 AFTER NOAH

After Noah mixes retro chic – from sofas to wall clocks – with children’s gifts. It’s such a warm place to browse, with friendly staff to match. On the website you can find lots of under £10 gifts to delight (from moustaches to finger puppet zombies) which may be especially good if you have to help Santa fill stockings.

121 Upper Street N1 1QP; 020 7359 4281; afternoah.com

3 STEVE HATT

A gift option families might enjoy is exchanging delicious foodie treats. Smoked salmon or game (pheasant, partridge) can be ordered at the famous fishmongers. He’s a fountain of knowledge about the area to boot.

88-90 Essex Road N1 8LU; 020 7226 3963

15 Islington places for Christmas gifts

Get the kids reading at Waterstones

 4 WATERSTONES

Books for me please! Almost anything at Waterstones on Islington Green would make me happy, even Zoe Sugg’s first chart stormer, Girl on Line. There’s a great section for children upstairs; a reasonable collection of travel guides and nice stationery too. And, of course, all sorts of books including a huge selection of cookery tomes and fiction.

11 Islington Green N1 2XH; 020 7704 2280

5 LA FROMAGERIE

You can order Christmas baby Stiltons, or pick up a Vacherin (winter cheese) to bake in the oven, or even a beautiful chocolate dessert at La Fromagerie in Highbury Barn. It’s not just cheese at this atmospheric shop – there’s also a small café, a charcuterie and wine to take home and at the sister shop in Marylebone some amazing cheese courses including fondue and wine suppers.

30 Highbury Park N5 2AA; lafromagerie.co.uk

15 Islington places for Christmas gifts

You’ll find unique Christmas gifts at Map Gift Shop

6 MAP GIFT SHOP

Customers at the pin-bow windowed Map Gift Shop have just voted this fabulous place as the best local shop in the Time Out awards. It’s so good that people who leave Islington make trips back for to buy cards, jewellery and Christmas baubles. There’s also the web option, but best of all is half an hour browsing. Fully wheelchair accessible too (stock is displayed on wheeled units that can be easily moved).

93 Junction Road N19 5QX; mapgiftshop.com

7 CULINARY ANTHROPOLOGIST

Secret suppers held just one Saturday a month (approx. £35 per head) or a cooking course (baking, pickling etc) with the Culinary Anthropologist in her beautifully decorated N5 house, just close to Arsenal tube, are always a treat. Definitely something to look forward to in 2015.

culinaryanthropologist.org

15 Islington places for Christmas gifts

Buy the gift of pampering at Angel Therapy Rooms

8 ANGEL THERAPY ROOMS

organise a gift voucher to help your significant unwind with pampering ranging from pregnancy massage and hot stone massage through to treatments with lava shells. Or how about something to look forward to next summer – an alfresco holistic pedicure in their Italian styled courtyard using an antique footbath filled with rose petals perhaps?

16b Essex Road N1 8LN; 020 7226 1188; angeltherapyrooms.com

9 SPACE

Space – the independent gift shop – has been on Exmouth Market for 17 years run by the Brennan family. Its bright blue front should lure you in, inside you’ll find practical items (aprons, hand creams and cook books); gorgeous (notebooks) and frivolous presents (paper pets ideal for flats and Mr & Mrs mugs). I’ve put a hardback children’s book Hickory Daiquiri Doc: cocktails with a nursery rhyme twist on to my wish list.

25 Exmouth Market EC1R 4QL; 020 7837 1344; ifounditinspace.com

15 Islington places for Christmas gifts

Find time to unwind thanks to Neal’s Yard Remedies

10 NEAL’S YARD REMEDIES

This has an enviable collection of skin and beauty creams plus plenty of testers. Book pre Christmas treatments or give your beloved a voucher for a new year treat such as facial rejuvenation, holistic massage, reflexology, foot or head massage.  There’s even a gift the three kings would have approved of – frankincense essential oil (allegedly relaxing).

295 Upper Street N1 2TU; 020 7359 4149; nealsyardremedies.com/islington-store

11 IN WITH THE OLD

Until recently based in Amwell Street, In With The Old on Exmouth Market oozes charm and creativity. It is a good place to choose witty ceramics and other items by London makers. Downstairs are workshops and at the rear selected vintage items are on sale including 1920s hand-painted lead soldiers and a builder’s trestle ladder. I’m hoping I’ll be given one of the cool side plates decorated with animals and a witty catchphrase.

Inwiththeoldshop.com

15 Islington places for Christmas gifts

The Estorick Collection is famed for its terrific exhibitions, such as the recent La Dolce Vita

12 ESTORICK COLLECTION

The Estorick Art Gallery is such a surprise: a real Italian collection with Giacomo Balla and Giorigio de Chirico (and many others) in the heart of Canonbury. The gallery has regular exhibitions, but also offers £50 annual membership, which gives you free entry to their innovative Italian shows, use of the library, plus 10% discounts at the Estorick Caffe. I loved the paparazzi exhibition in early 2014 but you can still go see the Roman treasures and in early 2015 the Renardo Guttuso exhibition looks a treat.

39a Canonbury Square N1 2AN; 020 7704 9522; estorickcollection.com

13 FAMILY TREE

Family Tree has a snowman photo booth outside the shopfront on Exmouth Market. It is run by designer Takako Copeland and stocked with her own design textiles, fair trade and local items. In January Jo Waterhouse – who makes gorgeous fish toy cushions – joins the partnership.

53 Exmouth Market EC1R 4ql; 020 7278 1084; familytreeshop.co.uk

15 Islington places for Christmas gifts

Buy cheese boards for special occasions at Pistachio & Pickle

14 PISTACHIO & PICKLE

This is a great place to find artisan cheese or get New Year’s Eve cheese board inspiration. I love the way you can also order Christmas cheese here too. It’s a lovely shop which runs cheese tasting, supper clubs and can even provide a cheese wedding cake.

6 Camden Passage N1 8ED; 020 7354 0656; pistachioandpickle.com

15 Islington places for Christmas gifts

Buy the gift of quality theatre at the Almeida

15 ALMEIDA THEATRE

The Almeida Theatre shows are so often sell outs that by joining as a £50 supporter you support the theatre and get the chance to book early. Or just buy yourself and your friend a ticket for the popular King Charles III or new show the Merchant of Venice (until 14 February 2015).

Almeida Street N1 1TA; 020 7359 4404; almeida.co.uk

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