From high streets to swanky malls and rustic souks to duty free shopping, here are 20 cities across the world that offer the best retail therapy.
International Shopping Guide
From high streets lined with luxury brands to quaint neighbourhoods dotted with chic boho boutiques, London has it all. Swanky addresses like Selfridge’s and Harrods are stocked with the latest designer wear. And then there’s Savile Row, known for the sharpest, made- to-order suits for the who’s who of the world. Beyond fashion, there are souvenirs to be bought. Artisanal tea, Harry Potter merchandise, Paddington Bear memorabilia make nice gifts to carry back. If you’re feeling particularly indulgent, get a customised hat made at Lock & Co. Hatters. Covent Garden and Notting Hill are charming enough to stroll, browse, window shop, and discover trendy boutiques and artsy galleries. Do save some budget and space to shop at Heathrow Airport’s Duty Free. With more than 17,000 products at great value prices, take your pick from cosmetics, luxurious fragrances, designer sunglasses, limited edition champagne, and fine spirits.
Paris is undeniably the fashion capital of the world. Fashionistas from across the world flock here to buy limited edition pieces from designers even before they hit the market. But shopping in Paris is delightful, no matter what your budget or style. Champs D’Élysées and Avenue Montaigne are probably the most famous streets lined with luxe brands like Louis Vuitton, Hermés, Cartier, Prada and Louboutin. Rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré is home to smaller boutiques and galleries and the cobbled streets of Montmartre lead to kitschy stores with affordable prices.
The most famous department store in Paris, Galeries Lafayette, has been in business since the late 1800s. Besides being a popular tourist attraction, it has everything from high-end fashion to gourmet fare within its beautiful Art Nouveau building. If you love brands like Cartier, Chanel, Dior, Estée Lauder, Fendi, Gucci, Omega, Rolex, you’ll want to shop at the Paris Aéroport – Shopping Duty Free that features more than 280 shops, where there are many attractive buying offers through the year.
Fine Italian leather, shoes and bags, elegant designer wear for women as well as men, make Milan one of the top shopping destinations in the world. From high-end luxury to vintage shops and thrift stores, Milan is a shopaholic’s dream. The most popular area for shopping is the aptly named, Fashion Quadrilateral. The famous streets within the Quadrilateral are Via Montenapoleone and Via della Spiga that are home to brands like Versace, Bulgari, Prada, and Gucci.
Other streets are popular too. You can try your bargaining skills at the shops on Via Torino, Via Brera is the place for jewellery and antiques, and DMAG is an outlet that houses almost 3,000 national and international brands at great discounts. For a more casual vibe, Cormano Flea Market is one of largest flea markets across Europe. It is open only from 6 am to 1 pm on Saturdays and offers a range of fine Italian silks, pottery, household goods, books, and even furniture.
Switzerland is all about snow and ice, and all things pretty and nice! From luxury watches to the finest chocolate, the Swiss sure know how to make things exquisitely. One of the finest addresses in Zurich, Bahnhofstrasse 31, can be your one-stop shop for luxury apparel, jewellery, accessories, perfumes, and chocolates. If your heart is after some exclusive timepieces, the vintage watch company Maurice de Mauriac is the last word for prestigious watches. If you’re keen to go beyond the usual, look for the hidden gem, Spiegelgasse. Located in the back alley of an old township, Spiegelgasse is heaven for all things artisanal—porcelain jewellery, hand-made gardening tools, crockery, glass items, sculptures, and more. Cowbell, cuckoo clock, and a cheese fondue set are the other Swiss souvenirs to carry back home.
The city of Madrid offers a fun and chic shopping experience, much like its own inimitable character. High street labels, cute little boutiques, and broad tree-lined streets with high-end designer stores form a fun mix. There are flea markets as well as swanky malls too. One of the popular department stores, El Corte Inglés houses brands like Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Paco Rabanne, and Valentino. Close by, Gran Vía is a bustling street with plenty of shops and cafes. Fuencarral is a pedestrian street with an eclectic choice of stores like Victoria’s Secret, Footlocker, Michael Kors, and Aristocrazy. Calle Hortaleza, on the other hand, has a range of quirky stores. From specialised bookstores to erotic shops and Drag Queen wig stores, this is a popular destination amongst the LGBTQ community. The weekly flea market, El Rastro on La Ribera de Curtidores Street, has more than 700 stalls featuring antiques, handcrafted goods, clothing, and gadgets.
When in Rome, shop till you drop! From Italian ceramics, shoes and leather handbags to jewellery and high-end designer clothing, this picture perfect city is a haven for people who love to splurge. Via Del Corso is the most popular shopping street, where luxe brands are interspersed between fast-fashion brands like H&M, Zara, Gap, and Benetton. The opulent Art Nouveau building of Galleria Alberto Sordi is home to fashion boutiques such as Prada, Moncler, and Dolce & Gabbana. If you happen to be at the popular tourist destination—Piazza Navona—do make your way behind it, to Via del Governo Vecchio, to explore vintage shops and boutiques. If you’re too busy soaking in the sights of the city, you can cover up your shopping at Rome Fiumicino Airport. The impressive choice of brands at the duty-free includes Bottega Veneta, Bulgari, Burberry, Chopard, Damiani, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Gucci, Hermès, Longines, Louis Vuitton, Swarovski, Tod’s, Valentino, and many, many more. Without the hassle of getting a tax refund or utilising extra luggage space, this is undoubtedly one of the best places for shopping before flying out.
The Bicester Village
The Bicester Collection offers one of the finest shopping experiences across Europe. Located near major cities like Munich, Frankfurt, London, Milan-Bologna, Barcelona, Madrid, these Villages are premium luxury retail destinations. Each Village has more than 100 boutiques offering a mix of international brands. The icing on the cake is the huge discount that goes up to 60 per cent of the RRP. Some of the guest services offered here include invitation-only collection previews, valet parking, and hands-free shopping among others.
Singapore is hands-down one of the best shopping destinations for electronics and appliances. But over the years, it has also earned a reputation for luxury shopping. The trendy area of Orchard Road has everything from swanky malls like ION Orchard, Paragon Shopping Centre, and Orchard Central homeware stores.
While Marina Bay Sands has become an iconic symbol of Singapore, it is also home to The Shoppes, one of Singapore’s largest luxury shopping malls. Singapore also has charming hubs like Chinatown, Little India, and Arab Quarter too. Chinatown sells an array of satin Chinese-style robes; and Little India is he place to buy spices, sari fabrics, and traditional flower garlands. An old-time shopping arcade, Mustafa Centre, is the place to buy electronics and other goods at wholesale prices. At Changi Airport, which has won numerous accolades, you can stock up on Korean beauty products at The Shilla Duty Free Shop, besides alcohol and watches.
Beyond the glitz and glamour of Dubai is the shine and sparkle of its shopping districts. The contrast between the modern malls and traditional souks encapsulates the enigmatic vibe of this wealthy Emirate. While Burjuman Centre, one of the oldest malls, still remains a favourite amongst locals, Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Mall attract tourists from all over the world.
From luxury brands to high-street labels, you’ll find the latest collections here. But while you’re in Dubai, at least one visit to the souks is a must. There are many different souks, but the most popular are the Gold Souk and the Spice Souk. And if you think shopping in Dubai is irresistible, wait till you experience Dubai Duty Free. Perfumes, cosmetics, alcohol, luxury bags, and gold, it is all available here.
Hong Kong is made up of street markets, glitzy malls, night markets, and luxury stores. The most popular area is Causeway Bay, where many shops have attractive sale prices on weekends. The Fashion Walk area does very well here. Then there are high-rise malls, SOGO, and Times Square Shopping Mall that are buzzing with shoppers till 11 pm daily. Brands like Harvey Nichols, Lane Crawford, Louis Vuitton, Alberta Ferretti, Blanc de Chine, Diane von Furstenberg, and other similar brands have stand-alone stores in the Central District.
If you’re looking to buy contemporary Chinese art, sheesha, ceramics, antiques, and other bric-a-brac, Hollywood Road is where you’ll find it. Every evening, this street converts into a buzzing party nightspot. Hong Kong International Airport is also a great place for shopping as well as savings. Besides the usual, the things to buy are skincare products, leather bags and shoes, souvenirs, and Cantonese baked goods.
Bangkok is known as a shoppers’ paradise. And Bangkok lives up to this reputation. Offering some of the most unique shopping experiences are the floating markets. They offer an insight into the traditional lifestyle of Thailand; some of them have been operational for hundreds of years. Today, travellers can find local food and souvenirs in these tightly packed waterways. Asiatique The Riverfront has a mix of quirky boutiques as well as jewellery stalls, etc. Then there are the malls. The Siam malls have some of the best international and local brands under their roofs. The latest one, Icon Siam, is said to be the ‘mother of all malls’. Before you leave the city, do check out the deals at King Power duty free at Suvarnabhumi Airport.
The Japanese pride themselves on creating perfection. It is no wonder then, that shopping in Japan is an unparalleled experience. From premium luxury brands to state-of-the-art gadgets, kitchen equipment, craft items, and packaged snacks, the choice of brands is astounding. The popular shopping areas in Tokyo include Ginza, which was the most expensive land in the world at one point! Today, this is where you’ll find huge department stores, malls, and shops specialising in electronics, at very competitive prices. Other popular shopping areas are Shinjuku, the busiest neighbourhood in Japan, and Shibuya, which attracts youngsters; both are populous areas teeming with shops and malls of all sizes. Nakamise Street, on the other hand, has a very different vibe. As the street leads up to the old Sensoji Temple, this is where you’ll find traditional souvenirs, handicrafts, and good luck charms.
As famous as Sydney is for its iconic sights like Opera House and Harbor Bridge, it is also the most vibrant shopping destination in Australia. Amongst the diverse shopping hubs, Sydney CBD has one of the best shopping centres, Westfield, which is located in the heart of the city. The Rocks Market offers a quaint shopping experience on weekends, and has a variety of souvenirs, clothes, and fresh farm produce. You’ll often find artists sitting along the cobbled streets and recreating the lively scene on their canvas. If you’re specifically looking for beauty and fashion products, the elegant Strand Arcade Victoria Building is great for luxury shopping, and is interspersed with art galleries and cool cafes. Then there’s Paddy’s Market, a flea market with great bargains and some fun food options. Amongst the popular items to buy in Sydney are Uggs shoes, opal jewellery, Macadamia nuts, and a hand-made boomerang.
Shopping in Istanbul has to be experienced at the bustling bazaars. The most popular, largest and oldest covered market, the Grand Bazaar offers a unique shopping experience. Amongst its more than 3,000 shops, you’ll find all things Turkish—carpets, antiques, fabrics, jewellery, and more. This is also the best place to test your bargaining skills. The Egyptian Bazaar, also known as Spice Market, is a haven for dry fruits and spices. It s also where you’ll get the finest quality of saffron, dates, and cinnamon. Finally, at the Arasta Bazaar, you can choose from a wide range of handicrafts, kilims or handwoven carpets with some intricate designs, İznik pottery and ceramics, and other Turkish souvenirs. Istanbul Airport has a huge range of luxury brands at duty free prices. The icing on the cake is the recent opening of the largest Cartier boutique to attract high-flying shoppers.
New York, USA
New York is home to some of the most popular shopping destinations in the world—Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany & Co, and more. These are the stores where you can rub shoulders with celebrities while shopping for the perfect evening dress or the right accessory to complete your look. Then there’s SoHo, where the cobblestoned streets remind you of the many sit-coms that were based in this vibrant city. These streets also lead right up to some of the best shops in New York City. One must-visit place for buying unique souvenirs is the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) Design Store. But, if a shopping mall is more your thing, look no further than Mall of America. There is something for everyone at this mall that has 520 stores. The best way to navigate MOA is to go armed with a free visitor’s kit that comes with a map of the mall.
Munich is all about beer, bratwurst, and bonhomie. It is also a shopper’s destination, especially for some unique experiences that it offers. While the fashionistas are drawn towards Maximilianstrasse, a street known for some of the best international designer stores, Hofstatt shopping centre is the most popular mall in this city. Pretty much everything from clothes, accessories, footwear, and souvenirs can be found here. Talking of souvenirs, a beer stein from Hofbrauhaus, the most famous beer tavern, makes for a great gift to carry back. As Oktoberfest brings a surge of tourists interested in Munich’s many beer gardens, Christmas brings an unmistakable cheer all around. Kripperlmarkt am Rindermarkt is the most popular Christmas market that is organised in the city centre every year. Shopping here includes traditional ornaments and handcrafted woollens. An array of Bavarian street food and Gluhwein, the local mulled wine, lends it a delicious appeal as well.
Shopping in Frankfurt is rather organised, especially in the area around the city centre. The two main department stores, Kaufhof and Karstadt, are located on the main pedestrian street, Zeil. Besides these, there are speciality shops, kitschy boutiques, and a huge modern shopping centre called MyZeil. Spread across six floors, this is the largest shopping as well as entertainment space in Frankfurt. The younger crowd, however, prefers to hang around the scenic Sachsenhausen area, south of the river Main. Saturdays are reserved for a flea market in the first half of the day, and it is great for bargain buys of antiques, handicrafts as well as second-hand goods. Additionally, Heinemann Duty Free has a great selection of international brands at duty-free prices. Take your pick from perfumes, cosmetics, spirits, or confectionery and tobacco products.
Outletcity Metzingen, Germany
The picturesque town of Metzingen has an added attraction. Located in Southwest Germany, it has Outletcity Metzingen that has some of the top luxury brands like Armani, Bottega Veneta, Dolce & Gabbana, Etro, Gucci, Ermenegildo Zegna, and Jimmy Choo. The deal gets sweeter as most of the designer products come with heavily reduced prices up to 70 per cent throughout the year. Ideal for a day trip from cities like Stuttgart, Baden-Baden, Munich, Frankfurt, and Zurich, it has a beautiful historic centre and other tourist attractions as well.
The gorgeous city of canals, cute little bridges, windmills, and bicycles, also offers some fun shopping. De Negenstraatjes or ‘Nine Little Streets’ has nine streets filled with jewellery shops, art galleries, and boutiques. When the weather is good, everybody is out to celebrate at the open-air markets, over delicious Dutch food such as fresh herring, kroketten, and cheeses. Located on the Red Light District, Kalverstraat not only has some naughty sex shops, but even high street brands like Zara and H&M. Spiegelkwartier, within walking distance from Rijksmuseum and other museums, has a fun choice of old antiques, music boxes, and quirky furniture. In case you miss buying tulip bulbs, Dutch cheese, or Delft Blue Pottery in the city, fret not! Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is well equipped for all your shopping needs. Everything from cosmetics, alcohol, and electronic consumer products is available, as are the aforementioned traditional Dutch goods.
Las Vegas, USA
Luxury brands, designer stores, outlet malls, and huge shopping centres—Las Vegas is shopping heaven! The Las Vegas Strip has more than 150 shops, including hot favourites like Victoria’s Secret, H&M, and The Body Shop. And it keeps getting bigger and better. With more than 250 stores, the Fashion Show Mall is the largest in the city. But not everything comes at an exorbitant price. The outlet malls here are amongst the best in the world and offer unbelievable deals on high-end brands such as Louis Vuitton, Prada, Tiffany & Co., Tom Ford, and more. You can also go for the top-of-the-line experience at Via Bellagio —rub shoulders with the swish set, Hollywood celebs, and the rich and the famous people of the world, as you pick your way through stores like Armani and Chanel, Gucci, and Fendi. There’s no dearth of riches here!
Incheon, South Korea
South Korea is in a league of its own when it comes to skincare and healthcare products. So it is not surprising that these are the best things to buy in Incheon. As if echoing the ethos of the city, Incheon International Airport has a vast array of local products that you can carry back with you. Top of the picks include mask sheets from Innisfree; body and hair products from Missha; red ginseng roots that have almost magical healing properties for issues like ulcers, diabetes, and even mental illness; and edible red alga that is rich in proteins and essential amino acids. This kind of shopping is like renewing your lease of health, beauty, and longevity.
Doha is a hidden gem. It is a shopping paradise at par with the finest in the world. A number of malls, each more architecturally exquisite than the other, are home to top-notch brands and products. Al Hazm’s architecture has been designed to look like the 19th-Century Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, Dragon Mart unveils to you the shopping delights of China. While Doha Festival City houses more than 500 stores, Mall of Qatar is spread over 500,000 square metres. Each mall boasts international designer wear, sports gear, top of the line gadgets, and local handicrafts. The duty free at Hamad International Airport also has a vast selection of luxury goods. But what sets this airport shopping experience apart is the vast range of traditional products. Fine scarves and vases with classic geometric designs celebrate Islamic culture, and falconry gear is an ode to a long-held Qatari tradition.
This article first appeared on Travel + Leisure India.