Like most women, one of my favourite things to do whilst on holiday is to shop. Of course I’ll start with a visit to the museum, check out the city’s amazing landmarks and so on…but, inevitably, my steps will lead me to the local shopping haunts where you’ll find me going through the sales rack whilst my Honey wonders how we ended up ‘here’ yet again. I guess you have to pick your battles.
Here are 5 shopping destinations that I think would make any Fashionista’s heart swoon and that I can’t wait to visit or re-visit.
♥ PARISCredit: Steve Cadman via Flickr
Although I haven’t lived in Paris for many years now it still remains one of my favorite cities in the world especially for shopping. The City of Lights really has something for everyone: from high-end couture and up-and-coming designers to flea markets and multilevel malls. And because of you’re always surrounded by beautiful buildings and historic sites you could almost pass your shopping addiction as a cultural experience. Almost.
If you’re short on time then head straight to ‘The Galleries Lafayette’ or ‘Le Printemps’ on Boulevard Haussman (8th area). Both department stores count hundreds of local and international brands and also have an entire floor dedicated to lingerie. Ouh la la.
If you’re after a bit of couture or just want to see how the other half lives then travel to ‘Rue Saint- Honoré’ (1st area) where you’ll find the likes of Givenchy, Versace and Christian Louboutin. This is also where you’ll find Collette, a must-visit concept store. Avenue de Montaigne near the Champs Elysees is another street dedicated to luxury brands.
My personal favourite – Le Marais (3rd and 4th area) is a gorgeous historic quarter bustling with vintage shops, unique jewellery and up-and-coming French designers. The ‘Rue des Rosiers’ and ‘Rue des Francs-Bourgeois’ are particularly trendy.
Les Puces (litterally means ‘fleas’) on the northern end of Paris is an iconic market where you can find bargains ranging from antiques, vintage clothes and…well everything and anything really!
♥ NEW YORK
As a lover of Sex and The City, Gossip Girl and Ugly Betty (don’t judge) it should come as no surprise that New York is my ultimate dream shopping destination. Amazing vintage stores, discounted designer malls, cutting edge designs…what more could a girl want?
Barneys (Madison Ave) and Bloomingdales (Broadway) are both iconic New York institutions and should satisfy the needs of even the pickiest of Fashionistas. If your wallet doesn’t quite match up your fashion aspirations then head to Century for heavily discounted designer clothes.
Channel your inner Audrey Hepburn and window shop along Fifth Avenue ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ style. Madison avenue also harbors some of the most beautiful stores in town.
Whenever I chat to my friends about New York they always mention Soho as one of their favorite shopping quarter. A little bit like the Marais in Paris, Soho offers an eclectic mix of indie shops, high-end showrooms and fashion designers. Whether you’re looking for tailor-made jeans, agent provocateur lingerie or a Kate Spade bag, Soho has it all Baby! The Lower East Side is another great spot for cool boutiques.
Bargain hunters rejoice, New York is studded with flea markets that truly come into their own in the summer months. Popular choices include the Hell’s Kitchen Flea market (39th st, between 9th and 10th ave) and the Brooklyn flea (Fort Greene, Lafayette ave) but I hear that Artist&Fleas (also in Brooklyn) is another great place to score vintage clothing.
Dubai is known for exuding luxury and its shopping scene is certainly a reflection of that. From Gold souks through to shopping festivals and billion dollar malls this is truly the city to indulge in. One note of warning though: tax free doesn’t mean ‘free of charge’ so take it (a little) easy on the credit card.
In a place where temperatures average 40c most of the year, malls are much more than shopping centers. They are a place to meet friends, go to the movies, take an air conditioned walk with your family, and even ski! The Dubai Mall is the largest mall in the world spreading across 12 million sq feet and with over 1200 shops. It’s such a popular place that in 2012 it saw more visitors than New York City! Equally popular is the lavish Mall of the Emirates complete with marbled floors and skylights.
Because shopping malls are so huge in Dubai, they include a broad shopping spectrum from luxurious brands like Marc Jacobs through to more affordable shops such as Zara or Esprit.
Dubai has two month-long shopping festivals: one in January/February (Winter) and one in June/July (known as ‘Summer Surprises’). The festival is a huge draw for Dubai’s tourism bringing in more than two million shoppers from around the world each year. Not only does the festival include huge discounts and prizes but the whole city comes alight with fireworks, carnivals, outdoor fairs, food shows and other extravaganzas. Like the tagline says – this is Dubai at its best.
If malls really aren’t your thing and you don’t mind the heat then you should definitely find happiness in one of the city’s magical souks. From gold, to spices and non-flying carpets, you will be able to haggle til’ your heart’s content and bring home an array of truly unique middle-eastern treasures.
♥ HONG KONG
Hong Kong is often cited as Asia’s best shopping destination and it’s easy to see why. Besides providing visitors with world class malls and edgy street labels it’s also the best place to get lost in street markets, score knock offs (at your own risk!) and buy tailor-made clothes.
Hong Kong is full of department stores but a few of them are a cut above the rest. ‘Times Square Mall’ (In Causeway Bay) offers mainstream local and international brands and is one of Hong Kong’s busiest department stores. Harbour City (Canton rd) is the largest mall in Hong Kong with over 800 shops.
‘The Landmark’ is one of Hong Kong’s most luxurious (aka most expensive) malls and includes boutiques such as Louis Vuitton, Dior and Diane Von Furstenberg. It’s also the place to shop for beautiful jewellery if blessed with a platinum/black credit card.
Alternatively, head to Canton Road where you’ll also find an array of fancy boutiques.
If you’re looking for a younger, hippier crowd then Sheung Wan is the neighborhood for you. In recent years, the historic neighborhood has become the new hot spot and the place is filling up with cool bars and alternative shops. On Tai Ping Shan you’ll find a cool concept store named Rat’s cave as well as trendy shoe stores. Gough Street and On Hing terrace are also worth a look.
Hong Kong is famous for its street markets which basically cater for anyone’s shopping needs. Birds, medicines, shoes, antiques and souvenirs… you name it they have it!
For souvenirs and other trinkets, Stanley Street Market (Stanley) is a good choice. Although it’s often busy and popular with tourists it still has retained a lot of its local charm and it’s a good entry point into the Hong Kong’s market world. For clothes you can’t go pass the Ladies Market in Mongkok. Finally if you’re into electronics and gadgets make sure to visit the Temple Street market at night (Yau Ma Tei).
♥ TOKYOCredit: Iwa via Flickr
What I love the most about Tokyo is the contrast between the old and the new. One minute you may be visiting a market full of traditional Japanese artefacts and the next you might find yourself looking at sex toys and Mangas you wish you had never noticed (because now you are potentially scared for life). Besides being one of the most culturally enriching place in the world Tokyo is also the ultimate place to unleash your inner freaks and geeks.
Japanese people LOVE to shop and Tokyo counts numerous department stores, all busier than the next. Japanese owned Isetan in Shinjuku is very popular with locals and tourists alike and it also has an amazing food court (always a good thing as you might get hungry trying to navigate your way through the many stores). Tokyu Hands is also worth a detour and contains 8 levels of do-it-yourself goodies.
Finally, younger crowds generally flock to the Laforet mall in Harajuku.
If money is no issue then head straight to Ginza, Japan’s poshest shopping district. In addition to Gucci and other well known designer brands you’ll also find Sony and Apple’s flagship stores in this area.
Shibuya is a young and vibrant neighborhood with a little bit of everything. If your boy is into record shopping then this will be heaven for him as the area has some of the best vinyl shops in the world. Don’t worry though, there are many trendy shopping stores to keep you busy as well. Not far from Shibuya you’ll also find the Harajuku district, the best place to witness outrageous fashion styles and truly experience Japan’s teenage culture (don’t miss Takeshita street). If you’re there on a Sunday then you might even catch some of the ‘Cosplay’ action!
If you love crowds and are always on the hunt for a bargain then you’ll have fun going through Tokyo’s countless markets. Worth a mention are the Yoyogi Flea Market near Harajuku (held once a month/ great for second hand fashion clothing) and the more traditional Ameya Yokocho market in Ueno.
Happy Travels! (and shopping of course…)
Other amazing shopping cities that almost made the top 5: London, Milan, Istanbul, Bangkok… the list goes on!
NB. This list is based on my personal taste, research and experience. I’d really love to hear about YOUR dream destinations and favorite local shopping haunts so make sure to leave me a comment below!