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Europe not only offers a ton when it comes to culture, art and museums, but it’s home to a wealth of shopping opportunities from unique boutiques, vintage shops and antique stores to vast malls and open-air markets. If you love to shop ‘til you drop, these European cities offer some of the best opportunities to do just that.
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Milan is synonymous with fashion, home to the world’s most important fashion district, Quadrilatero della as well as some of fashion’s biggest names like Armani, Gucci, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace and Valentino. You’ll also find one of the world’s oldest shopping malls, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which opened in 1867 and is housed within a four-story double arcade in central Milan. Plus, the city’s interwoven pedestrian streets are lined with jewelers, boutiques and showrooms that make for great window shopping. While the boutiques tend to cater to the very upscale crowd, bargain shoppers can still find plenty of deals with yesterday’s styles quickly tossed into sales racks and outlets. Il Salvagente, the city’s best known and longest established outlet, has three floors of goods discounted as much as 60 percent.
Istanbul is a shopper’s delight offering everything from fine carpets and belly dancing costumes to jewelry and Ottoman antiques. Famous for its Grand Bazaar, one of the most popular attractions in the world as the first shopping mall ever constructed, the ancient and near-mythical 15th-century market is nothing like your typical shopping mall. It features vaulted walkways, 61 covered streets and some 4,000 shops selling everything from intricately patterned carpets and hand-painted ceramics to spices, copperware and gold Byzantine-style jewelry. You’ll also find an explosion of artistic talents throughout the maze-like streets of Galata, along with plenty of chic boutiques, vintage stress and designer malls.
This city famed for its eclectic residents and edgy concept stores is a great place to toss fashion rules out the window and discover your own style. Shopping here is a jumble of diverse elements, including traditional items at classic department stores, home-grown fashions at places like DSTM and lively farmers markets with fabulous regional produce at Markthalle IX and Winterfeldt Market. You’ll find clothes by the kilo at places like Garage, and great alternative shopping by walking along Kastanienallee.
One of the best ways to discover Berlin’s shopping gems is to just wander through its streets, there is no distinctive shopping center per se, and some of its best treasures are often found in the least expected places – some pop up for only weeks at a time. The Voo concept store is a favorite, located in a hidden courtyard bringing sleek fashions in an area generally associated with punk-style apparel.
Home to some of the most famous fashion labels in the world as well as some of the most sought-after cuisine and beautiful art, Paris is a favorite with shoppers around the world. Galeries Lafayette is the ideal place to start for those who enjoy mall shopping. Centrally located with easy access to a number of metro stations, it offers everything from several levels of shopping and a Paris-style food court to an internationally acclaimed supermarket. Rue du Faubourg St-Honore and the Champs-Elysees are popular with high-end shoppers, while bargain hunters can find a deal at the Marche aux Puces de St-Ouen – said to be the biggest flea market in the world, it features more than 3000 stalls.
There’s a lot more to shopping in this Dutch city than wooden clogs, tulips and coffee shops that offer a lot more than a caffeine buzz. That said, who doesn’t love colorful tulips? You won’t want to miss at least paying a visit to the floating Flower Market with its flamboyant displays of tulip bulbs. In winter, it’s the place to go for Christmas trees. The Nine Streets, De Negen Straatjes, is an area of nine narrow streets in the heart of the city’s historic canal district that were constructed in the 17th century. They intersect the main canals between Leidsestraat and the Jordaan district and are filled with fantastic restaurants, cafés, boutiques, jewelers and vintage stores. The museum district is the place for luxury shopping, including brands like Ralph Lauren, DKNY, Louis Vuitton and Chanel. And, if you want to go beyond the mainstream, you’ll find shops in Amsterdam that specialize in items like comic books, vinyl, holograms and sex toys too.
In one of the most cosmopolitan cities on the planet, your shopping choices are practically endless, from iconic department stores like Harrods as well as Fortnum & Mason and Selfridges to multi-cultural markets at Camden and farmers markets at Notting Hill. The heart of London shopping is Oxford Street with its over 300 shops, designer outlets and landmark stores, but by getting off the beaten track and heading down a side street like Berwick Street and St Christopher’s Place, you can often find some real treasures. Marks and Spencers is also a must, offering all of the essentials, though it’s fun just to wander through its food section.
Barcelona is a sensational city for shopping, with all the big-name stores found in and around Placa de Catalunya, as well as antique stores and boutique designers located throughout the city. Renowned for clothing, young designers, street fashion and chain stores compete along the streets and boulevards off La Rambla, the central causeway. Bargain shoppers will want to head to inexpensive chain stores like Zara and MNG Mango, which both started here and have flagship stores that are massive. You’ll also find local chain stores like funky Bershka. Be sure to immerse yourself in the flavors of Catalonia by visiting the rather frantic yet fascinating La Boqueria Market too, with over 72 fruit and vegetable stalls as well as fresh seafood and cured ham, known as jamon.
While you may think shopping in this Tuscan capital is only for the wealthy, Florence actually has lots of affordable options. In some cases, you’ll even find incredible bargains. You don’t have to skimp on quality to find a good deal either, whether you’re shopping in a unique boutique, market or department store. In this shoe and handbag capital of Europe, you can even get a high-quality pair of Italian leather shoes for as little as $30, or fur-lined gloves from about $35. At the San Lorenzo market near the train station, you’ll find an exceptional selection of predominantly leather goods.
The cobbled streets of Nice are filled with the aromas of lavender soap and sachets as well as sun-soaked produce like flowering zucchini, mushrooms, beefy tomatoes and massively leafy lettuce. The central shopping area can be found at Magenta Square and the streets surrounding it, located at the core of the historic center of the city. Be sure to visit the flower market at Cours Saleya, but skip the tacky Rue de France. Instead, take a stroll along the Rue Paradis that adjoins it which offers Paris sophistication on a more compact scale. Art and antique fans will be delighted with the little artistic studios and curiosities shops set along the narrow streets around the Old Town Cathedral. The city is also home to a number of outstanding candy shops that sell tasty Provencal treats like jellied fruit and fruit confits.
Load up on tapas to fuel your shopping extravaganza in Madrid. While it has a number of big malls like ABC Serrano Centre and Principe Pio housing international brands, you’ll also find numerous historical buildings, family-run shops and markets, including El Rastro, one of Europe’s oldest and largest, offering some of the best bargains in the city. If you’re looking for items that are unique to Madrid, head to Capas Sesena, which sells traditional wool and cotton velvet capes – and, Picasso was reputedly buried in his cape from the store. Casa de Diego is another favorite, it features mantillas, ornamental combs, castanets and plenty of souvenir-worthy fans.
If you find yourself in need a fun shopping spree while in Dublin, most guidebooks recommend Grafton Street, but for a more enjoyable, less hectic experience that doesn’t require battling the crowds, head to the Creative Quarter just a few blocks west. You’ll discover independent boutiques, cool cafes serving locally roasted coffee, and some of the best people-watching in the city. This artsy area also boasts some great stores with more unique, Irish-made souvenirs that can be found at places like the Irish Design Shop, which has an in-house studio offering workshops too. There are over 40 shops and eateries at Powerscourt Centre, and after you’ve expended all of your energy, you can reward yourself for a day of fabulous shopping with a pint of Guinness.
Stockholm is not only home to many huge department stores like H&M and Zara, but the city’s stylish residents are able to frequent equally stylish shops and boutiques. In the SoFo area, south of Folkungagatan, you’ll find great vintage shopping with small secondhand boutiques offering unique pieces. With high-end fashion stores, stunning 18th-century buildings, opulent eateries and a harbor packed with luxurious boats, Ostermalm is the most exclusive district in Stockholm. Walk down Biblioteksgatan and discover global brands like Mulberry, Prada and Louis Vuitton.
Drottninggatan, one of Sweden’s busiest streets, also offers a ton of shopping as well as street side and courtyard cafés in the summertime. Watch for Designtorget at Sergels Torg which sells mainly unique household design items created by up-and-coming Nordic designers you probably won’t find anywhere else.
Europe’s second-largest port is a sophisticated shopper’s paradise. One of the many titles bestowed on Antwerp in the 16th century was “triomfelycke coopstad,” which means “triumphant shopping city.” Even today, the city languishes in the accolades of shoppers in the know with pedestrian streets, historic dwellings and bustling shopping centers. Its center is jam-packed with designer boutiques and trendy stores showing off the latest creations by the area’s top fashionistas. The Meir, linking the fashion district and the Quartier Latin, is a pedestrian shopping street lined with 18th and 19th century facades where international chains vie for attention with small Antwerp designer boutiques. Shoppers also won’t want to miss spending time in the Grote Markt and Groenplaats in the heart of the city, a great place for people watching as well as clothing and book shopping.
Of course, Antwerp is also Europe’s largest center of diamond trading. Even if you can’t afford to buy, it’s fun to admire them and watch them being cut and Diamondland.
Vienna is not only a beautifully romantic city, it offers some of the best values in Europe for shoppers. It’s easy to browse the day away on Vienna’s longest and most famous shopping street, the Mariahilferstraße, which connects the Inner City with the MuseumsQuartier. During the four weekends before Christmas, the Mariahilferstraße is made a pedestrian zone to accommodate the millions of shopping-mad crowds. In the holiday season, visitors can also browse through a multitude of handcrafted ornaments while sipping gluhwein in the gloriously lit Christmas markets. And, at the centuries-old Naschmarket, you can eat your way along about a mile of food vendors hawking fantastic local eats from exotic cheeses and seafood to the crepe-like palatschinke.
When picturing Europe’s greatest shopping cities, few think of Lisbon, but the Portuguese capital is sure to surprise and delight with its rococo storefronts and beautiful antiquated interiors. Beyond the facades are a myriad of goods that have been produced in the nation for generations. If you’re looking for unique, old-fashioned finds like retro 1930s packets of flour, art deco boxes, handmade leather gloves, sardine tins and flea market treasures, you’re in luck, because they’re all here. Principe Real has been called the “shopper’s Shangri-la” of design and clothing stores, interspersed with charming cafes – be sure to stop in at 21pr Concept Store for Portuguese-made jewelry and chocolates. Combined with its temperate climate, fabulous local wines and more than reasonable prices, Lisbon is sure to please.