“Cash or credit?” For you, those words may serve as a reminder of man’s constant struggle against capitalism and other concocted conspiracies to scheme you out of your money –– or in other words a reminder of how broke you are. Yet, for others, those three simple words are a gateway into heaven: shopping. Few of life’s pleasures can compare to it, and seldom can anything change one’s mood as much as getting their hands on a new pair of shoes or a shiny new watch.
It’s a good way to live –– you’ll always be in debt, but the plus side is you’ll always be in a good mood. Shopping is so sacred to some that they make pilgrimages to the holiest of shopping havens around the world. There's something just exciting about traveling and buying stuff you usually wouldn't buy in your own home. If shopping were a person, Europe would be its beating heart. It's the center of the world's best fashion houses, and you'll find more than enough stores, boutiques, bazaars, designer brands, and markets to quench that thirst. From Paris to Istanbul, this is where you need to go on shopping sprees.
PARIS, FRANCEvia Elvisa
Does it really come as a surprise that Paris is first place on this list? Say what you want about the French and their manners, but they know how to dress, stylishly. Forget the fact that several powerhouses in the fashion industry are French; the people themselves have a unique sense of style and they like to show it. Fortunately for shoppers, you can get acquainted with what makes the people there so stylish when you go on a shopping spree. If you’re looking for the luxury brands, it’s a no brainer that rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré is where you need to be. It’s basically the heart and soul of Paris fashion, and it’s considered by many to be the most stylish street in the world owing to the presence of pretty much every major global fashion house. So, if it’s anything from Versace and Gucci to Yves Saint Laurent and Colette you're after, it's there. Boulevard Haussmann is pretty close to Faubourg Saint-Honoré, and it’s also an experience of its own. Filled with designer houses, gourmet food shopping experiences, jewellery, and much more, it’s one of the streets you definitely need to check out even if you’re not going to buy anything from there.
Looking for something a bit more vintage and refined? The Marais is a quarter filled with antique shops and art galleries, so if you’re into the finer things in life, check this one out. Not all shoppers are on hunt for clothes, and Paris has got those covered as well. St-Germain-des-Pres is one of the most elegant places in the city, brim with chic bookstores and classic furniture stores –– it’s basically where all the intellectuals go.
Last but not least, you can’t leave without checking out the Paris Flea Market, which is a one-stop shop for antiques, discounted items, vintage clothes, shoes, and pretty much any odd object you can think of.
The great thing about Paris is the fact that the sale times are known and fixed –- though the start dates vary so you’ll need to check each year’s calendar. There are two times a year where pretty much everything in Paris goes on sale, January and July. The process usually lasts for six weeks, and as time goes by, the sale only gets better and the discounts increase.
via Joe Wilcox
Another city that comes to mind when you think about elegance and style is Milan. The Italians have long been known for their elegance, and Italian suits, for example, are considered to be the best in the world. Via Monte Napoleone is the heart of Milan’s luxury shopping and is considered one of the foremost in the world, with designer brands like Gucci, Prada, Valentino, and plenty more. You’ll also find boutiques and countless fashion houses lining the street. Corso Venezi offers many international brands like Burburry and Henry Cotton's, not to mention several stunning gardens and parks in the area. Then there’s Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, which also is a must see as it offers several renowned brands as well, but at much cheaper prices. You’ll find the less luxurious –– but still quite awesome –– brands like Zara, Mango, and H&M. It doesn’t hurt either that this one is a no vehicle zone, so you can easily stroll by and explore what the street has to offer.
Corso Buenos Aires is another hub for excellent clothing items that aren’t of luxurious brands, and the 19th century design of the buildings in the streets is enough reason to go explore this little gem. While Via Torino has its fair share of fashion, jewellery, and accessories stores, it also houses ones selling cosmetics, décor, furniture, and much more. So it’s definitely one you should check out before leaving the city. You can’t very well leave one of the oldest and most cultured cities in the world without getting to experience art and antique shopping, and for that you should head out to Via Brera, where you’ll also find boutiques, bars, and restaurants of the highest caliber. This district is also where Olfattorio Bar à Parfums lets you personalize your own fragrance!
Items go on sale in Milan in two periods as well. For the summer sale, it usually starts in July and lasts till September. As for winter, it usually happens in January and February.
LONDON, UKvia Retail Gazette
If you’re into shopping, it’s a safe bet you’ve heard of London’s Oxford Street, Europe’s busiest shopping venue with around half a million daily visitors. With over 300 shops, designer outlets, boutiques, and bazaars, you can rest assured you’ll find what it is you’re looking for from sportswear to luxury tuxes. If you’re looking for a more exclusive and deluxe shopping experience –– or just store fronts –– then head out to Bond Street and Mayfair for brands like Tiffany & Co. and Louis Vuitton, among several others. This is area is quite popular with celebrities and is often frequented by quite a few of the world’s elite.
Westfield has two major shopping centers: Westfield London houses many brands like Marks & Spencer and House of Fraser as well as luxury designers like Luis Vuitton and Ted Baker. You’ll also find cinemas, restaurants, and a gym. Westfield Stratford City on the other hand, in East London, has over 250 stores and 70 places to eat in plus plenty of bars and cafes. It’s one of the biggest shopping malls in Europe.
You may know it from the film by the same name, but Notting Hill also offers a myriad of vintage shopping and clothing stores, antiques, gift shops, and much more. You’ll find all sorts of things to buy there, whether they’re high-end brands or rare objects you’d find in thrift shops and alley stores. Camden on the other hand is where you’ll find plenty of alternative clothing options and unorthodox venues. You’ll stores specializing find gothic and punk fashion, as well as tattoo and piercing studios.
Like most European countries, the UK has regulations governing the sales period. Usually, summer sale begins mid-July, and the winter one starts right after Christmas.
BARCELONA, SPAINvia Luis Davilla/Photolibrary/Getty
Barcelona is many shopper’s favorite destination all over Europe to its variety and affordable prices. Passeig de Gracia is the city’s foremost shopping avenue, and it’s also home to some of it’s most important architecture. You’ll find a ton of luxury shops like Cartier, Emporio Armani, Michael Kors, and several others, in addition to some of the city’s top restaurants and bars. Plaza Catalunya offers another memorable shopping experience with top brands and supermarkets, as well as the city’s biggest perfume store, Sephora Triangle. Not too far away is the Portal de L’Angel which is a little cozier with many small cafes, boutiques, and restaurants offering local foods –– in addition to brands like Zara and Bershka. You can’t talking shopping in Barcelona and not mention La Rambla, lined with trees and markets, souvenir shops, and much more. It’s an excellent spot to get to know Spain’s culture and its cuisine and art scene.
Diagonal Mar is one of the city’s newest malls, and it’s quite modernly designed and offers a great variety of stores with excellent prices. If, however, you’re looking for cool boutiques, wine shops, antiques, and the likes, head out to Gracia Neighborhood for some of the funkiest stores in town.
Summer sale starts in the first couple of weeks of July, all the way through to the end of August. The winter one begins at January 7, and usually ends during the first week of March.
ISTANBUL, TURKEYvia Alhambra Apart Hotel
When people think of shopping in Istanbul, the Grand Bazaar instantly comes to mind, and it should. With 61 covered streets, over 4,000 shops, and an average of 300,000 daily visitors, it’s one of the biggest markets in the entire world, and one of the oldest too –- some consider it to be one of the first ever known shopping malls. If you’re out for a more exclusive shopping experience, you can check out Nişantaşı for all the major brands and designer stores, from Tom Ford to Luis Vuitton. It’s one of the wealthier neighborhoods in Turkey and it shows on the streets themselves. Galata is one of the coolest neighborhoods in the country, with cobblestone paths and funky boutiques, which also have items by local designers.
Kanyon Shopping Center is an open air mall, and it has everything you might need in one place –– it’s more suitable for summers though, because of the open air setting. You could check out Zorlu Center which has the city’s only official Apple Store and is also known for having Eataly and Crate & Barrel. You’ll also find designer brands and department stores on different stores.
There aren’t exact dates for sale in Turkey, but the advent of July usually brings along great bargains, and by mid-August the sale doesn’t have much going for it. The winter sale usually begins between December and January.
While these are the best cities to do a little shopping in Europe, there are others that are quite good in their own rights. Honorable mentions include Berlin, Germany, which doesn’t exactly have large open markets or ancient bazaars, but you can explore its diverse shops by simply walking in the streets and checking out whatever comes you way. There’s also Geneva, Switzerland, which is one of the most luxurious and expensive cities to go shopping in the world, but also one of the classiest and most elegant ones.