For many people, the idea of a shopping holiday is their idea of heaven. Not only do you get to visit a different country, sample the culture and visit the sites, but you can also while away hours looking at what products are on offer and feeling freer than usual to purchase what appeals to you. You have saved up for a holiday like this, so there is more scope for making treat purchases without feeling guilty. You may be looking for a few select designer goods, or intending a shopping spree in high street stores. Or, you may be intrigued to discover local independent sellers, or, indeed, market traders. Europe offers a wealth of cities renowned for their excellent shopping opportunities. In order to get best enjoyment out of your shopping trip, you should plan carefully which city best suits your tastes and your budget. To help you, Send My Bag has picked out some of the best shopping destinations that Europe has to offer.
London comes with a wealth of shopping opportunities, from upmarket department stores, to exclusive boutiques, to high-street chains, to farmers’ markets, as well as its fair share of souvenir shops. Oxford Street and Regent Street are host to all the big retail chains you can think of – Primark, H&M, Next, etc. London also has several department stores, such as Liberty, Selfridges and Harrods, and shopping centres, including Westfield and the Stratford Centre. Many of London’s stores have attained iconic status – like Harrods, Hamley's toy store and Liberty – and are in themselves popular tourist destinations. For especially luxurious goods, visit the Knightsbridge area of London. Or, for a more eccentric purchase, visit Camden Market or Spitalfields Market.
Paris is a glamourous shopping destination, with luxury shops lining Avenue Montaigne and Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore. There are also expansive department stores such as Galeries Lafayette and independent boutiques in areas like Montmartre.
Moreover, there are many flea markets (such as Les Puces de Montreuil) and farmers’ markets such as Bastille and Saxe-Breteuil. To nab yourself a bargain designer item, try designer discount stores such as Annexe des Créateurs, which sells last season’s unsold stock or re-sales. If you are a non-EU citizen you should ask for a 10% discount card in department stores.
Shopping in Rome is exciting but it can be very expensive. The charm of shopping in Rome city centre is that it is largely restricted to individual shops, rather than large shopping malls. Check out the area around Piazza di Spagna for designer gear from Prada, Fendi, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Ferragamo and Versace, etc. However, there are also plenty of independent shops, including antique shops, bookshops and jewellery stores – particularly in the winding streets near the Pantheon and the Piazza Navona. Several street markets sell fresh wares, of which one of the most charming is to be found close to Corso Vittorio. If you want to try to grab a bargain, sales begin on the first Saturdays of January and July. Note that shops tend to close between 1 and 3.30 in the afternoon.
Barcelona is a city offering over 35,000 shops, including a 5 km-long row of retail spaces. This row runs from the Ramblas, through Plaça de Catalunya and up Avenue Diagonal. This area is largely pedestrianized, making it a true shopper’s paradise. Other popular shopping destinations in Barcelona include The Portal de l’Àngel for designer clothing, Plaça de Sant Josep Oriol for boutiques and handicrafts, and Bulevard dels Antiquaris for antiques. La Boqueria is a great destination for food lovers and those who enjoy sampling local produce. Non-EU residents can claim back VAT on goods over 90.16€. Go to the tourist information office to make your claim. Don’t forget that, like in Rome, some shops in Barcelona partake of a siesta in the afternoon.
Vienna is an excellent place to pick up traditional crafts, not least during the Christmas markets that run from mid-November to Christmas. Rathausplatz is transformed by its Christmas market of around 150 stalls. The atmosphere is truly festive with the surrounding area heavily decorated and the scent of Glühwein (warmed, spiced wine) filling the air. There is also a Christmas village on Maria-Theresien-Platz – a smaller affair with around 70 stalls. Aside from the Christmas markets, Vienna has a wealth of shopping opportunities on offer. It has all the designer brands you could ask for, particularly in the new luxury shopping area called Goldenes Quartier and around Kohlmarkt, as well as many high-street names. Flea and antique markets also abound. The most well-known is Naschmarket, with around 400 sellers displaying their wares. Don’t forget to shop for Vienna’s speciality sweet treats, such as the Sacher and Lippizaner balls (made out of nougat, marzipan and chocolate). In Vienna, non-EU residents are also entitled to apply for a VAT refund.
So, you shopped ‘til you dropped and had a great time doing it, but how on earth will you get all those purchases home with you? Send My Bag has the answer. SendMyBag will pick up your goodies from your hotel and deliver them straight to your door at home. Simply pick up a box or suitcase and fill it with your shopping, book in your collection, and leave your box/suitcase at hotel reception for pickup, along with the necessary documentation. Send My Bag offers fantastic flat rates for a massive 30 kg right across Europe. This will allow you to sail through the airport without waiting at bag drop or luggage carousels. You can also take public transport without dragging heavy bags behind you. You will also avoid airline baggage fees, including excess baggage fees, which are becoming increasingly extortionate. You can shop to your heart’s content safe in the knowledge that shipping your purchases home will be the easy part.
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With Brexit unlikely to be completed for another few years, why not make the most of the free movement that membership of the EU provides and take a trip through Europe, visa free? Why not head to a destination you would not normally think of visiting and discover some of Europe’s hidden gems? Here are some more unusual destinations that you could try.