Super shopping: Where to spend your holiday money
Hotel rates are being slashed to fill empty rooms, rail and air fares are low but with the pound still in the doldrums, will that leave you with enough cash to go shopping on your city break? The Traveller adds up where to go and what to buy this winter
Saturday 31 October 2009
The most accessibly exotic destination from the UK is a bargain-hunter's delight. The souks of the ancient medina are stuffed with a bewildering assortment of goods, from silverware to spices.
The skill of navigating, browsing and bartering is as much a part of the experience as the purchase itself: be prepared to wander and get lost, to be gently harassed and to haggle. Work your way into the ancient alleys from the vast main square, the Jemaa el Fna. As you head north, you enter a honeycomb of tiny retail outlets, all vying for your attention. The markets are roughly divided by speciality: jewellery, antiques, leather, textiles, herbs and spices, carpets, metalwork, dyers, pottery... even eggs.
Iconic outlet: Kulchi, 1 rue Ksour ( comptoirdarna.com ). Located down a quiet street, this boutique sells handmade kaftans, jewellery, essential oils and bags.
Souvenir to savour: babouches, (leather slippers) are ubiquitous, particularly the pointed canary-yellow variety. Barter down to around 150 dirhams (12).
Market forces: if ever Bond Street were to relocate to the souks, it would be found in the Mouassine quarter, home to an increasing number of fashionable boutiques, galleries and riads (enclosed townhouses). Look out for beautiful tailoring at Beldi, 9-11 Soukiat Laksour (00 212 24 44 10 70) and Atelier Moro, 114 place Mouassine (00 212 24 39 16 78), which you have to call for entry.
Deal broker: The Best of Morocco (0845 026 4588; realmorocco.com ) has five nights at the chic Majorelle Suites from 450, including flights from Gatwick, transfers and a housekeeper; based on November departures. The apartments overlook the Jardin Majorelle and are in leafy and fashionable Guliz, which offers some respite from the medina.
The City of Light sparkles in the winter sunlight and is as atmospheric a platform for walking and browsing as you could wish for. The idiosyncrasies of each area make shopping easy from the grands magasins of the Grands Boulevards to the designer brands of the Champs Elyses, via the artisan, vintage and bobo (that's bourgeois-bohemian) boutiques of the Marais. Paris has never been a bargain destination, but the appeal is the exclusivity and individuality of the offerings. With this in mind, swerve away from chi-chi St-Germain and the ritzy 8th arrondissement and make for the one-off boutiques of the Marais, such as Merci (00 33 1 42 77 00 33; merci-merci.com ) a new concept store selling anything from caf au lait to vintage Chanel handbags, with profits going to charity. NoMa (north of the Marais) serves as an overspill for shops selling cutting-edge brands. And when everything shuts on Sundays, make for the precipitous rue des Martyrs, reaching up to Montmartre it's lined with food stalls and cafs.
Iconic outlet: for everything under one stunning Art Nouveau roof, try the department store Galeries Lafayette, 40 boulevard Haussman (00 33 1 42 82 34 56; galerieslafayette.com ).
Souvenir to savour: A box of 12 perfectly packaged macaroons at Pierre Herm, 72 rue Bonaparte (00 33 1 43 54 47 77; pierreherme.com ) costs 24.
Market forces: Les Puces de St-Ouen, Porte de Clignancourt (00 33 8 92 70 57 65; marchesauxpuces.fr ; Sat-Mon) is the world's largest market.
Deal broker: Eurostar (08705 186 186; eurostar.com ) is offering a big discount on two nights' B&B at the five-star Hotel de Sers: 375, with train travel from London St Pancras; based on 18 November departure. The hotel is in the "Golden Triangle". Otherwise, two nights' room only at the Villa Beaumarchais in the heart of the Marais is 261. SL
While Milan may be Italy's acknowledged fashion capital, the Eternal City is no slouch in the retail department. It has the added scenic benefit of its many remarkable landmarks that are rarely more than a short, Prada-shod stroll away. Label lovers should make a beeline for the streets around the Spanish Steps, such as the Via Condotti and Via del Babuino, where you can find all the fashionistas' favourites, like Prada, Gucci, Armani, et al. Stray off the gracious Piazza Navona down the warren of streets to the west towards the Tiber, and you will find yourself in the heart of historic Rome and one of its most interesting retail corners. Streets like Via del Governo Vecchio and Via di San Pantaleo are lined with boutiques, restaurants and bars frequented by locals rather than tourists.
Iconic outlet: La Rinascente (00 39 06 679 7691; larinascente.it ) department stores have been undergoing a makeover over the last couple of years and the branch at Piazza Colonna is no exception.
Souvenir to savour: A bag of coffee from Tazza d'Oro, Via degli Orfani 84 (00 39 06 678 97 92; tazzadorocoffeeshop.com ) a coffee-bean's throw from the Pantheon costs 4.90.
Market forces: Open every day except Sundays, the Campo dei Fiori is the city's oldest and most picturesque fruit and vegetable market. If bargains are what you seek, head for the Porta Portese flea market held each Sunday in Trastevere.
Deal broker: Cresta (0844 879 8014; crestaholidays.co.uk ) is offering three nights' B&B at the four-star Marcella Royal Hotel in Rome from 349, including BA flights from Gatwick; based on 23 November departure. The hotel is a walk away from the old centre.
The Austrian capital gears up for advent with Christmas markets, gingerbread and glhwein. You can shop for high-end glitz and high-street brands surrounded by the renaissance, baroque and Jugendstil architecture within Innere Stadt, the city centre (and World Heritage site). For contemporary designerware, cutting-edge fashion, upmarket antiques and Austrian wines, you should venture just a little further out. Fashionistas should aim for the district of Neubau in particular the independent outlets of Neubaugasse while Freihausviertel is a newly trendy triangle of galleries, cafs and boutiques south of Karlsplatz (its status was cemented by a Banksy stencil, until that was stolen). Perhaps the best part, though, is dipping in and out of coffee houses en route to warming drinks and indulgent cakes.
Iconic outlet: Art Up, 8 Bauernmarkt (00 43 1 535 5097; artup.at ) is a co-operative of home-grown designers. Sift through quirky accessories, contemporary fashion and bold jewellery.
Souvenir to savour: Snow globes were invented by Erwin Perzy in 1900. Erwin Perzy III still produces hundreds of styles which you can buy from his shop, which is attached the Snow Globe Museum at 87 Schumanngasse (00 43 1 486 43 41; viennasnowglobe.at ). Handmade globes start at 6.
Market forces: the Naschmarkt ( wienernaschmarkt.eu ; Mon-Sat) stretches for over half a kilometre along Linke Wienzeile and is the place to stock up on spices, wine, cheese and cakes. On Saturdays, it extends into a popular flea market. The Christkindlmarkt will be at Rathauspark from 14 Nov-24 Dec ( christkindlmarkt.at ).
Deal broker: Austria Travel (01708 222000; austriatravel.co.uk ) is offering two nights' B&B at the Hotel Royal from 230, with flights from Heathrow; based on 12 November departure. The hotel is around the corner from St Stephen's Cathedral and a stroll from the city centre shops and coffee houses. SL
The acme of retail wonderlands is set against the filmic backdrop of Manhattan. New York has been no stranger to the recession, which has hit once up-and-coming areas like the Lower East Side. However hip mainstays such as SoHo continue to ply a strong trade, while across the water in Brooklyn, Williamsburg is taking over where the LES left off. With so much to sift through, your best bet is to focus on one area at a time. In SoHo (South of Houston) gravitate to the grid of Broome, Spring, Prince, Lafayette, Greene and Mercer streets and Bleecker Street, just north in NoHo. New to the SoHo scene is the affordable sibling of elegant clothing company J Crew, Madewell, 486 Broadway (001 212 226 6954; madewell1937.com ). Also on Broadway is Dean & DeLuca at 560 (001 212 226 6800; deandeluca.com ) with its impeccably packaged foodstuffs. For vintage-style bathroom products, head to the West Village for the 168-year-old apothecary CO Bigelow, 414 Sixth Avenue (001 212 533 2700; bigelowchemists.com ). Over in Williamsburg, Spoonbill & Sugartown, 218 Bedford Avenue (001 718 387 7322; spoonbillbooks.com) specialises in rare and second-hand books, while in Brooklyn's Park Slope is Brooklyn Industries, 206 Union Street (001 718 789 2764; brooklynindustries.com ) for cool clothes and accessories.
Iconic outlet: Take your purchases home from Bloomingdale's, 59th Street & Lexington Ave (001 212 705 2000; bloomingdales.com ) in an iconic brown bag.
Souvenir to savour: a pair of jeans may not be original but you still save on the price-tag. The National Jean Company, 1375 3rd Avenue (001 212 772 2392; nationaljeancompany.com ) sells over 100 cult brands, including 7 for All Mankind, which start at $128 (83).
Market forces: The indoor Chelsea Market ( chelseamarket.com ; daily) is in a former biscuit factory and is crammed with up-market, artisan food outlets.
Deal broker: Virgin Holidays (0844 557 3859; virginholidays.co.uk ) has three nights' room only at the Affinia Manhattan from 749, with flights from Heathrow; based on departures between 1-12 December. The Affinia is in Midtown by Madison Square Garden and Macy's and is well-placed for walking downtown. SL
Portugal's second city has several distinctive features which make it the European destination of choice for frugal shoppers. First, access is cheap due to frequent low-cost flights on Ryanair. Next, its dramatic location astride the Douro River provides plenty of free sightseeing opportunities; and you can even get a free drink by exploring one of the port lodges. Third: Portugal is by a distance the cheapest country in the eurozone, making everything from accommodation to eating out an inexpensive treat.
Iconic outlet: Porto's strong suit is that independent, slightly decrepit stores vastly outnumber the chains. Finest of all, on Rua das Carmelitas 144, is the world's most beautiful bookshop: Livraria Lello, which feels like a shrine to the patron saint of the written word. It boasts lavish woodwork, a stained-glass dome and a winning 19th-century attitude. Watch out for the rails on which a book-filled barrow runs.
Souvenir to savour: A bottle of 1998 Quinta do Crasto LBV port costs 22 at Vinologia, Rua de Sao Joao 46 ( lamaisondesporto.com ).
Market forces: Mercado Bolhao occupies a city block on the northern side of Rua Formosa. You can be dazzled with colour in the florists' section, or assemble a bargain picnic from the butchers, bakers and greengrocers' stalls.
Deal broker: Opodo.co.uk is offering two nights' room only at the Hotel Tryp Porto Centro from 178, with flights from Heathrow; based on 30 November departure. The hotel is centrally located and is near the shops of Rua de Santa Caterina.
The Spanish capital has largely escaped the march of global brands that blight many of its European counterparts. One-off boutiques, home-grown chains extending beyond the ubiquitous Zara, and old-fashioned addresses suggestive of the Madrid of yesterday all coexist among its shopping hotspots. The Gran Via and the area around Puerta del Sol is the city's busiest shopping zone, while Calle Serrano is Madrid's equivalent of Bond Street. With most of its shopkeepers still intent on observing the siesta, Madrid is also the perfect place to enjoy a long, leisurely day's browsing, punctuated by a lunch of Rioja and tapas somewhere like La Bardemcilla, Augusto Figueroa 47 (00 34 91 521 4256), owned by the family of actor Javier Bardem. From here, you will also be perfectly placed to spend the rest of the day exploring the cobbled streets of Chueca currently hip and happening, with boutiques, interiors shops, restaurants and bars.
Iconic outlet: Visit the main branch of El Corte Ingls, Raimundo Fernandez Villaverde 79 (00 34 91 417 0690; elcorteingles.es ), Spain's indispensable and much-loved department store.
Souvenir to savour: A pair of espadrilles from Madrileño favourite Cristina Castañer, Calle del Almirante 24 (00 34 915 315 331; castaner.com ) cost from 95.
Market forces: Sunday means one thing El Rastro, Madrid's sprawling flea market, which has been in existence since medieval times. Occupying a triangle between Plaza de Cascorro and Puerta de Toledo, this is where you can pick up anything from a pair of castanets to a lampshade.
Deal broker: Lastminute.com (0871 222 5952) is offering two nights' room only at the Hotel Reyes Catolicos from 191.40, with flights from Gatwick; based on 20 November departure. The hotel is near the Plaza Mayor and Puerta de Toledo. Aor
One of the world's most liveable cities, Copenhagen is a picture of cobbled streets, canals and contemporary design. It's an easy-going, easily navigated place with superb shopping and more Michelin stars than Milan or Madrid. Quality products and innovative design are rife, with offerings for shoppers on a budget, too. Start at Stroget, the longest pedestrianised shopping street in Europe, which is populated with chain stores, tourist tat-peddlers and higher-end outlets such as the chic interiors store Illums Bolighus, 10 Amagertorv (00 45 33 14 19 41; illumsbolighus.dk ). For smaller independent brands, look further afield to the districts of Vesterbro, Norrebro, Osterbro, Hellerup and Frederiksberg. Osterbro is the location of Normann, 70 Osterbrogade (00 45 35 55 44 59; normann-copenhagen.com ). The flagship store is in a former water distillery-turned-cinema and is the place to go for contemporary egg cups, cork salt and pepper-shakers plus clothing by of-the-moment Scandinavian fashion brands. In Vesterbro, head for the once-sleazy Istedgade for vintage shops, niche designers and cafs. Iconic outlet: The Danish Design Centre, 27 HC Andersens Boulevard (00 45 33 69 33 69; ddc.dk ) is a museum with a high-end shop selling books on Arne Jacobsen, iconic Scandinavian products and a host of stylish gadgets.
Souvenir to savour: Classic Blue Fluted bowls by Royal Copenhagen start at 61 from the Royal Copenhagen flagship, 6 Amagertorv (00 45 33 13 71 81; royalcopenhagen.com ).
Market forces: The Tivoli Christmas Market (00 45 3315 1001; visitcopenhagen.com ), held in Tivoli gardens, will be selling crafts from 20 November to 30 December.
Deal broker: expedia.co.uk (0871 226 0808) is offering two nights' room only at the Imperial Hotel from 231, with flights from Stansted; based on 5-8 November departure. The hotel is 200m from the Tivoli gardens and 500m from Stroget's shops. SL
Turkey's current exclusion from the eurozone is good news for bargain-hunters. With well over 4,500 shops spread throughout this warren of alleyways and halls, the Grand Bazaar in the heart of the Old City is the ultimate in exotic retail experiences. Despite first impressions of chaos, the bazaar is quite ordered and laid out in a series of streets and alleyways with vendors grouped by their merchandise. For higher-end boutiques, head to the Nisantasi and Tasvikiye neighbourhoods across the Golden Horn, while Istiklal Caddesi in Beyoglu is another bustling thoroughfare. Set in lavishly tiled domed rooms above The Spice Market, Pandeli (00 90 212 527 39 09) serves staples such as grilled fish and kofte the perfect pit-stop.
Iconic outlet: While The Grand Bazaar represents the Istanbul of old, the shopping centre Kanyon, Buyukdere Caddesi 185, Levent (00 90 212 353 5300; kanyon.com.tr ), is its contemporary retail face.
Market forces: The Egyptian Market, otherwise known as The Spice Bazaar is where to go for fragrant spices, Turkish delight and dried fruits.
Deal broker: BA Holidays (0844 493 0758; ba.com/istanbul ) is offering three nights' B&B at the Celal Sultan from 217, with flights from Heathrow; based on November departures. The hotel is near the Grand Bazaar. Aor
The Sixties are back in fashion (as the current Beatles to Bowie at London's National Portrait Gallery shows), and music fans of a certain age may feel inspired to visit the German port where the Beatles honed their live set prior to being signed. Hamburg is the biggest and most entertaining city in western Germany, and has a quite preposterous number of hostelries whose precise role is hard to define you can eat, drink and be as merry as you wish.
Iconic outlet: On Lange Reihe, the alternative retail thoroughfare, you can pick up anything from vinyl to a hat. You could always buy a Homburg in Hamburg.
Souvenir to savour: Another hat. To buy an authentic Hamburg sailor's cap (aka Mutze) visit Walther Eisenberg, a traditional hat-maker at Steinstrasse 21 (00 49 40 335 703; muetzenmacher.com ). Hats start at around 65.
Market forces: Altona Fischmarkt is possibly the liveliest place in Europe at 8am on a Sunday morning. It is an ornate fish market that caters for clubbers, selling snacks from sausage to herring.
Deal broker: Arrive on Eurostar (08705 186 186; eurostar.com ) via Brussels, from 98 return. Stay at the Kempinski Atlantic at An der Alster 72-79 (00 49 40 28 88 817; kempinski.atlantic.de ). Doubles from 172. SC
Travel prices are per person and correct at time of going to press.
Insider's shopping secrets
In LA, I love Fred Segal. It's a mouth-watering, eyes-googling-on-stalks, please-handcuff-me-from-blowing-all-my-dough shopping experience. In New York, I love food shopping in Dean & DeLuca.
Brix Smith-Start is co-owner of Start boutiques ( start-london.com )
The only thing I ever buy is food and the best place I know to shop is the tiny Tuscan village of Mercatale in Val di Pesa. Here you find the Macelleria Tozzetti, so far as I am concerned the best butcher in the world.
Stephen Bayley is a cultural commentator
The Sablon area in Brussels is very good for period furniture. My favourite shop is Michel Lambrecht whichever hotel I'm doing, I always manage to buy something from him.
Olga Polizzi recently refurbished Brussels' Hotel Amigo ( hotelamigo.com )
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