Traveller’s Guide: Shopping breaks

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Need some inspiration for your Christmas list or simply want to know where the locals shop? Sarah Gordon tells you how to make the most of a bargain-hunting holiday

Shopping and travel have always made the most delightful bedfellows. Whether it's digging out an unusual trinket from a lively local market, finding that backstreet where the Parisians go for affordable style or grabbing discounted designer gear at a shopping mall, nothing beats the thrill of a bargain abroad, or finding something unique or unusual that you wouldn't be able to pick up on the high street at home. Shopping has become so much a part of the holiday experience that specialist trips, tours and hotels now offer the chance to combine retail with repose.

Some cater specifically for the female market. For example, in Italy, the Palazzo Victoria hotel in Verona (00 39 045 590 566; has a girls-only weekend package with a three-course dinner, in-room gift, hairstyling session and a VIP shopping experience – taking guests to selected boutiques for a private evening shop. Two nights, with breakfast, costs from €594.50 per person. Flights not included.

For those who simply want to factor in a bargain hunt to a regular holiday, consider time-saving tours that take you directly to hard-to-find souvenirs and crafts. Discover Walks (00 33 9 70 44 97 24; offers a tour through Paris's famous flea market, the Marché aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt, helping antiques hunters to get their bearings and find the best bargains among the maze of 2,500 shops. A tour costs €22 per person.

The run-up to Christmas is prime shopping time, when cities entice holidaymakers with the notion of stocking up with gifts during a short break. In Europe, Christmas markets see a flurry of festive stalls sprinkled around squares in cities ranging from Birmingham to Berlin. They began in the 15th century in Germany and Austria; Nuremberg, in the former, remains the biggest and most famous of them all, attracting more than two million visitors a year (00 49 911 23360;

But not all markets have to be Christmas themed. Hotels and tour operators often offer the expertise of a local guide who can help to unravel the complexities of Moroccan souks or simply help with a bit of haggling. Fleewinter (020-7112 0019; has a network of mostly English and French residents in Marrakech who, for £90 per half-day, will take clients to the best stalls in the souks, but also to lesser-known shops and warehouses in the city's new town and the industrial quarter.

While New York City is world famous for its shopping and competitive prices, many visitors are often unaware that a number of other states, such as Texas and Louisiana, also offer tax free shopping for tourists. To combine culture with bargain-hunting, Virgin Holidays (0844 557 3859; has a seven-night trip to New Orleans, Louisiana, from £1,085, including flights from Heathrow and room-only at the Holiday Inn French Quarter.

For something more bespoke, consider Asia: Vietnam, Thailand and Hong Kong are perfect for picking up tailor-made suits and entire wardrobe updates at affordable prices. Kuoni (0844 488 0241; offers a nine-night tour of Vietnam taking in Halong Bay, Hanoi and Hue from £1,799 per person. There is also enough time in Hoi An to order clothes from one of the dozens of tailors in this pretty coastal town. The package price includes flights from Gatwick, hotels and most meals. A typical tailor-made suit or made-to-measure dress costs from £90. Try Thu Thuy Silk ( or Yaly (

Leaders in luxury

If high style is on your agenda, then look no further than Paris. Wexas (020-7838 5892; has a three-night stay at the five-star Pont Royal Paris, including a three-hour tailored tour of the top fashion haunts. The £495pp price includes accommodation, Eurostar from London and the tour. In Marrakech at Riad El Fenn (00 212 524 441210;, experts will guide guests around the souks on a tailored tour. A two-night stay, with breakfast, afternoon tea and shopping trip, costs from €540 per room. Flights and transfers extra.

The Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong (00 852 2522 0111; offers a private shopping tour that can take in the high-end shopping district or traditional markets with haggling help from your guide. B&B doubles start at HK$4,900 (£395).

Make mine a mall

America has historically led the way with shopping malls (see Minnesota's Mall of America, or "the Megamall" – . However, Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai are determined to steal its crown by adding ice-rinks, indoor ski slopes, canals and restaurants.

Premium Outlets ( has malls all over the US packed with discounted designer shops. Two of the most popular are Woodbury Common, near New York City, and Orlando Premium Outlets.

In Europe, Chic Outlet Shopping Villages (01869 323200; has malls near Paris, Milan, Barcelona, Madrid and Brussels where you can find Armani and Burberry.

The personal touch

Private tours can make the most of your time by highlighting the best places to spend your cash. In Milan, above, Viator (020-3318 0421; offers a half-day tour of shops from £111.

Chic Shopping Paris (00 33 6 77 65 08 01; offers four-hour tours of the French capital to find designer goods in consignment shops, from €100 per person.

Seek New York Tours (001 888 274 8580; seeknewyork offers a three-hour vintage clothing tour from $75 (£47) per person. In London, Urban Gentry (020-8149 6253; offers a three-hour Super Style tour taking in the capital's independent and cutting-edge brands. A tour for up to five guests costs £165.

The emirate has a month-long shopping festival in January (

Dubai or not Dubai

The Mall of the Emirates (00 971 4 409 9000; mallof has 250 international brand stores and two hotels, the Hotel Pullman ( with doubles from €179; and the Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates ( with B&B doubles from Dh135 (£228).

Head to the gold and spice souks for a more authentic shopping experience.

Markets and mistletoe

Get into the festive spirit with a tour of Europe's glittering Christmas markets. Leger Holidays (0844 846 0808; has seven-day tours of markets in Salzburg, Munich, above, and Innsbruck from £379 including coach travel, B&B and four dinners.

Two Christmas markets combine with a free ice-skating rink in Kungstradgarden Park in Stockholm. Skansen market has stallholders dressed in 19th-century garb (weekends from 24 November). In the Old Town, Stortorget square sells jams and homemade sausages daily from the same date. British Airways (0844 493 0787; has two nights' B&B at the Hotel Attaché including flights from £189pp.

Prague hosts markets in the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square. Carrier (0161 491 7650; has three nights' B&B at the Augustine Hotel from £425pp, including flights.

Count on a cruise

One of the major benefits of taking to sea for a shopping trip is the unlimited luggage allowance and the number of places you can cover in one short trip.

Fred Olsen (01473 746175; has an antiques-themed voyage for 2013, led by Antiques Roadshow expert Lars Tharp. The 14-night Art of the Mediterranean cruise departs from Southampton and visits Spain, Corsica and Portugal. Prices start at £1,459 for an inside cabin, including all meals and entertainment.

Cruise and Maritime Voyages (0845 430 0274; has a three-night Christmas markets cruise, departing from London Tilbury Docks and calling at Antwerp – for markets in Bruges and Brussels – and Amsterdam. The cruise costs from £219 per person including all meals and departs on 16 December.

Celebrity Cruises (0844 493 2043; now has the Celebrity iLounge – making it the first authorised Apple reseller at sea.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Day In a Page

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor