No place like home: what's on offer in the UK's leading thoroughfares

Turn a seasonal chore into a weekend city break. Sophie Lam and Aoife O'Riordain tell you where to shop and stay

Edinburgh

Shop till you drop

Princes Street and George Street are Edinburgh's prime targets for a spot of retail therapy. Princes Street is lined with chains including H&M, Boots and Marks & Spencer, while at 48 Princes Street you'll find Edinburgh's best-loved department store, Jenners (0131 225 2442; www.jenners.com), which claims to be the oldest independent department store in the world (it opened in 1838), selling everything from fashion and beauty to homeware and toys. Luxe department store Harvey Nichols (0131 524 8388; www.harveynichols.com) is at 30-34 St Andrew Street.

George Street offers a diverse range of shops such as Jigsaw, Space NK, Jo Malone and Molton Brown. William Street is the place to go for small boutiques, shoe shops and cafés. Off the main shopping thoroughfares, head to Visit Anta's new shop at 91-93 West Bow (0131 225 4616; www.anta.co.uk), which sells well-designed Scottish rugs, luggage and china.

In Leith, Diana Forrester's boutique at 54 Constitution Street (0131 554 4651; www.dianaforrester.co.uk) sells household gifts with a French flavour. For gourmet presents, head to cult-foodie address Valvona & Crolla (0131 556 6066; www.valvonacrolla.com), at 19 Elm Row.

Retail refuel

The newly opened VinCaffè (0131 557 0088; www.valvonacrolla.com), at 11 Multrees Walk, the latest venture from the owners of Valvona & Crolla, is a café, bar, wine shop and bakery combined.

Bed for the night

The Scotsman (0131 556 5565; www.thescotsmanhotel.co.uk), at 20 North Bridge, is perfectly placed for post-retail collapse and houses the brand new Cowshed Spa. Doubles start at £180 per room per night with breakfast. Ricks (0131 622 7800; www.ricksedinburgh.co.uk), at 55a Frederick Street, has 10 stylish bedrooms above a buzzy restaurant in New Town and is well located for shopping. Doubles start at £110 per room per night with breakfast.

Newcastle

Shop till you drop

Newcastle's principal shopping destinations include the Eldon Square (0191 261 1891; www.eldon-square.co.uk) and Eldon Gardens (0191 261 0117) malls in the city centre. Eldon Square is filled with the usual high-street retailers, while Eldon Gardens is more sedate, with specialist retailers. Eldon Square also has a branch of Fenwick (0191 232 5100; www.fenwick.co.uk). Monument Mall (0191 233 2323), next to Grey's Monument, is a chic new contender, with a large number of high-street and independent shops under a vast glass dome. The city's Central Arcade is an impressive fin de siècle, vaulted, glass-roofed arcade with a mosaic floor and tiled walls, accessible from Grey Street and Grainger Street. There you'll find the new V V Rouleaux (0191 261 2474; www.vvrouleaux.com), which is great for stocking up on elaborate Christmas decorations. There will be a food market by Grey's Monument every Friday and Saturday from 26 November to 18 December and a Christmas farmers' market on 3 December near Grey's Monument.

Retail refuel

Head for Baltic (0191 478 1810; www.balticmill.com), a converted flour mill that has been refurbished as a contemporary art space, for views of the Tyne from the Baltic Riverside Restaurant, which serves light meals.

Bed for the night

The Vermont Hotel (0191 233 1010; www.vermont-hotel.com) in Castle Garth is within walking distance of the major shopping districts. Rooms offer old-school comfort and great views. Doubles start at £185 per room per night, room only.

On 4 December Newcastle's first boutique hotel will open, the greystreethotel (0870 412 5100; www.nichehotels.com), at 2 Grey Street in a 19th-century Grade II-listed building. Doubles start at £129 per room per night, including breakfast.

Manchester

Shop till you drop

Manchester has both a Harvey Nichols (0161-828 8888; www.harveynichols.com) and a Selfridges (0870 8377 377; www.selfridges.co.uk). Designer shops such as Mulberry, Hermès and Joseph can be found along King Street and in the Lowry Designer Outlet (0161 848 1850; www.lowrydesigneroutlet.com) in Salford Quays, just outside Manchester.

The Northern Quarter, or N4, with Oldham Street at its core, is the place to go for quirky, less mainstream retailers. Try vintage clothes shop Pop Boutique (0161 236 5797; www.pop-boutique.com) and the Arc Gallery Store (0161 831 7454; www.arcgallerystore.com), a contemporary art gallery with an adjoining clothes and record shop.

The area around New Cathedral Street and Exchange Square in the city centre is where you'll find Selfridges and Harvey Nichols as well as stylish clothes shops and jewellers. The Triangle, the old Corn Exchange, is the place to go for Space NK and Calvin Klein.

Manchester European Christmas Market will be in Albert Square from 18 November to 19 December. The German Christmas Market will be in St Ann's Square from 18 November to 20 December, and the Christmas Arts and Crafts Market will be in Exchange Square, also from 18 November to 20 December. A speciality food market will be held on the weekends from 26 November to 19 December in Albert Square.

Retail refuel

Selfridges will tempt all tastes, with a Salt Beef Bar, Yo! Sushi, Juice Bar, Illy Coffee Bar, Gastro Bar (shellfish and champagne), and the Café Hubub, which serves bistro-style food and drinks.

Bed for the night

The Lowry Hotel (0161 827 4000; www.thelowryhotel.com) at 50 Dearman's Place in Chapel Wharf, is a short walk from the city centre. Overlooking the River Irwell and Trinity Bridge, it has won numerous awards for its luxurious and stylish rooms. Doubles start at £239 per room per night, room only.

The Alias Hotel Rossetti (0161 247 7744; www.aliasrossetti.com), at 107 Piccadilly, by the railway station, is shabby chic. Housed in a former cotton warehouse, the rooms are contemporary in design and each floor has mini diner-style kitchens stocked with pastries, juices, tea, coffee, cereals and fruit. The Indulgent Shopping Weekend break costs £209 for two people sharing a double room for two nights, including breakfast, £20 towards a meal in the hotel's Café Paradiso, entry to The Basement club, two Selfridges goodie boxes plus an exclusive personal guide to Selfridges and two-for-one lunch voucher in the store's food hall.

Birmingham

Shop till you drop

Birmingham is home to not one, but three stylish shopping centres. The iconic Bullring centre, has been transformed into a vast, futuristic-looking building offering more than 140 different shops. Its flagship store is the Birmingham outpost of Selfridges (0870 837 7377; www.selfridges.com), chock-full of designer labels. Nearby, the rejuvenated Custard Factory (www.custardfactory.com) has shops, art galleries and cafés. The Mailbox, Birmingham's other must-visit retail space, is housed in a former Royal Mail sorting office on Wharfside Street. Home to Harvey Nichols (0121 616 6000; www.harveynichols.com) and more than 50 other shops, including speciality cheeseshop Paxton & Whitfield (0121 632 1440; www.paxtonandwhitfield.co.uk). The nearby Royal Mail Street is where to head for more designer items; other places to try include the Jewellery Quarter and Hockley. Shoppers will also be able to browse around the stalls of the city's Frankfurt Christmas Market, which will sprawl across Victoria Square and upper New Street from 18 November until 22 December.

Retail refuel

Pop into Bar Estilo (0121 643 3443) for tapas and Bar Room Bar (0121 632 1199) for light snacks, both in The Mailbox overlooking the water.

Bed for the night

The Hotel du Vin (0121 200 0600; www.hotelduvin.com), Church Street, offers stylish accommodation. Doubles cost from £125 per room per night without breakfast. The Days Inn (0121 643 9344; www.daysinn.co.uk) at 160 Wharfside, is next to The Mailbox and offers doubles from £72 per room per night without breakfast.

Cardiff

Shop till you drop

Cardiff's main shopping drags are around High Street, St Mary Street and the pedestrianised Queen Street. Here you will find all the usual suspects as well as the likes of Aveda Bauhaus (02920 233 005) at 7 Mary Street and the House of Fraser department store Howells (02920 231 055). The jewels in Cardiff's shopping crown, however, are its Victorian shopping arcades, the most popular of which are Royal Arcade, Castle Arcade and High Street Arcade. These are home to many independent shops and boutiques, including Melin Tregwynt (02920 224 997) in the Royal Arcade, which sells beautiful Welsh blankets and accessories. The Christmas Arts & Crafts Festival, in the city centre around St John's Street and The Hayes, will run from 11 November to 23 December.

Retail refuel

Zushi (02920 669 911; www.zushi-uk.com), at The Aspect, 140 Queen Street, is Wales's first conveyor-belt sushi restaurant.

Bed for the night

Rocco Forte's five-star St David's Hotel and Spa (02920 454 045; www.thestdavidshotel.com), overlooking Cardiff Bay is offering a Retail Therapy package for £227 per room per night. This includes breakfast, a chauffeur-driven ride to the shops and a champagne tea for two. Cardiff's newest hotel, Jolyons, at 5 Bute Crescent, Cardiff Bay (02920 488 775: www.jolyons.com), is a townhouse offering doubles from £85with breakfast.

Bristol

Shop till you drop

As with many UK cities, Bristol's extensive dock and harbour-side districts have undergone major redevelopment over the past decade and are now home to art spaces, restaurants and cafés. Nearby, the West End is a thriving area of Victorian buildings housing independent shops, Queens Road and Park Street in particular are worth a visit. The 18th-century Corn Exchange in the old city houses the extensive St Nicholas Market which has a wide range of goods, from organic food to jewellery. A farmers' market is held outside on Wednesdays and a gift market every Friday and Saturday. Christmas markets will be held throughout December along Corn Street and in the Corn Exchange. High-street chains can be found in the Broadmead shopping centre (0117 925 7053; www.bristolbroadmead.co.uk) and in the newer Galleries mall (0117 929 0569; www.themall.co.uk) in the city centre. Around two miles to the west, close to the river, is Clifton Village, which has independent and high-street shops along Whiteladies Road and in the surrounding Georgian buildings. The Clifton Arcade (0117 974 4348) at 1a Boyces Avenue is a Victorian mall filled with antiques dealers, jewellers and craft shops.

Retail refuel

Quartier Vert (0117 973 4482; www.quartiervert.co.uk), at 85 Whiteladies Road in Clifton, uses organic ingredients and has a restaurant, a cookery school and a bakery. The varied lunch menu features dishes such as Provençale fish soup while the café bar menu leans towards Spain, offering a variety of tapas.

Bed for the night

The UK's third Hotel du Vin (0117 925 5577; www.hotelduvin.co.uk) is in the Sugar House on Narrow Lewins Mead, near the city centre and waterfront. The loft-feel rooms are in 18th-century Grade II-listed sugar warehouses. Doubles start at £130, room only.

The Berkeley Square Hotel (0117 925 4000; www.cliftonhotels.com) at 15 Berkeley Square in Clifton, has recently been refurbished in a contemporary style. Doubles start at £95 per room per night, including breakfast.

Brighton

Shop till you drop

Brighton is the place to find a present for the friend who has everything. Start in the quaint Lanes, a maze of alleyways between the seafront and North Street where designer boutiques sit cheek by jowl with antiques dealers and jewellers. Pick up divine chocolates at Montezuma's (01273 324979; www.montezumas.co.uk) at 15 Duke Street and choose heavenly scents at Pecksniff's (01273 723292; www.pecksniffs.com) at 45-46 Meeting House Lane, where you can create a bespoke fragrance. Then head to the North Laine, which spreads from North Street to Trafalgar Street and has more than 320 independent shops. Try Pussy (01273 604861; www.pussyhomeboutique.co.uk) at 3a Kensington Gardens for books, gifts and a small line of Paul Frank clothing. When you're boutiqued out, trawl around the high-street chains and designer-label shops at Brighton Marina (01273 818504; www.bmwaterfrontshopping.com) and Churchill Square (01273 327428; www.churchillsquare.com) at either end of the city.

Retail refuel

Terre à Terre (01273 729051; www.terreaterre.co.uk) at 71 East Street in the heart of the Lanes serves delicious and substantial dishes such as truffled Jerusalem artichoke risotto, sushi and tapas.

Bed for the night

Square (01273 691777; www.squarebrighton.com) at 4 New Steine off Madeira Drive is the latest addition to the burgeoning Brighton boutique hotel scene. Opened at the end of October, the listed Regency house has a sleek contemporary feel with nine rooms and a guests-only bar. Doubles start at £140 per room per night, including breakfast.

The Oriental Hotel (01273 205050; www.orientalhotel.co.uk) at 9 Oriental Place, near the seafront, offers individually decorated rooms, with an emphasis on homeliness. Doubles start at £80 per room per night, including breakfast.

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