Top 10 best international cities for shopping

It’s a familiar feeling… The sweaty palms, a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath. You’ve dreamt about this moment and it’s finally here – staring you in the face with a come hither look that says, “You know you want me” and the reality is, you do. You fumble for your wallet in the bottomless pit of a bag you carry around and rush toward the “sale” sign you spotted through the endless faces and stores on the street. Nothing will come between you and the latest must-have accessory of the season.

While there’s no better place for fashion stateside than New York or Los Angeles, the rest of the world is just waiting for you to try it on and take it home. If you enjoy a little retail therapy on your vacation, or just need a reason to get out of the country, we’ve compiled the best cities in the world for your next shopping excursion. Now is the time to balance the bank account, then hop a flight and head out to some of these best cities in the world for shopping. Just don’t forget to buy an extra suitcase so you can bring it all home.

1. Rome: From the Via Conditti to the Jewish Quarter, there is nothing a shopper can’t find in this Italian city. Rome is the birthplace of some of the world’s best fashion ideas-turned-labels, and there’s enough variation in budgets to appeal to any traveler. Stay near the Spanish Steps and you’ll only have to walk a few blocks to find the very best in designer brands or haggle over the price of a silk scarf with one of the street vendors. My suggestion: Head into the Ferragamo store on the Via Conditti and buy yourself a new pair of Italian leather gloves. They’re unlike any pair of gloves you’ve tried on in a department store back home, and every time you slip your hands in them you’ll be reminded of Rome.

2. Paris: Mention “Paris” and “shopping” in the same sentence and a girl will go weak in the knees. There are three streets you need to know: The Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Avenue Montaigne, and The Boulevard Saint-Germain. Take a stroll down any or all of these streets and you’re guaranteed to leave with something wrapped beautifully in a designer bag. Paris is the mecca for fashion-forward designers but holds a special place in its heart for the classics like Chanel, Chloe and Dior. If apparel and accessories aren’t your thing, head to Montmartre and visit the Artist’s Square. Shop for original artwork and jewelry, straight from the artists’ hands.

3. Marrakesh: You can rock the kasbah but can you shop the souk? First-timers to Marrakesh will be in shock when they first enter the souk; repeat visitors will be in heaven. It’s one of the most challenging shopping excursions you’ll ever come across, but also the most rewarding. The name of the game here is bargaining. From the silk stalls to the spice racks, negotiations rule the way. Remember: bargaining is a way of life for Moroccans, so don’t be afraid to test out your skills. You’ll likely walk away with a piece of pottery or one-of-a-kind hand-woven Moroccan rug for significantly less than you’d pay for in the states. Word of advice: Before you start shopping, take a moment to take it all in. The souk is one of the most exciting places in the world filled with some of the most exotic scents and spices. Close your eyes, take a deep breathe, inhale the atmosphere, then get shopping!4. Milan: If Rome is the home to some of the world’s best shopping, Milan is where you’ll find designers’ pending debuts. Milan is Rome’s secret weapon – a pleasure seekers paradise dressed in the best fabrics, prints and cuts possible. Catwalks come alive in Milan. Break out your best pair gladiator platforms and strut down the secret alleyways where you’ll find some of fashion’s best kept secrets. You’ll go home with something completely extraordinary and one-of-a-kind… and likely the envy of all your friends at next season’s fashion week.

5. Berlin: The German hot-spot is steadily climbing up the fashion ladder. Typically known for its industrial atmosphere, Berlin is fast becoming the see-and-be-seen art center and welcoming a few more fashion houses to the mix. The best part about shopping in Berlin? Because the designers are so new to the area, the discounts are beyond compare. Take time to walk through lofts and boutiques and you’ll find some of fashion’s hidden gems in the racks at a fraction of the cost.

6. Sydney: This Australian city is quite comparable to New York when it comes to shopping. You can get anything you want in Sydney, you just have to know where to go. Start at the Queen Victoria Building and peruse the 400 shops that range from hand-drawn world maps to designer boutiques and antique stores. If you’re feeling a bit more spendy, head to Castlereagh Street and shop the designer boutiques, or take a spin along Circular Quay for some kitschy items to take back home with you.

7. Hong Kong: Throw away the preconceived notions of Hong Kong as an electronics-only shopping mecca. The gadget-friendly Hong Kong has come a long way in shopping and today offers visitors everything from street markets to mega malls. Pick up anything and everything in Hong Kong, from jade to silk, to the latest electronics and far-out gadgets. The Jade Market in Yau Ma Tai is a must – walk through 400 stalls all laden with the green gem said to symbolize long life and good health.

8. London: No one does fashion quite like London. The UK’s most popular city also features some of the most unique designs. Just look around when you’re out for a stroll – Londeners dress in all sorts of varieties, from regal to conventional to funky and retro. Shop the trendy boutiques of Covent Garden and Marylebone High Street, or shop the stalls of Camden Market and Portobello Market, a haven for antiques and once-owned treasures. Of course, once can’t miss a stop inside the famous Harrods, if nothing else to buy a shopping tote of the same name to carry all your purchases.

9. Buenos Aires: Buenos Aires is home to some of the world’s most beautiful people so it’s only appropriate they wear the most beautiful clothes. So where to the beautiful go when they want to shop? They head downtown, where streets ooze chain stores and retailers waiting to take your pesos. Those with more money to spend head to the upscale neighborhood of Recoleta. Don’t leave Buenos Aires without some leather — the handbags, jackets, shoes and belts are the best leather goods in the world and offered at an excellent value. Remember, the beauty of Buenos Aires isn’t just in what you wear… it’s how you wear it.

10. St. Barths: When most people think of the Caribbean they lose their thoughts to white sand beaches, blue waters and boats. But the French-owned St. Barthélemy (a.k.a. St. Barths) has all these things and more: it’s known as the capital of the Caribbean shopping scene. Thanks to endless duty-free stores, shopping at Dior, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Cartier, and Hermes can be less expensive than if you shopped in the states and, many of items in stock in the Caribbean aren’t available stateside, which makes them unique to your collection.

20 great destinations for shopping

Shoppers of all kinds will fall in love with the places that made this list of the top 20 cities for shopping. Whether you live nearby or are planning a trip, this list offers places ideal for anyone in need of some retail therapy.

New Orleans, Louisiana

The French Quarter and Bourbon Street are only the starting point in the unique shopping destinations you’ll find in New Orleans. Stroll the French Market and pick up vibrant art from street vendors, or dash down a side street and discover one of the many galleries and specialty shops that sell one-of-a-kind items. This is also where you’ll find all manner of New Orleans themed clothing, voodoo dolls, postcards, and other tourist finds.

After exploring The Quarter, head to Magazine Street, where many of the city’s college students and young professionals flock. If treasures for the home are what you are looking for, then trek to Aux Belles Choses, a “shabby-chic” shop where the owners hand-pick each addition to their store. For the hottest fashions, try Buffalo Exchange and Funky Monkey, where hip fashionistas trade in their old clothes for new outfits and accessories. Be on the lookout for the latest trends and vintage frocks and accessories.Toronto, Canada
I love the the Distillery District, a pedestrian mall and historical district where a number of Toronto’s emerging artists and designers have shops. Tour the works of art at one of Thomas Landry Gallery’s two locations or browse rack after rack of denim masterpieces at Lileo. Peruse the collections of artists like Wendy Walgate, who create pieces with deep meaning out of familiar materials.

Established in 1975, Courage My Love is a Bohemian shopping mecca and is where Hollywood stylists and starlets flock to accessorize. It’s like looking through a friend’s closet, if the closet just happened to take up an entire store. If luxury is more your style, then make tracks to Zenobia, where a personal shopper will compile a perfect wardrobe for you. Your Zenobia representative will help you craft your style months in advance then have your pieces tailored in season.

Tokyo, Japan
The pomp and ceremony at Mitsukoshi is incredible. Founded in the 17th Century, this Japanese department store chain has the most outstanding customer service I have ever seen. Here you can find everything from traditional Japanese garb to gardening tools. Visit the main store in the Nihombashi District or one of the other buildings placed conveniently throughout the city. Another historical and traditional store is Kyukyodo, which sells stationary and writing supplies. Here, even sheets of paper can be works of art.

Boston, Massachusetts
Boston is a city of American prestige and history. While you are here, take in the sights and enjoy the city’s luxuries. At Firestone and Parson, you can find fine exquisite antique estate jewelry and silver as as well as new baubles. Louis Boston is one of the world’s premier sellers of fine clothing. The staff is second to none, and they go the extra mile to get to know their customers. They will work with you to ensure your new wardrobe matches the current fashion climate and your own personal style. While you are in town, design a custom handbag at Lill Studio or, if you don’t have the time, browse their ready-made collection. This innovative store makes shopping an affair to remember.

Marrakesh, Morocco
For Western travelers, Morocco is an exotic and exciting shopping destination. This is why the winding streets around Marrakesh’s Djamaa El Fna Square, with its labyrinth of treasures, plus its hustlers and haggling shopkeepers, is a must see. For a dizzying array of local and international herbs and spices, visit Herboriste du Paradis.

Beijing, China
Beijing is a flourishing shopping city set in the shadow of the iconic Great Wall. You can visit the traditional night market and pick up the usual tourist trinkets, but it’s the quiet cultural revolution taking place here that really gets me excited. China’s art scene is exploding, and I’ve found that it’s easier than ever to find works by contemporary Chinese artists. Formerly a state owned factory district, the 798 Art District is an amazing collection of designer boutiques and galleries, where you can find everything from pop art to chic designer clothing. It is breathtaking to see how the artists-in-residence have transformed and divided their space.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Abu Dhabi is a land of luxury and excess for travelers. Enjoy the modern feel and energetic nightlife, but I would suggest visiting shops with a more local feel. Al Motahajiba sells traditional head scarves and Muslim dress, but you can also find glamorous party dresses and formal wear. Some of these dresses will leave you breathless (but so might the price tags). And, if you truly want to experience Middle Eastern luxury at its best, shop at The Paris Gallery, where you will find traditional perfumes and exclusive luxury products.

Mumbai, India
Mumbai is a bustling, busy, and sometimes dirty city. My favorite shopping destination was Mangadalas Market, where there are plenty of bargains on everything from textiles to clothing, both modern and traditional. This is a great place to find accent pieces (and fabrics to make your own) for your home. Women should definitely check out Naina’s, where you can order customized saris. And, Cottage Industries Emporium has an unbelievable selection of crafts made by skilled Indian artisans.

Tahiti, French Polynesia
For me, Tahiti is THE place to buy pearls. You can find the natural marvels in every shape, color, and size. At Te Tevake Creations, carved mother of pearl and natural pearls are used in exquisite jewelry combinations. Robert Wan offers pearl jewelry in distinctive designs. If you’re looking for more traditional arts and crafts to prove you were here, try the market Le Marche.

Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul is full of fascinating bazaars and traditional retailers. I loved navigating the stalls at The Grand Bazaar, even though I only got to experience a handful of the loud, bustling marketplace. It has more than 4,000 shops and was established in the 15th Century. The Spice Bazaar is much smaller, but the selection of edible treasures in the form of spices, teas, and more is dizzying. And, at Melda Silverware, the traditional silver is simply stunning.

– The above was written by Wendy Withers, Seed contributor



Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, Hawaii

I stumbled upon the Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, while searching for a place to buy sandals and I ended up spending hours there. Besides having almost 300 popular stores, the indoor/outdoor setup of the Ala Moana Center provides the ideal environment for both enjoying the Hawaiian heat and cooling off.

Chinatown in Seattle, Washington
Having visited the Chinatown districts of many cities, it’s safe to say that Seattle’s International District beats them all. Besides the shopping, it offers numerous art galleries, restaurants and bars. The Venus Karaoke bar is a must for experiencing karaoke the traditional Asian way, in a private room without strangers watching as you belt out a tune.

Desert Ridge Marketplace in Phoenix, Arizona
As I strolled around the Desert Ridge Marketplace in Phoenix, I couldn’t help but feel as though I was walking in a stunning desert park. It’s a place where you can easily spend an entire day. After visiting the shops, I enjoyed an outdoor dinner as I watched the sun set. After the meal I relaxed and painted pottery at the As You Wish Pottery Painting Place, and played video games at Dave & Buster’s while waiting for it to be finished.

Georgetown Flea Market in Washington, DC
The Georgetown Flea Market is perfect for bargain hunters searching for vintage items. Perusing the market is half the fun, rummaging through the antique pieces wondering what you will find. I was lucky enough to come across 3 vintage 1950’s dresses, all for a discounted price significantly lower than anyplace else I have purchased them in the past.

Greenwich Village, New York City
The Greenwich Village shopping experience is unlike any other and is what landed it on this list of the 20 best cities for shopping. Every trip made to Strand Bookstore results in a rare find, and I still love the bright pink fishnets purchased at Ricky’s. The best find of all time? An authentic vintage Chinese wedding gown for the low price of $100, found amongst other unique items at Stella Dallas.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Lancaster, Pennsylvania offers diverse shopping. I scored an Amish rocking chair then enjoyed a family-style Pennsylvania-Dutch home cooked meal. The city’s multiple outlet centers prompt return trips every year, and is especially beneficial for school shopping. Extensive sales often bring the prices down to less than $10 an item, and on my last trip to the Lancaster outlets, I left with 12 items for less than $100.

Siena, Italy
The shopping in Siena, Italy provides a noteworthy alternative to the shops found in Rome or Milan. In addition to the many boutiques, Siena offers a variety of weekend markets. I purchased handmade bowls at a tremendous discount as well as several homemade bottles of olive oil that incidentally were selling for $10 more in Rome.

Piccadilly Circus in London, England
A major intersection in London, at first glance Piccadilly Circus doesn’t seem to have much to offer for shopping. However once the weekend comes, Piccadilly springs to life. The weekend market is the perfect place to purchase small trinkets and inexpensive souvenirs. I was able to score postcards, small purse and handmade paper, all on a student budget.

South Congress Street in Austin, Texas

South Congress Street in Austin, Texas, better known as “SoCo,” epitomizes the Austin experience. With a motto of “Keep Austin Weird”, the city boasts several unique and odd places to shop. Staying at the famous Austin Motel on SoCo allowed me to feel like a local, drinking coffee at the trendy Austin Java while taking in the shopping on a daily basis. I came home with loads of fun accessories, one-of-a-kind clothing items and handmade soaps all made by local Austin folks.

The Grove in Los Angeles, California
If you enjoy shopping at a traditional mall, you will love the last of the 20 best cities for shopping, The Grove in L.A. Instead of housing the shops in one building, The Grove spreads the stores across an outdoor pavilion riddled with water fountains. The atmosphere is ideal for taking in the beautiful Los Angeles weather, and I was able to meet several local people who recommended night spots.

– The above was written by Rebecca Reinstein, Seed contributor

Related:
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* The 20 greatest cities in the world for foodies

Coming attractions: Morocco

Morocco isn’t exactly off-the-beaten-path for many Europeans– in fact, this North African country lies only eight miles away from Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar. But it’s a world away in terms of culture, language, religion, geography, and just about everything else.

Americans, who are much more scarce in Morocco than Europeans, are missing out on perhaps the world’s safest Muslim country, a small but varied landscape filled with mountains, valleys, deserts, beaches, and the most hospitable people you’ll probably ever meet.

The best way to see Morocco is by spending time with the people who actually live there. Even more so than in other countries, Morocco offers a whole range of experiences to locals (and friends of locals) that are simply not available to casual tourists. The markets, for example, are notoriously labyrinthine, and only locals will know the best places to shop and eat. Going shopping with a local will keep you from getting out-haggled by a canny carpet vendor, and eating a traditional meal– with delicious bread, olives, dates, tajine, and couscous– in a Moroccan family’s home is an experience unlike any other.If you want to spend time with native Moroccans, I cannot recommend Couchsurfing enough. Over a thousand locals– in the imperial city of Fes, the booming metropolis of Casablanca, in spectacular Marrakesh, and dozens of other cities– are registered on Couchsurfing and they’re eager to show you around their country.

Whether you stay with a local or not, here are some of the places in Morocco you absolutely shouldn’t miss:

  • Marrakesh, with its one-of-a-kind Djemaa el Fna (pictured above), a massive central square that buzzes at night with snake charmers, impromptu boxing matches, magicians, and some of the best street food you’ll ever taste.
  • Chefchaouen, a northern hill town known for its light blue color (pictured right) and the kif (hashish) that grows in its surrounding fields
  • The imperial city of Fes, home to the mesmerizing medina of Fes el Bali
  • The intimidating, gritty, and still sorta’ charming port town of Tangier, where travelers just off the ferry from Spain disembark– and are confronted with indefatigable taxi drivers and touts.
  • The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, the world’s largest mosque outside of Mecca and Medina. Daily tours (except Friday) offer non-Muslims a rare chance to peek inside the usually off-limits place of worship for Muslims.
  • Beautiful Essaouira and Agadir, coastal towns that offer visitors Atlantic beaches, wonderful weather, and tasty seafood. They’re also great places to begin an excursion into the Sahara Desert just to the south.

GET THERE

Ferries travel daily from Algeciras and Tarifa in southern Spain to the Moroccan port town of Tangier. The ride lasts about an hour and is inexpensive.

As for air travel, Morocco’s main hubs are Casablanca and Rabat. Flights are also available to Marrakesh, Agadir, Fes, and several other cities.

For more up-and-coming destinations, check out the rest of Gadling’s series “Coming Attractions” here.

Morocco by motorcycle

The guys over at Urban Daddy have been on a roll lately, unearthing some pretty cool packaged tours. First there was Urbane Nomads’ dive trip to the Great Wall of China. Now they’ve found an organized luxury tour of Morocco, by motorcycle.

Hispania Tours offers a 15-day tour through Morocco that features 13 days of riding on BMW motorcycles. The route starts and ends in Malaga, Spain, and includes stops in Marrakech, High Atlas, Fez, Erg Chebbi, and Merzouga in Morocco. At close to €4000, it’s not cheap. But for the price, you’ll get a guide who’ll lead your group of up to 8 riders along the route, a chase van that will take care of any breakdowns and transport your luggage from place to place, accommodations in 3- and 4-star hotels, breakfasts and dinners, all ferry tolls, insurance, and a camel ride at Merzouga.

The company also runs tours through Spain and Portugal, which range from €2000 to €3000 per person. Self-guided tours that include just hotel and motorcycle start at €1300 and motorcycle rentals only start at €75 per day. Pillions (riders who sit behind the motorcycle driver on the same bike) pay about 1/4 of the full rate and according to the website, routes can be tailored according to experience level.

Relax in style at the Hotel Hivernage

The greeting you’ll receive at the Hotel Hivernage is pure charm, but it requires patience. Instead of tapping your toe at the front desk while the guy in front of you spills his life story, you’ll be invited to sit in the lobby while you complete your check-in forms. The staff is not in a rush, so set aside your New York-sculpted expectations. This first taste will set the tone for your stay: relaxed, luxurious and high-tough.

When you visit Marrakech, you’ll be tempted to stay in the medina (i.e., inside the city’s walls). Trade proximity for comfort with the Hivernage. It’s a short walk to the medina, though a taxi is prudent (and cheap) depending on where you want to go. Being able to retreat from the craziness of the narrow alleys at the end of the day will be worth the seeming inconvenience. While the action inside the walls is fast and the environs confined, the Hivernage is spacious and clean.

No detail is overlooked, from the melon juice cocktail served at check-in to the rose petals scattered in your room’s sink and bathtub. Stretch out on the king-sized bed at the end of the day, or sip a glass of wine out on your private balcony.

Hivernage offers several dining options, including a bar, full-service restaurant and café (which is great for breakfast). Menus are available in both English and French, and the waitstaff can accommodate both languages (and Arabic), as well. The food is tasty, but neither adventurous nor exotic. Both local and western dishes are provided.

Be sure to block a day off to spend in the hotel’s spa. You can take advantage of a variety of treatments, including several traditional therapies. The contrast to the souks – the shops in the medina – is profound, but you’ll be too subdued to care when the stress of haggling with the medina’s merchants is kneaded from your back and shoulders.

This touch of luxury is not as expensive as you would expect. A comparable hotel in New York or Paris would cost you at least $500 a night. I spent just under $150 a night for the Hivernage … expensive by local standards but absolutely worth it.