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

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Ten Great Cities for Photography

Some cities just draw you in, beckoning you to capture their souls on camera. There are billions of places in the world where photo ops abound — The Pyramids, Rome, London, and The Great Wall of China are a few of the most famous examples.

Here are ten less common places where magnificent scenery, people, and everyday life are like no other — and can lead to some terrific travel photography.

Budapest, Hungary

Quite simply, Budapest has the most exquisite architecture. The detail of the buildings is like no other, especially at dusk — they all seem to change color with the succession of each frame.

Further, the winding River Danube dividing the city is a spectacular sight, with its bridges spaced at precise intervals.

Fira, Santorini Islands, Greece
Everyone has seen images of Santorini, one of the famed Greek Islands, but somehow when it’s captured through your own lens, it speaks to you of ancient time and tradition, of a different culture that you have only read about in history books.

Views of the volcano and spectacular sunsets in Fira, Santorini’s capital city, seem surreal. The people and their faces, the blue sky touching the blue water — both blue, yet somehow distinct — and the white stucco houses and churches, restaurants and tavernas are images that bring a serenity to your heart and a love for all things Greek!

Tokyo, Japan
Alive and bustling around the clock, people-watching in Tokyo is like no other place on earth. The vibrancy of this 24-hour city — the neon signs and jumbo-trons in Shibuya, the color, the streets — you don’t know where to look first.

Divided into sections called wards, each section has its own allure. Despite the differences among the wards, though, you can easily sense the fast pace of this city in its photos.

San Francisco, California, USA
Synonymous with diverse culture, ocean scenery, and unusual topography, this San Francisco is a photographer’s best friend. The streets winding through here — from exclusive Nob Hill, to Chinatown, from Fisherman’s Wharf, to the Embarcadero, from Haight Ashbury, to the Mission District — provide the contrasts of life in this hilly town.

Moreover, the fantastic views of the San Francisco and Bay Bridges make for a fantastic portfolio of visual memory. Even the weather is photogenic — with it’s rolling fog enveloping the bridges and hovering close to the ocean.


Paris, France
No list would be complete without mentioning Paris, for obvious reasons. Despite having seen thousands of images of the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe, each one still makes me gasp just a little. Moreover, taking my own photographs of the sights of Paris, both day and night, make me smile.

This sophisticated City of Lights has “that Wow Factor.” Snapshots of Moulin Rouge, Sacre Coeur, The Louvre with it’s glass pyramid, or sitting on a park bench in the Jardin des Tuileries capturing the heart of the French people, all display such a span of eras in France — new versus old. The meandering Seine River, with boats lazily drifting by, reflect a relaxing calm. The allure of this city is that even if you have never visited, you can identify it unmistakably through photos.


Nazare, Portugal
This seaside village, north of Lisbon, is an out-of-the-way, modest, fishing village. The people sitting on their stone sidewalks, playing musical instruments, or selling fruits and nuts under colorful umbrellas, have that intriguing look from another time. Their happy and smiling faces will fill your lens with joyful simplicity. Even the food is delightful to photograph with it’s authentic ethnicity, caught right at the ocean’s edge and cooked to perfection.

One of the other things you may be drawn to in Nazare are the old doors and doorways, brightly colored and uniquely shaped and sized. A collection of those door photos is one of my prized possessions, since it always conjures memories of my visit.

Obidos, Portugal
This l3th century Portuguese town, built within a castle, is a step back in time. Nowhere else I’ve seen can you zoom back in time that far while surfing the Net in the local cafe.

Capturing people at work here — serious and intense — in Obidos was my favorite, not to mention that they still live in colorful village apartments above their stone shops with clay roofs, surrounded by olive trees and churches. It’s here in this picturesque village that I’ve captured countless photos of the intricate stone and exquisite tile work for which the Portuguese are famous.

Lucca, Italy
Calling all food and wine lovers! Lucca, a city in central Italy, beckons you. Located on a wall with an amazing array of churches, this village waits to be viewed and appreciated.

In Lucca, you can learn to cook and eat Italian food, bike, sightsee and capture the most unforgettable photos of authentic Italian life. Nothing is more beautiful here than pictures of food, because in Italy, food is an art!

Hollywood, California, USA
Hooray for Hollywood! Quintessential Tinseltown! This is where star-gazing in every form is a pastime. Celebrities abound, and glitz and glamor is everywhere. All the landmarks, from Hollywood and Vine, to Sunset Boulevard, to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, seem surreal and indulgent.

Everyone’s seen images of Santorini, but when it’s captured through your lens, it speaks of time and tradition, of a culture you’ve only read about in history books.

Casts of characters (literally and figuratively) line the streets, sometimes in the flesh and sometimes in the form of the Walk of Fame Stars. It’s everywhere, waiting for the eye of the lens. be sure to keep your camera firmly in hand, ready for that celebrity sighting.

Road Town, Tortola, BVI
Down into the Caribbean Sea we go to capture a special kind of tranquility in photography. The small Island of Tortola, BVI, (capital city: Road Town) accessible by a ferry, entices you right at the dock.

The houses are brightly painted in Caribbean blues and greens, with splashes of pinks and corals. There’s nothing like a photo of that gorgeous aqua clear-to-the-bottom water! Further, sunsets on Cane Garden Bay are tranquil purples, golds and blues. Also, the slower pace is evident and amazingly (and easily) conveyed through a lens.

Hundreds of thousands of places around the world are worthy of being photographed, but these wonderful places are each a treasure trove to be captured and remembered.


Want more? Don’t forget to check out Gadling’s series, “Through The Gadling Lens,” which explains how to get the most out of your travel photos.

Big in Japan: A Look Inside My Tokyo Apartment

This week I decided that I needed a change of surroundings, so I moved to the Nakameguro (??????) district in Tokyo. It’s a highly-respectable neighborhood bordering on the entertainment district of Shibuya (???) and the wealthy residential district of Yebisu (????). To simplify things a bit, it’s within easy striking (or stumbling) distance of the bar and club scene, yet offers all the peace and isolation of a residential area.

And, it’s surprisingly cheap, and much nicer and bigger than you’d imagine.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a two part series on the Myth of Money in Japan, which argued that Japan is surprisingly more affordable than you would imagine. The responses to my post ran the gamut from ‘You’re absolutely correct and thanks for acknowledging what I already knew!’ to ‘You’re an absolute idiot and thanks for wasting five minutes of my life.’

Hey – there’s always a critic!

Well, in order to throw some more fuel into the fire, I’ve decided to give you all a virtual tour of my apartment. Hopefully, this will help dispel the myth that the Japanese live in crowded shoeboxes that rent for thousands of dollars a month.

First of all, the renting agency is a popular foreign-friendly company known as Sakura House (www.sakura-house.com). My room is located in a gaijin house (外人ハウス) or foreigner house that is aimed exclusively at ex-pats temporarily living in Japan.

Although prices vary considerably depending on the neighborhood, my current room lists for ¥83,000 a month including utilities and wireless internet. Depending on the current exchange rate, this is about $690 to $755 a month – not bad for one of the nicest districts in Tokyo.

As you can see from the pictures, it’s spacious (approximately 100 sq m), and comes furnished with a good bed and a somewhat shoddy but workable desk from which I am writing this column. However, take notice of the stone fireplace that sits behind the computer, as well as the polished wooden floors and closets.

The best part of course is the enormous picture window and sliding doors that face out towards the neighborhood. I overlook a number of traditional Japanese-style houses, and there is a Shinto temple complex in the distance.

Not bad for what is commonly referred to as the most expensive city in the world! Try finding a room this nice in New York City for less than $1000 a month.

The house itself is shared by seven other foreigners, all of whom have their own private rooms as well. In regards to common space, we have a fairly spacious kitchen, a lounge with satellite TV, two and a half bathrooms and an onsite washer and dryer.

Still not sold that living in Tokyo is prohibitively expensive? Consider the fact that the house is located only five minutes by foot from the subway station. If you’re a fan of convenience, I should also point out that the station has a number of restaurants, small shops and even a grocery store.

Now do you believe me that Japan can be bargain if you know where to look?

Big in Japan: The Myth About Money

Let’s start off by dispelling a common myth – are you ready for this?

(I know you’re not going to believe me, but just bare with me for a few moments).

Japan is not astronomically expensive. There – I said it. In fact, compared with most major cities in North America and Europe, I’d argue that it’s a bargain.

Are you still reading this? I fear that I may have already lost most of my audience with such a seemingly absurd statement, but if you’re still reading this post, let me explain.

In March of 2007, the Worldwide Cost of Living survey released by the Economist Group lists Tokyo and Osaka as the 5th and 6th most expensive cities in the world. Truth be told, this year was a marked departure from previous lists in that Tokyo and Osaka weren’t entrenched in the number one and two spots. According to experts (who know way more about economics than I do), this year’s chart topping cities of Oslo, Paris and Copenhagen were given a boost thanks to a strengthening euro and the declining dollar.

So what’s going on here? How can I, in the face of experts, still argue that Japan is a bargain? Bear with me for a few more paragraphs – I’m almost there.

The biggest expense that most Japanese contend with is the soaring price of real estate, which is made all the more absurd by the total lack of developable land. The term ‘shoebox apartment’ has a whole different meaning in Japan, where 100 sq ft is arguably a palace. Indeed, when my Japanese friends first came to the states to stay with my family at our modest – by American standards – house in suburban New Jersey, they seriously thought we were oil moguls.

Assuming you can get over the lack of space, it’s possible to live in a shared apartment in central Tokyo for only a few hundred dollars a month, which pales in comparison to the money my friends pay in New York City, London and San Francisco. Sure, a lot of the buildings in Tokyo are asylum-esque concrete monstrosities built in the 1950s and 1960s (hardly the Golden Age of architectural achievement). But, it’s possible to find some great places out here if you know where to look.

Case in point – I’m currently renting a room in a two-story traditional Japanese house just a few minutes from Shibuya, one of Tokyo’s most fashionable entertainment districts. My room has wooden floors and picture windows, and enough space to put on my writer’s cap on and hammer out this column.

(Next week I’ll go into detail about apartment hunting, and give you some tips on what to look for).

Of course, I haven’t even touched on how affordable it is to eat out in Japan, particularly if you know how to avoid the expensive spots. One of the themes of this feature column is going to be Japan’s unique (to say the least) cuisine, so we’ll return to this issue several times in the near future. And finally, with the world’s best public transportation system, and a bike-riding culture to boot, you don’t need a car to live in Japan, which is a significant savings if you’re moving here from North America.

Are you sold yet? If not, tune in next week for a posting about apartment hunting in Tokyo. And don’t worry – there will be plenty of time to delve into the full culinary spectrum of Japan!

Photo of the Day (6/30/07)

It’s Saturday night, the mood is right and so it is time to hit the streets of Shibuya – right? These night time city lights were captured by sarah.and.michael while hanging around Japan in 2005 sometime. Lucky them and nice shot!