It’s that season again. Time to join the crowds in a mad dash to find the perfect gifts for your loved ones this holiday season. We understand how overwhelming department stores and malls can be this time of year, so we’re looking at shopping streets, districts and experiences around the world that make shopping a treat.
Rodeo Drive – Los Angeles, USA
Immortalized by Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, Rodeo Drive is one of the most posh strips of boutique shopping in the world. Nestled in LA’s exclusive Beverly Hills neighborhood, the three-block-long mecca of high-end institutions (think Dolce & Gabbana, Christian Dior, Versace) is an absolute must for visitors to the West Coast.
Chatuchak Weekend Market – Bangkok, Thailand
Drink plenty of water before you venture out to Chatuchak, Thailand’s largest market. Bangkok’s sprawling take on a flea market covers 35 acres, giving Westerners a chance to bargain for antiques, handmade crafts, artwork and souvenirs. But the savings comes at a price: Narrow alleys and aggressive vendors make for an overwhelming experience. You’ll find the mayhem worth it, though, when you head home with hard-to-find merchandise and, of course, the experience.
Bond Street – London, England
The West End of London is a pedestrian’s delight. Add in Bond Street and you’ve got a little taste of consumer heaven. The most luxurious shops in the world are slotted between Oxford Street and Piccadilly, giving visitors a chance to explore the city’s impressive history and retailers at the same time. Sotheby’s auction house, an icon for more than a hundred years, still stands today.
Masai Market – Nairobi, Kenya
Practice your bartering skills before venturing to Masai Market, Nairobi’s culture-packed marketplace. Artists and merchants set up stalls in different locations throughout the city – depending on the day of the week – and sell everything from tribal masks to trinkets to handcrafted jewelry. Don’t be surprised if the elephant tail hair bracelet you purchase turns out to be made of plastic – not the hair of an elephant’s tail. Knockoffs are prevalent and good deals are hard to make. But with the right mindset (you must be willing to walk away from a sale), you’ll have the experience of a lifetime.
Fifth Avenue – New York, USA
Is there a better time of year to visit New York City than the holiday season? (Answer: no.) The city comes alive as Rockefeller Center lights up, ice skaters get in line at Bryant Park, and New Yorkers and tourists alike scour the city – block by block – for gifts galore. The ultimate New York Shopping experience: Fifth Avenue. The most luxurious boutiques on the globe cram into a few blocks of prime real estate on this Manhattan stretch. And for those unwilling to spend a bundle, there are the holiday window displays – a destination in themselves.
Strøget – Copenhagen, Denmark
Europe’s longest pedestrian shopping area offers a wonderful spectrum of stores (from high-end boutiques to souvenir shops) and people (from street performers to magicians to eager-to-buy tourists). Linking Town Hall Square in the west with King’s New Square in the east, the car-free streets include everything from international luxury brands – including Prada, Louis Vuitton and Hermès – to local, more affordable retailers.
Panjiayuan Antique Market – Beijing, China
Sometimes referred to as the “dirt market” or the “weekend market,” China’s largest flea market is a must-experience attraction. Merchants show up all week long (despite the nickname) to sell both authentic and fake antiques, artwork, textiles and other local goods. Haggle like the best of them and you could walk away with exquisite jade, porcelain, fine art, furniture and more at a fraction of the cost you’d pay anywhere else.
Bahnhofstrasse – Zurich, Switzerland
Bahnhofstrasse is one of the most exclusive shopping streets on the planet. Home to luxury heavyweights like Burberry, Dior and Salvatore Ferragamo, the 1.4-km-long street, translated as “Station Street,” is a paragon of high-end shopping. Sophisticated shoppers put their no-limit credit cards down for jewelry, designer clothes and – of course – chocolate.
Boulevard Haussmann – Paris, France
One of the City of Light’s widest avenues, Boulevard Haussmann is home to magnificent department stores, including Galeries Lafayette and Au Printemps. Decked with lights inside and out during the holiday season, the blocks-long buildings are architectural wonders – and fantastic one-stop destinations to shop for the entire family. Find everything from jewelry to men’s and women’s clothing to gourmet food at these Parisian establishments.
Orchard Road – Singapore
The two-kilometer-long shopping hub is one of Singapore’s biggest tourist attractions. Dozens of malls line Orchard Road, offering every type of shopping option a buyer could imagine. After window browsing Gucci, Prada and Coach, consider resting your aching feet at one of the mall’s many luxurious spas or movie theaters. And, when your credit card is maxed out, head east to Bras Basah Road, where some of Singapore’s top museums – including the National Museum of Singapore and the Singapore Art Museum – are situated.
(Images: Feature, markhillary; Rodeo Drive, zoonabar; Chatuchak, Adam Kahtava; Bond Street, garryknight; Masai Market, khym54; Fifth Ave, Randy OHC; Stroget, y entonces; Panjiayuan, gill_penney; Bahnhofstrasse, Zürich Film Office; Haussmann, charley1965; Orchard Road, Nate Robert)