Europe is a haven for original design and whether you’re looking for unique gifts or just on the hunt for the next big shopping label you’ll need to head to Europe’s most creative shopping regions. Our writer Holly (a vintage and independent shop connoisseur) chooses her favourite…
Nine Streets, Amsterdam
Located in the attractive Jordaan district, Nine streets is made up of three-by-three-blocks of roads prettily interwoven with the city’s famous canals. Whether you are after vintage chic, handmade jewellery, a vegetarian cafe or even a barbers that doubles as an art gallery, you’ll discover no shortage of interesting finds in the area. The whole place exudes a laid back bohemian atmosphere that is worth sitting back and absorbing over a cup of coffee or two.
Hackesche Höfe and the Mitte district, Berlin
The Mitte district is one of the trendiest parts of Berlin but if you really want to crank up the cool factor several notches then head for Hackesche Höfe, a striking complex of courtyards which is home to some beautiful boutiques and quirky little stores. The Moorish inspired main courtyard is also known for its trendy bars and stylish cafés where hip locals and curious tourists happily mingle. There are also some fabulous restaurants and bars and a cinema and theatre too, meaning you can extend your shopping trip into the evening.
Brick Lane & Shoreditch, London
Arguably the most famous places on the list are these street-art-adorned areas in London’s colourful East End. Gritty, edgy and still very cool, whether you are after vintage attire, independent gift shops, unusual art galleries or high fashion designer boutiques then Brick Lane and Shoreditch have it all in abundance. Stalls and shops sell everything from home ware to gourmet street food with bags of personality thrown in. These places are a lot of fun, especially bargain hunting at the weekend markets.
Stockholm Bohemian SoFo
The laid back atmosphere and artistic air of this cool part of town centres around the busy centre of Nytorget Square. South Folkungagatan is alive with beautifully creative and unusual shops that stock the finest examples of quirky clothes, jewellery, home ware, books and magazines, record shops, knickknacks and vintage and second-hand goods. Many of the fashion stores have their own labels here and when you do decide to take a well-earned break from your shopping you’ll be spoilt for choice for independent cafés, restaurants and bars.
Ghent Old Town
Beautifully quaint and quintessentially Belgian, the cobbled city of Ghent is about as far away as you can get from unimaginative chain stores and typical high street shops. The whole Old Town is full of gorgeous independent eateries, fabulous vintage stores and some of the finest design shops in the country. If you’re anything like me and love browsing in old-fashioned book shops, indulging in gourmet foods and have a passion for independent fashion then Ghent will definitely catch your eye and most likely your heart as well.
Parisians are renowned for their striking sense of style, but this isn’t all associated with the top designers and huge department stores. If you like your shopping experience to be a little more intimate then head for the capital’s last village and Amelie’s favourite hangout, Montmartre. This area of the city still maintains the artistic bohemian spirit that many artists, authors and philosophers developed in this area over the years. The pretty winding cobbled streets offer specialty shops, art galleries, hand crafted jewellery, independent fashion labels, artisan food stores as well as gorgeous views over the city.
Riga Old Town, Latvia
Riga – known as the pearl of the Baltics – is an exceptionally beautiful north European city. The Latvian capital’s old town has a bustling electric atmosphere where you’ll see better-than-average street performers, flower sellers, live music, gorgeous chocolatiers and plenty of alfresco cafés lining its cobbled streets. Riga offers an excellent range of independent stores but head there if you’re especially into beautiful crafts, organic toiletries, beeswax candles, natural produce, textiles or designer goods.
Brighton Laines, UK
Brighton is easily the UK’s coolest seaside town and despite the sometimes bracing wind, this place makes an excellent shopping destination. Brighton is home to a huge number of artists and creative types giving the city a bohemian air and here you’ll find chic boutiques, unique fashions as well as antiques, original art and stylish jewellery thrown in. Head to the North and South Laines for the trendier shops – here they sell everything from 50s and 60s kitsch to French reproduction furniture.
Zurich Old Town
You may or may not be aware that Zurich is actually a very cool place to shop. The old town is the centre of the action and this is where beautiful traditional architecture sits side by side with an impressive collection of bookstores, antique dealers, florists, independent clothes stores, jewellery shops and superb design stores. A special mention has to go to the gorgeous historic cafes, beautifully presented traditional food shops and the unique gifts on sale at the excellent Dada museum shop.
Reykjavik is a city where the locals like to look at life a little differently. A haven for original design, the main shopping street of this intriguing city is Laugavegur, the commercial artery of downtown Reykjavik. This place is brimming with independent, design and quirky stores offering a mixture of both Icelandic and international designs. The funky boutiques are the perfect place to stock up on fabulous things that you won’t find anywhere else. Just make sure you take plenty of money; Iceland is also (sadly) very expensive.
Bonus – Shopping Online
The landscape of the traditional high street (especially in the UK) is changing with the rise in popularity of internet shopping. Online retail sales increases by around 14% each year and the sector is worth more than £50bn with many citing convenience and saving money as the most popular reasons for shopping online. High streets are reducing in size while internet shops are most definitely on the increase. Both mainstream and independent labels are available online and there are many cool sites to browse, for example ASOS.com is one of the UK’s largest online-only fashion and beauty stores and newcomer Hush Hush is a trendy membership site offering flash sales on unique home-ware.