Unless you are escaping to a desert island for the whole of December, Christmas shopping is unavoidable. Although, if you’re fed up with your local shops and you don’t want to rely on the post here are some of the best places to start your search for that perfect Christmas gift. Pre-Christmas sales are now not uncommon so search around for some real bargains….
1. Oxford Street, London
London’s central shopping street is still one of the most popular shopping destinations in the world and forty million shoppers making their annual Christmas pilgrimage here can’t be wrong. People come for the lights, the two mile stretch of more than three hundred shops, the extended ranges in many of the international flagship stores and the huge amount of choice – Selfridges, Top Shop, Nike Town, John Lewis, the list goes on. Although they probably don’t come for the crowds. If you’re planning a trip, a good tip is to get to the shops as soon as they open to try and avoid the afternoon crush.
England’s unofficial second city, Manchester has the cooler edge on many of it’s rivals. Not even counting the The Arndale Centre, this Northern city is a shopper’s paradise. Manchester has a network of streets crammed full of small niche retailers, vintage boutiques and shabby chic/boho stores many with an original Mancunian style. Head for the Northern Quarter for the more bohemian shops and the Castlefield area for more sleek and stylish offerings. Perfect if you’re stuck for Christmas shopping ideas – just remember to pack the umbrella!
3. Brighton & Hove
Although a smaller city, Brighton & Hove has an incredible and diverse range of shops. They range from chic boutiques, contemporary unique fashions to antiques, original art and stylish jewellery. The trendier shops are located in the famous Brighton’s North Laines and the South Laines and here you can buy everything from 50s and 60s kitsch and aspirational lifestyle products to french reproduction furniture. Make sure you also stop for a mung bean burger at one of the many health and vegetarian food outlets. Designer bargains can be found in the Brighton Marina and the big high street name stores are located in Churchill Square.
- If you’re thinking of staying overnight are many gorgeous boutique hotels in Brighton so you can stretch out your shopping trip a bit longer.
Edinburgh is a beautiful city and a great location for shopping. People brave the cold to come here and view the sights as well as do their Christmas shopping. The style-conscious locals take consumerism very seriously here and the pristine streets are packed with stores. You’ll find designer names (Stella McCartney, Louis Vuitton, Prada), smaller boutique shops and some interesting gift shops.
The UK’s second-largest city certainly knows how to attract the shoppers and it’s an easier place to get your bearings than you might think. Most shops can be found in the newly redeveloped Bull Ring or the lovely New Street. Brummies love trendy designer labels but they also love a bargain and unusual architecture. The £40 million futuristic Selfridges building is worth coming to Birmingham to see in itself although, having said that, it might not be to everyone’s taste! The city is filled with major high street shops including Harvey Nichols and House of Fraser and the famous jewellery quarter should sort you out with all your bling…
6. Spitalfields Market, London
Spitalfields is a great alternative shopping destination. If you’re bored with the usual high street stores then Spitalfields market with its eclectic range of stalls – many with original designs – is definitely worth a visit. Buy your cool cousin an original leather satchel, your mum a vintage brooch, your new niece or nephew a trendy printed babygrow or just pick up a slice of wheat-free Christmas cake.
If you like to shop on a large scale then take a trip to Newcastle. The enormous Metrocentre attracts visitors to the city in their thousands and it’s one of largest shopping and leisure centres in Europe. In Newcastle, you can find all the usual high street favourites, a wide range of independent shops and also a popular art and craft market (which takes place on Armstrong Bridge every Sunday).
If it’s the quintessential English Christmas shopping experience you’re after, look no further than Bath. With its grand Georgian streets, Roman baths and beautiful abbey, Bath is a historical and attractive city where even the most discerning shopper is well catered for. The city offers all the familiar big-name stores, a wide range of independent shops, stylish boutiques and a popular Christmas Market.
Okay, it’s not in the UK but Dublin is a fun and vibrant city which would make an excellent choice for an easily accessible Christmas shopping destination. It’s a compact city which means all the shops are in easy walking distance of each other. Most of the shopping is centred around the pedestrianised Grafton Street for top-end shops and St. Stephens Green Shopping Centre – for all the usual high street shops. When you’re all shopped out here head for Temple Bar for trendy and more unusual clothing, music and art stores (and probably also a pint of Guinness).
Even if you’re not searching for a rugby shirt or a Welsh Love spoon don’t overlook Cardiff as a UK Christmas shopping destination. Cardiff is a very friendly city and is now one of the best shopping locations in the country thanks to the new St. David’s shopping centre £675 million extension. Every major store is represented in the very impressive “St. David’s 2” but if it’s a more intimate shopping experience you’re after try the cute Morgan and Castle shopping arcades still with their Victorian and Edwardian features.