The UK is home to some of the best cities in the world, filled with centuries of history, well-preserved buildings and thriving cultural scenes there are many fantastic places to discover. The same reasons that make them popular with tourists are also the reasons why they make fantastic shopping destinations. From cities filled with quaint arcades and boutique stores to popular high street chains and mega malls, there’s something for everyone’s taste! Here are the best cities for Christmas or just everyday shopping in the UK…
1. Oxford Street, London – the most popular and famous shopping street in the UK
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!
2. Manchester – a cool shopping city in the UK filled with both mainstream and independent shops
England’s unofficial second city, Manchester has the cooler edge on many of its rivals. Not even counting 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 weather in the North of England can be very unpredictable!
3. Brighton – the eclectic and creative seaside city home to a wide range of independent stores
Although a smaller city, the eternally popular seaside of Brighton 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 retro kitsch and genuine vintage goods to aspirational lifestyle products and French reproduction furniture. Make sure you also stop for a mung bean burger at one of the many health and vegan food outlets – this is a city that’s both trendy and progressive! Designer bargains can be found in the Brighton Marina and the big high street name stores are located mostly in Churchill Square.
- Check out our post on the 12 of the best boutique hotels in Brighton
4., Edinburgh – do your Christmas shopping against a backdrop of stunning historic architecture
Edinburgh is a beautiful city in the UK and a fantastic location for shopping. People brave the cold to come here and view the sights, soak up the incredible atmosphere, stop at a traditional tavern for a wee dram as well as do their Christmas shopping. The style-conscious locals take consumerism very seriously here and the mostly elegant and pristine streets are packed with stores. As well as all the usual high street shops you’ll find plenty of designer names (Stella McCartney, Louis Vuitton, Prada), smaller boutique shops and some unique and interesting gift shops. Head for Princes Street for lots of flagship stores and the Royal Mile to shop against an incredible backdrop of medieval architecture, long winding corridors and historic courtyards. Make sure you time your visit to coincide with their world-famous Christmas Markets which take place
5. Birmingham – brands galore in the UK’s official second city
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 in Birmingham should sort you out with all your bling…
6. Spitalfields Market, London – a shopping paradise in London filled with creative products and produce
One of London’s oldest and most beloved markest Spitalfields (located in London’s East End, the nearest underground station is Liverpool Street) 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 and pop up shops – many with original designs – is definitely worth a visit. Buy your hipster cousin a retro leather satchel, your mum a vintage brooch, your new niece or nephew a trendy printed babygrow or just pick up a slice of vegan-free and gluten-free Christmas cake! Don’t leave without checking out nearby Brick Lane and Shoreditch which also have some very interesting stores as well as great cafes and restaurants.
7. Newcastle – home to the largest shopping mall in the UK
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 actually one of the largest shopping and leisure centres in Europe. In Newcastle, you can find all the usual high street favourites, a wide range of independent shops, quirky boutiques and also a popular art and craft market (which takes place on Armstrong Bridge every Sunday). Other great places to shop in Newcastle are Eldon Square Shopping Centre which is great for High Street shops, Trinity Square, Grainger Market home to fresh produce and hidden gems, Monument Mall which is known for its flagship stores, Central Arcade a stunning arcade filled with quaint stores and High Bridge Quarter which is home to many excellent independent stores.
8. Bath – a beautiful city to shop in the UK and home to many charming independent stores
If it’s a quintessentially English Christmas shopping experience you’re after, look no further than beautiful Bath in Somerset. 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, gorgeous homeware stores, upmarket high street shops, stylish boutiques and a very popular Christmas Market. When done take a dip in a thermal spa or just do a spot of sight-seeing there are plenty of beautiful and well preserved historic buildings here.
- We also have a post on The most beautiful Christmas markets in Europe.
9. Dublin – the fun city which is also an incredible shopping destination
Okay, we’ve cheated a bit on this one as 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).
- We also have a post on the Best pubs in Dublin to drink like a local
- Also check out our post on the Top 12 cool and unusual hotels in Dublin
10. Cardiff – a vibrant city which is easily one the best shopping cities in the UK
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 St. David’s shopping centre £675 million extension. Every major store is represented in the very impressive St David’s Dewi Sant Shopping Centre but if it’s a more intimate shopping experience you’re after try the cute Morgan and Castle shopping arcades that have cute and quaint Victorian and Edwardian features.
11. York – charming cobbled lanes full of independent stores and boutiques
The gorgeous and elegant city in Northern England makes an excellent place to shop. Shop against a backdrop of stunning historic buildings (including the famous York Minster) and discover hidden gems down the narrow cobbled lanes. Expect designer stores, independent shops and boutiques galore and each shopping area in York has its own speciality. Head for Parliament and Coney Street for high street favourites and Gillygate and Petergate for independent shops. Alternatively, try the daily Shambles Market which is home to more than 85 stalls offering a wide range of goods and produce. Stop at one of the many quaint tea or cake shops for a well-earned rest along the way!
12. Canterbury, Kent – an elegant and bohemian UK shopping destination
Canterbury, a wonderful cathedral city in Kent, England is an excellent place to head to for a spot of shopping. It’s a charming and compact city with an air of elegance and a bohemian side too. Canterbury’s Whitefriars is best for well know high street fashion and lifestyle brands and the more quaint and historic areas of the King’s Mile, Westgate and St Dunstan’s offer unique independent shops and boutiques. Head there for everything from fine art and crafts to jewellery and antiques as well as clothes.