Top European Shopping Destinations

Angela Wood

Senior Contributor

Easily reached by air or rail, our choice of European cities offer abundant shopping opportunities, beautiful architecture, and picture-perfect heritage attractions. Whether you wish to purchase the latest designer clothing from Milan, sample handmade chocolates in Brussels, or barter for rugs and lamps in the colourful bazaars of Istanbul, these top European shopping hubs are superb options for a short break.

Explore Iconic Fashion Districts, Milan

Milan is an exciting city to visit for a fashion-forward shopping spree. The vibrant metropolis in the Lombardy region of northern Italy boasts some of the finest designer clothing stores in the world, all set in elegant streets reminiscent of a classic Hollywood film set.

Via della Spiga sits in an area known as ‘The Golden Triangle’ of fashion in Milan. In the heart of the city, the narrow, pedestrianised street dotted with bay trees and wrought iron balconies is a place to discover Italian designers, in addition to being home to Ralph Lauren, Alexander McQueen and Michael Kors stores.

Step around the corner onto Via Sant’ Andrea and you’ll discover the flagship emporiums of Giorgio Armani and Bottega Veneta. Should you wish to give your credit card a break for an hour or two, pop into the 18th-century Palazzo Morando. The grand mansion is home to a collection of artworks, sculptures, and a fashion exhibit, showcasing clothing collections from different eras.

A little further, on upscale Via Monte Napoleone, Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, D&G, Fendi, Prada, Hermes and Cartier reside. Elegant windows display new season garments fresh off the catwalk. This is the first port of call for fashionistas, and as the street is just 10 minutes’ walk from Galleria Vittoria Emanule II (another famous mall), Piazza del Duomo and La Scala Theatre, there’s also time to explore the historic sights of Milan too!

Discover over 4,000 shops in the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

Founded in the mid-late 1400s, the Grand Bazaar covered market in Istanbul is a national landmark, home to around 4000 shops in a labyrinthine of streets and passages where you can explore and barter for bargains, selling everything from carpets and slippers to lamps and spices.

Turkish rugs and traditional Iznik tiles have long been popular purchases in the bazaar and most stalls selling the products have been in the same families for generations. Prior to deciding, visit the Istanbul Carpet Museum, Blue Mosque or the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum to gain inspiration and garner more knowledge as to where the patterns and designs originated, and from which era.

Beautiful glass lanterns are colourful accessories for homes and patios, designed with ornate panels or glass mosaics in a myriad of shades. Some reputable stall holders or your hotel may even be able to arrange shipping to save your baggage allowance.

Many stalls in the Grand Bazaar sell quality pashminas and scarves which are handy to drape over shoulders when visiting religious sites, or simply fill your shopping bag with boxes of delicious Turkish delight, infused with flavours of rose petal, pomegranate or pistachio - perfect to nibble on accompanied by a cup of strong Turkish coffee!

Sample Handmade Chocolates, Brussels

Brussels is known as the European capital of chocolate and the historic city is brimming with shops where you can sample and purchase mouth-watering specialities.

Seeking a special gift? Take a leisurely stroll to ‘Mary’, an artisan chocolatier with a boutique on Grand-Place. Mary Delluc was a chocolate pioneer in Brussels and her delicacies include caramel and mousse-filled treats, along with pralines and ganache, all hand-packaged in beautiful vintage-themed boxes. The Art Deco-style shops dotted around the city are a delight to browse and some even have quaint tea salons where you can sample some of her famous bonbons along with a piping hot drink.

Another local favourite is Pierre Marcolini. The Belgian chocolate and biscuit maker combs the world to find the finest cocoa beans and he has mastered each stage of the chocolate-making process sustainably and ethically. Using top-quality ingredients, he creates scrumptious sweet treats with Madagascan vanilla, Iranian pistachios and Sicilian lemon to name a few.

After browsing Brussels’ chocolate shops, consider taking a workshop with friends and making your own bespoke treats, or visit the Brussels Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate to learn more about Belgium’s chocolate-making history.

Luxury Shopping in Harrods & Selfridges, London

For an all-round shopping experience, it’s difficult to top London. The English capital caters to bibliophiles, fashionistas, musicians, foodies and even bespoke perfume lovers.

Two of the most iconic stores to frequent on any London shopping trip are Harrods and Selfridges. Harrods, in the exclusive borough of Knightsbridge, boasts 330 departments, restaurants, and a host of unique gifts for avid collectors, from mini vintage car replicas to limited edition Baccarat decanters.

In addition to visiting the fabulous festive shop which opens in Autumn each year, stop off for Champagne Afternoon Tea at the Tiffany Blue Box Café or enjoy a three-course meal with a menu curated by Michelin star chef Jason Atherton at Harrods Social before taking home a bespoke hamper filled with gourmet goodies from the world-renowned Harrods Food Hall.

Another legendary London store is Selfridges. The notable flagship building on Oxford Street has even had a TV series dedicated to its story.

In addition to selling premium brands specialising in everything from stationery to cosmetics, clothing, technology and sports equipment, there are abundant dining opportunities in Selfridges and the store is also home to a three-screen cinema and the largest department selling denim jeans and jackets in the world!

Elsewhere in London, pop to Carnaby Street to immerse yourself in an Austin Powers 1960’s vibe, bring out your inner child in London’s most famous toy store, Hamleys, have bespoke perfumes curated at Floris, or shop cutting-edge fashion at Dover Steet Market.

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