Unless you are escaping to a desert island for the whole of December, Christmas shopping is pretty much unavoidable but if your local shops just aren’t going cut it this year (and you don’t want to rely on the post!), then why not use our guide to head out to the best shopping locations in the UK? Pre-Christmas sales are not uncommon now so search around for some real bargains.
1. Oxford Street, London
Forty million shoppers making their annual Christmas pilgrimage every year can’t be wrong. People come for the lights, the two mile stretch of 300+ shops, the extended ranges in many of the international flagship stores and the massive amount of choice (Selfridges, Top Shop, Nike Town, John Lewis, the list goes on). Although they probably don’t come for the crowds. Oxford Street is one of London’s top tourist attractions and is still one of the most popular shopping destinations in the world.
England’s unofficial second city has the cooler edge on many of it’s rivals. Not even counting the The Arndale Centre, this city is a shoppers paradise and is crammed full of small niche retailers, vintage/retro boutiques and shabby chic/boho stores many with an original Mancunian style. Perfect if you really stuck for Christmas shopping ideas – just remember to pack the umbrella!
3. Brighton & Hove
Even though it’s a small city, Brighton & Hove has made it high on the list because of it’s amazingly diverse range of shops from chic boutiques, contemporary unique fashions to antiques and original art and jewellery. The more bohemian and trendy shops are located in Brighton’s North Laines. Wander the half a square mile of streets and alleys buying 50s and 60s kitsch, aspirational lifestyle products or french reproduction furniture and then stop for a mung bean burger at one of the many health and vegetarian food outlets. Designer bargains are to be found in the Brighton Marina and the big name stores are located in Churchill Square.
Edinburgh is a very aesthetically pleasing shopping location and is often considered one of the most beautiful cities in Britain. People brave the cold to come here and view the sights as well as do their Christmas shopping. The locals take style and consumerism very seriously and as well as being packed with designer names (Stella McCartney, Louis Vuitton, Prada etc) there are plenty of hip and trendy smaller boutique shops.
England’s official second city shouldn’t disappoint would be shoppers, it’s an easier place to get your bearings than you might think with most shops located in the newly redeveloped Bull Ring and New Street. Brummies love trendy designer labels but they also love a bargain. They also love 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 everyones taste!). As well as all the major high street shops including Harvey Nichols and House of Fraser, the well-known jewellery quarter should sort you out with all your bling!
6. Spitalfields Market, London
Okay this would be the alternative choice but if you’re fed up with the same old stuff in all the usual high street stores then Spitalfields market with it’s 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 niece or nephew a trendy printed babygrow or just pick up a slice of wheat-free Christmas cake.
If you like your shopping experience to be on a very large scale then this would definitely be the place to visit. The enormous Metrocentre is probably the reason most people travel to Newcastle for shopping as it’s one of largest shopping and leisure centres in Europe. North Easterners also have a fondness for original designs so as well as the usual high street favourites there is also a wide range of independent shops and a popular art and craft market each Sunday on Armstrong Bridge in Jesmond.
If it’s the quintessential English Christmas shopping experience you are after, look no further than Bath. With it’s grand Georgian streets, Roman baths and beautiful abbey, Bath is very easy on the eye and even the most discerning shopper is well catered for. As well as all the familiar big name stores, the town offers a wide range of independent shops and stylish boutiques and a well-organised Christmas Market running from 26th November to 6th December 2009.
Ok, it’s not in the UK, but Dublin is a fun and vibrant city and would make an excellent choice for an easily accessible Christmas shopping destination. It’s a very compact city with all the shops in walkable distance and most of the shopping centred around the pedestrianised Grafton Street (shops towards the upper-end of the market) and St. Stephens Green Shopping Centre (the usual high street shops). After you finished there 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 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 more intimate shopping you are after try the cute Morgan and Castle shopping arcades still with their Victorian and Edwardian features.