Whether you're looking to pick up some alternative gifts or simply reckon you deserve a new wardrobe, nothing inspires shoppers like a change of scenery. So, next time you feel a spending spree coming on, grab your passport along with your credit card and investigate these seven consumer havens.
Best for markets: Sydney
Sydney’s vibrant markets are a much-loved institution and have long acted as a platform for launching the careers of local talent. The longest-running and most popular is Paddington Market (pictured above, 395 Oxford Street, 9331 2923), held in the grounds of the Paddington Uniting Church on Oxford Street every Saturday. The tightly packed lines of stalls sell a plethora of handcrafted goods from soft furnishings and fashion right through to jewellery and plants.
Bargain hunters who revel in the opportunity to rumble through tangled piles of vintage clothes or precariously stacked furniture should visit the artsy Surry Hills Market (Corner of Crown & Forveaux Streets, 9310 2888). Unlike the more reserved Paddington version, this is very much a case of empty out the attic and see what flies. Vendors range from OAPs selling ‘antique’ jewellery to designers not yet established enough to earn a spot at more prestigious markets.
When it comes to choice, however, Glebe Market (Glebe Point Road, between Mitchell Street & Parramatta Road, 4237 7499) wins hands down. The western suburb is known for its alternative traits and the collection of stalls here mirrors its personality with tie-dye tees, organic clothes and even Japanese imported fashions all on colourful display. With the scent of incense in the air, the sound of folk singers on the breeze and wind chimes reverberating around the grassy patch, it’s all strangely relaxing despite the buzzing crowds.
A one-stop ride from Harajuku station is Shibuya, where fast-fashion mecca 109 (2-29-1 Dogenzaka, 3477 5111) is an essential destination, whether you’re looking for the fashion of the week or simply watching those that are. Nearby manga and anime mega-store Mandarake (B2F Beam Bldg, 31-2 Udagawacho, 3477 0777) is the most central option for geek goods. More committed fans need to head to Akihabara, where the area known for its electronics is fast becoming a haven for otaku (geek) culture in all its forms – everything from homemade manga to multimillion yen sex dolls is on offer. And the electronics are still in plentiful supply, with several multi-storey emporiums competing for your attention here.
Across town, in Nakano on the Chuo line, sits the other great home of all things anime: the Nakano Broadway shopping centre (3387 1610). This shabby, time-worn arcade is home to several branches of Mandarake and Fujiya Avic, where you can pick up classic manga, collectable figures and bootlegs of the geek variety.
Heading downhill east from Istiklal Caddesi is the city’s most idiosyncratic and interesting shopping area: Çukurcuma. The steep winding streets (it’s easy to get lost here) are where you’ll find most of Istanbul’s antique shops. There’s also a thriving sector devoted to kitsch and retro items and mid-century modern furniture. You’ll find clothing here too: think vintage sunglasses or unworn Louis Vuitton dresses from the 1940s.
Eski Fener (Aga Hamam Sokak 77, 0212 251 6278) is a classic example of a Çukurcuma antique shop; it specialises in furniture, lamps and copperware, mostly sourced from rural Anatolia. But the quirkiest shop in the area is undoubtedly The Works: Objects of Desire (pictured above, Faikpasa Sokak 6/1, 0212 252 2527). Focusing on Kitsch, mid-century and anything that makes owner Karaca Borar laugh, the shop is a cornucopia of military paraphernalia, old jukeboxes, bumper cars and vintage porn. For vintage clothes, Leyla Seyhanl (Altipatlar Sokak 6, 0212 293 7410) has antique garments, hats and wall hangings, all in excellent condition. Similarly, Mozk (Kuloğlu Mahallesi, 0212 252 3499) owned by fashion designers, has vintage leatherwear, dresses and glasses.
More unique ships are also appearing in Çukurcuma, thanks to its bohemian vibe and low rents. One example is Porof Zihni Sinir (Kuloğlu Mahallesi Ağahamam Caddesi, 0212 252 9320). Although its pieces are aimed at children, it’s full of remarkable inventions that wouldn’t be out of place in a Wallace and Gromit animation. Irfan, a cartoonist, also sells books among his fantastical creations.
While there’s little chance the indie shopping scene in Dubai will ever compete with the big hitters, when it comes to shopping centres so immense you can easily lose a family of 20 in them, Dubai knocks all other cities out of the park.
Since 2005, Dubai has had Mall of the Emirates (04 377 2000), which at the time was the second largest mall in the Middle East, but had long since been overtaken. Home to the fascinating but carbon crazy Ski Dubai (04 409 4000), this shopping complex sits snugly in the hearts of the most long-term expats.
That said, mention mega malls and one name comes to mind in a blaze of neon lights: The Dubai Mall (pictured above, 04 362 7500). The confidently named complex was completed in 2008 and is officially, in terms of area, the largest mall in the world. Within its walls sit 22 cinema screens, 130 eateries (and counting) and over 1,000 shops. There are also plenty of other distractions: an aquarium, an underwater zoo, an ice rink, the world’s largest fountain, a theme park, a skate park and a fully licensed hotel. Oh, and the small matter of the world’s tallest the building – the 828m Burj Khalifa – which is part of the Downtown Dubai complex.
The concept shop trend is a central feature of the shopping scene, crossing the boundaries between clothes, music and product design. Paris’s concept kings have very different personalities. There’s cosmopolitan, metropolitan, glamorous but down-with-the-kids Colette (213 rue St-Honoré, 1st, 01.55.35.33.90); bobo I-probably-care-more-about-my-home-than-my-wardrobe Merci (111 bd Beaumarchais, 3rd, 01.42.77.00.33); sophisticated, avant-garde L’Eclaireur (pictured above, 40 rue de Sévigné, 4th, 01.48.87.10.22).
And then the smaller ones: tomboyish Spree (16 rue de La Vieuville, 18th, 01.42.23.41.40), full of music and film industry cool; and new girl on the block Hotel Particulier (15 rue Léopold Bellan, 2nd, 01.40.39.90.00). But what they all have in common is a product range that is both entertainingly diverse and seductively scarce.
On the high-tech front, Sony has opened its first European concept store, Sony Style (39 av George V, 8th, 09.69.39.39.39), and Apple has opened a gloriously indulgent store next to the Opéra Garnier (12 rue Halévy, 9th, 01.44.83.42.00).
New York is fertile bargain-hunting territory. The traditional post-season sales (which usually start just after Christmas and in early to mid June) have given way to frequent markdowns throughout the year: look out for sale racks in boutiques chain and department stores. The twice-a-year Warehouse Sale at Barneys (660 Maidson Avenue, 1-212-826-8900) is an important fixture on the bargain hound’s calendar. And of course, as New York is home to numerous designer studios and showrooms, there is a weekly spate of sample sales. The best are listed in the Shopping & Style section of Time Out New York magazine.
Racked, Top Button and Clothing Line (1-212 947 8748), which holds sales for a variety of labels – from J Crew and Theory to Tory Burch and Rag & Bone, at its Garment District showroom (Second Floor, 261 W 36th Street, between Seventh & Eighth Avenues) – are also terrific resources.
Chief among the permanent sale stores is the famous Century 21 (22 Cortlandt Street, between Broadway & Church Street, 1-212 227 9092) – it’s beloved of rummagers, but detested by those with little patience for sifting through less than fabulous merchandise for the prize finds. A second Manhattan location opened on the Upper West Side in 2011, but we recommend braving the original for breadth of stock and, sometimes, deeper discounts.
In a city bursting with history, the steady closure of London’s independent bookshops is sad, even incongruous. Still, you can browse travel literature in the Edwardian conservatory of Daunt Books (pictured above, 83 Marylebone High Street, 020 7224 2295) or the never-ending selection of new titles at Foyles (113-119 Charing Cross Road, 020 7437 5660), where you can try before you buy in the in-store café. Persephone Books (59 Lamb’s Conduit Street, 020 7242 9292) and the London Review Bookshop (14 Bury Place, 020 7269 9030) are new London classics, while Cecil Court is an irrepressible old stager where you’ll find numerous shops stocking antique books, maps, magazines and more.
Don’t neglect the museum stores, either: the London Transport Museum (Covent Garden Piazza, 020 7379 6344) and Southbank Centre (Belvedere Road, 020 7960 4200) lead the way with strikingly designed gifts, but the renewed Museum of London (150 London Wall, 020 7001 9844) and the V&A (Cromwell Road, 020 7907 7073) are also terrific for original gifts.
Record and CD shops have also taken a beating, but second-hand vinyl and CDs linger on Berwick Street. Indie temple Rough Trade East (91 Brick Lane, 020 7392 7788) now feels like it’s been on Brick Lane forever, and HMV – last of the big beasts on Oxford Street – stocks more of the latest albums, movies and games than anyone else.