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Feature: Last minute shopping - just in time for Christmas

Thursday, 16 December 2011 12:46 PM

Okay, so you have organised the festive decorations, planned the Christmas dinner and bought the tree but what about those presents?! There’s not much fun in having the biggest tree on the street if you have forgotten most of what goes underneath it! But don’t worry there is still time to do some last minute Christmas shopping. And why not head for one of the shopping capitals of the world to find those special giveaways – who said Christmas shopping cannot be fun?!

So, if you want to get all the presents in one go, some at bargain prices even, and with a short city break thrown in too, look no further than our guide to the best shopping destinations in the time leading up to the big day. From high end fashion and Turkish silk to a cheap pair of Clarks, if you need a last-minute present for the person who thought they had everything a shopping trip to cities like New York, Brussels and London is the perfect option. Or perhaps Italy, which is a real paradise for shopping brand names at outlet prices, or France, with the most famous antique markets in Europe. Forget about battling with the crowds at home for those last bits of Christmas shopping, or worrying whether the postman will make it in time with the gifts you have bought online – bag a last minute bargain to one of the shopping hotspots in Europe (and New York of course!).

New York
No shopping trip guide would be complete without mentioning the capital over all capitals when it comes to last minute purchases. So why not kick start this tour of the hottest short break shopping destinations with a trip to New York. The Big Apple is a Mecca for everyone who lives for famous places such as Tiffany’s, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s. Whether you’re shopping for the perfect gift or hunting for bargains now is definitely the time to head to New York in search of the perfect gifts (or the perfect outfit for the New Year’s bash!). Whether you need to buy one special present for that certain someone or are on the hunt for a new winter wardrobe shopping trips to New York begin on Fifth Avenue.

If you can resist the array of shops lined up along many of Manhattan’s streets then you have seemingly missed the point of a Christmas shopping break to the Big Apple. A shopaholic’s dream destination and the city’s favourite pastime, boutique-hop your way along Madison Avenue or browse for curios at Chelsea’s weekend markets. Of course you can always find the iconic ‘I Love New York’ T-shirt, but why not seek out bargain electronic gadgets and gizmos to take home for the man who thinks he has everything. Buy quirky clubbing gear or design icons along Fifth Avenue and pick up a few pairs of jeans from department stores. There you go...Christmas shopping sorted! Oh, and don’t forget to come back for the January sales...

Milan
Welcome to the capital of shopping for fashionistas! Christmas shopping breaks in the most fashionable city in the world...if that’s a combination that works for you, here are a few ideas of what to bring back home for under the tree. You’ll struggle to pace yourself on shopping trips to Milan, so say your designer prayers and plunge into the rarefied atmosphere of the Quadrilatero d’Oro. The quadrangle of streets is literally bursting its fashion seams with well-known brands and boutiques. For a more affordable shopping experience stroll along Via Torino, where you will find an array of shoe shops. 

Even if you have come purely for Christmas gift shopping, avoiding buying anything for yourself in the many designer shops, famous boutiques and markets is impossible. Your Milan adventure might show you that diamonds and dresses truly are a girl’s best friend but you will also be able to dig out a few surprises at some of Milan’s many markets and discover the city’s renowned flair for design at stylish home ware stores on Via Durini.

Brussels
With direct Eurostar connections to Brussels and the city’s renown for great fashion shopping, the Belgian capital could easily give Paris a run for its money as a shopping trip destination. The classical confection that is the Galeries St Hubert is home to designer shops, and is one of Europe’s earliest arcades, dating back to 1847, while chain stores dominate the Rue Neuve. But the city is also developing a reputation for vintage outlets, where you can pick up anything from a Chanel ball gown to a Werner Panton chair. It’s now also got a retro-styled hotel to live the dream – The Vintage.

Rue des Chartreux has developed into one the most original shopping streets in Brussels, and the boutique that started it all off was Gabriele Vintage. One of the newer additions to the vintage shopping scene is Nicolas Dehon’s Ali Baba cave of bric-a-brac – actually it could probably win the prize as the most bijou boutique in Brussels, with every single square inch packed with memorabilia. If you’re looking for top-of-the-line vintage outfits and accessories from the likes of Hermes and Chanel, Dior and YSL, Ramon & Valy Vintage Shop is where you go. Belgians are indeed brilliant at many things and vintage shopping is becoming more and more popular with visitors, but keep an eye open for lace products in the Grand’ Place-Grote Markt, and the wonderful chocolate too of course. You didn’t think we had forgotten about the sweet brown stuff, did you?! It’s Belgium after all!

London
A bit closer to home, the English capital is a brilliant place to do your last-minute Christmas shopping – and you don’t have to think about baggage limitations and buying too much, which is a real bonus. London is filled with every kind of shopping experience, from huge department stores to small fashion boutiques and buzzing markets. London shopping is famous around the globe and people flock to the city to seek out some Christmas bargains and to shop at some of the best stores in the world. And why not take advantage of this shopping haven right on our doorstep?!

If you want the latest fashion trends, music and lifestyle products then Oxford Street and adjoining Oxford Circus is the place to go. This famous London shopping hotspot is home to some of the leading high street fashion flagship stores. The West End’s Bond Street is the place to go for high end fashion and is home to designer names including Prada, Jimmy Choo and Ralph Lauren. For more affordable fashion the Kings Road in Chelsea and Covent Garden’s Neal Street both have a lot to offer bargain hunters and those of you looking for quirky boutiques and funky fashion. Of course if you are looking to do all your Christmas shopping in one place – and don’t mind hefty price tags – Harrods in Knightsbridge, Harvey Nichols and nearby Sloane Street are favourites with the rich and famous.

And lastly, Christmas gifts for the kids are easy to find at London’s most famous toy shop Hamleys on Regent Street. With over 40,000 different toys, a present from there won’t fail to impress – and there is something to suit every budget.

Istanbul
It might not be the most obvious choice for a last-minute Christmas shopping trip but Istanbul is unbeatable for its beyond-the-eurozone bargains – and there are some great gifts to be found here as well. For the fashionistas in the family, head for Sehrazat in the Grand Bazaar which stocks hundreds of pashminas and counts Uma Thurman as a customer. And everything is so much cheaper here than back home. No wonder we were excited when we found out that the quality that would cost £500 at houses such as Hermes costs the equivalent of £140 in Istanbul. That should be enough to convince anyone to go shopping in this city of contrasts.

And leather? Much, much cheaper than in the UK – so much cheaper that your savings alone can pay for your trip to Istanbul. And the best place for high-quality designer lookalike bags in the Grand Bazaar is Kiyici Canta. Sshh, we didn't tell you this! But since we are in Turkey, friends and family will probably expect you to bring home lokum, Turkish delight. For good quality lokum, head to Ali Muhittin Haci Bekir, which used to supply the Ottoman imperial household and still supplies Fortnum & Mason. A kilo in London costs £30, here it’s £5. Do we need to say more?!

Confused? Or inspired? There’s no question that some of the great shopping capitals offer an abundance of Christmas gift options. And escaping the seasonal chaos at home for a few days in shopping heaven can only be a good thing, right? But if you can’t fit in all your shopping trip dreams before the holidays, don’t forget that the January sales are just around the corner...and we haven’t even mentioned shopping havens such as Paris, Copenhagen, Madrid, Dubai or even some of the new up-and-coming destinations in Eastern Europe. Happy Christmas shopping...
 

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