The best Christmas shopping doesn’t always have to be in the biggest malls in the biggest cities, but you do find that simply due to a mall being a concentrated retail area, their floors and avenues are saturated with the sights and sounds of the holiday season. As well as the malls pushing the boat out, there are plenty of places all trying to outdo each other to provide the best Christmas shopping. Let’s take a look at some of the best destinations in Europe.
1. Rovaniemi, Finland
The absolute ultimate and simply the best Christmas shopping has to be at the home of Santa Claus – Rovaniemi. Where better to buy than from Santa’s very own workshop just inside the Arctic Circle? There are plenty of gifts to be had in plenty of shops that make up Santa’s village and if you want, you can buy reindeer meat and even a pile of genuine letters written to Santa by children the world over.
2. Champs Elysees, Paris
Normally, I wouldn’t suggest this destination as one of the places for the best holiday shopping in Europe because the shops here are very upmarket and tres expensive! But, the Christmas market along this famous avenue makes it all worthwhile. You can browse the stalls but also window shop the beautiful boutiques as you go. It’s also worth popping into Maison d’Alsace at number 38, as it is packed with Alsatian Christmas goodies.
3. Lincoln, England
A very pretty rural city, the main cobbled street stretches up a hill looked over by the cathedral. All the usual British high street names are found here and it too, puts on a Christmas market. Terrific Christmas shopping is to be had amongst the stalls and entertainment that has a very traditional medieval theme in keeping with this historic city.
4. Bruges, Belgium
Even though Bruges has a lovely Christmas market, it doesn’t really matter. This city just oozes Christmas whatever is happening. The main square may be filled with an ice rink and stalls but you’ll find offerings pretty ‘samey.’ Enjoy the atmosphere of the stunningly decorated square but then head out into the narrow cobbled streets into the tiny boutiques to buy scrumptious Belgian chocolates, more kinds of beer you can imagine and simply gorgeous lace items. Look out for wooden toys and the most intricate and unique Christmas decorations.
5. Prague, Czech Republic
There are a number of shopping centers in central Prague, but for holiday shopping, the Palladium is probably the best choice. Its 200 shops include the best known International and European names. To imbibe the spirit of Christmas, head along to the market stalls in the atmospheric Old Town Square, which dates back to the 12th century. You’ll find a variety of hand-crafted products and the shops around the square sell arts and crafts and Bohemian crystal. If you want high-end shopping you’ll find it along Pařížská.
6. Puerto Banus, Spain
If you want some winter sun, a great atmosphere and great Christmas shopping, head for Puerto Banus and the Golden Mile. But, only head here if your credit card can take a pounding. The very swanky marina attracts mega yachts and the super rich, and most of the shops hugging the waterfront have designer names above the doors – we’re talking Versace, D&G, Fendi, Armani and the like. You’ll find some cheaper local shops and designers in the in the Marina Banus shopping center, chains like Mango and Zara in Antonio Banderas Square (yes seriously!) and at El Corte Ingles, you’ll find 5 storeys of department store.
7. Salzburg, Austria
This wonderful Austrian city is so much more than the birthplace of Mozart, though if you’re in the city, his museum shouldn’t be left off your itinerary. For some of the Christmas shopping with a traditional flavor, head to the Getreidegasse. You’ll find the Mozart house at number 9, but elsewhere the street is packed with olde world shoppes selling everything from books to shoes.
8. Milan, Italy
The Italian capital of style is another place for the best holiday shopping if you can afford the top designer boutiques. All the major Italian fashion houses have stores in the ‘Quadrangle of Fashion,’ including Armani, Gucci, Versace, Valentino, Prada and D&G. However, if you want to treat your girlfriends to something different, head to Corso di Porta Ticinese where you’ll find a mesmerising array of boutiques offering vintage clothing, quirky jewelry and on-trend street fashion.
9. Istanbul, Turkey
I don’t imagine you ever thought to see this destination included in the best places for Christmas shopping, but you can enjoy some serious seasonal retail therapy in one of the greatest cities on earth. You’ll find some great bargains and unique gift ideas. For a real experience, go shopping for Christmas gifts in the 4,000 shops of Grand Bazaar: Best items are shawls, wraps, beaded slippers, rugs and handcrafted leather items.
10. London, England
The UK capital is fabulous for shopping at any time of year but Christmas is very special. By all means visit Oxford Street and Regent Street – it’s worth it for the lights and the incredible window displays and not forgetting Hamley’s toy store of course, but there are so many other places to go shopping for Christmas gifts. Head to Knightsbridge for Harrods and Harvey Nichols, the shopping centers of Whiteleys (Bayswater) and Westfield (Shepherds Bush) or brave the cold to wander the stalls of Portabello Road and Camden Lock.
11. Las Rozas Village, Madrid, Spain
If you like outlet shopping, this is the place to head. Just half hour outside of Madrid, Las Rozas really does have the charm of a village. You’ll find a whole host of brand names being sold at outlet prices, including Coach, Timberland, Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Bulgari, Burberry, and Lacoste, to name but a few.
12. Sarajevo, Bosnia
Sarajevo has emerged from its war-torn years as a glittering destination for any time for year but truly sparkles among the alternative places for Christmas shopping in Europe. Bašaršija, the Ottoman-built old town, is a maze of cobblestone streets where you’ll find silk scarves, exotic jewelry, pottery and coffee sets made from beaten copper. The charm is that each street is dedicated mainly to one particular craft.
13. Stockholm, Sweden
If you’re a fan of Swedish design, your heart will be gladdened by a visit to the largest Ikea store on earth. About three times the size of your local Ikea (and let’s face it, they aren’t small!), the flagship store is found at Kungens Kurva, just south of Stockholm. It’s surrounded by other megastores and shopping centers so the trip is definitely worthwhile.
14. Mainz, Germany
It was hard to choose from the best places for Christmas shopping in Germany. The country has a very strong tradition in fabulous Christmas markets, and many deserve a mention, but I’ve chosen Mainz for one good reason. How do you fancy shopping for Christmas gifts in a 5,000 year old roman temple? Well, you can do at the Romerpassage Shopping Center, which includes the ruins of TabernaArchaological – the shrines of Isis and Mater Magna. Elsewhere, the Old Town has plenty of charms and delights for more than a spot of seasonal retail therapy.
15. St. Helier, Jersey
The Channel Islands are a delightful part of the British Isles. St. Helier on the island of Jersey dresses well for Christmas and offers visitors a delightful mix of English and French heritage. La Fete du Noue runs throughout the month and as well as the charming shops of the old town, there are plenty of markets. There’s plenty of entertainment, including a celebration of the Winter Solstice, and there’s usually an ice skating rink set up somewhere in town.
16. Crieff, Scotland
One of the smallest places on the list, but the Nutcracker Christmas Village comes but once a year. The small town of Crieff is a historical little place in Perthshire and worth the diversion from the main drag. Built on the theme of a traditional German village at Christmastime, the atmosphere crackles with all the scents, sounds and sights of the holiday season. Each house around the village square has a theme associated with Christmas and of course, Santa is in residence.
17. Zermatt, Switzerland
There’s nothing that shouts Christmas more than a snowy scene. At Zermatt you can go Christmas shopping overlooked by the majestic peak of the Matterhorn – one of the tallest mountains in Europe. Zermatt’s main street – the Bahnoffstrasse – is the place for all those holiday presents. Alongside upscale shops selling fine Swiss watches, jewelry and artisan chocolates, there are charming boutiques selling knick knacks and souvenirs.
18. Berlin, Germany
If you’re looking for some of the best bargain holiday shopping, you may be surprised that I am nominating the uber-cool Berlin. You will find that even in the chi-chi stores of Mitte and Charlottenburg in West Berlin, the prices are cheaper than the comparable items in Paris and London. If you head over to the east side of the city to Oranienstrasse and Bergmanstrasse, both in the Kreuzberg district, there is a lot of fun to be had browsing for bargains.
19. Strasbourg, France
If ever a city dresses up for Christmas, it is Strasbourg. This city has a massive historical cultural input from both France and Germany, and being home to European Parliament (EU), the influence of many nationalities all comes together in a delightful and delicious recipe at Christmastime. All the shops in the narrow streets are decorated profusely and there are sparkling displays and lights everywhere. It’s a sight to see even if you get diverted from doing your Christmas shopping.
20. Budapest , Hungary
Budapest is one of the cheapest cities in Europe and one of the most beautiful. If you can tear yourself away from the sights of the castle, the River Danube, Hero’s Square and the Fisherman’s Bastion, you can make your way to the largest shopping mall in central Europe – the Westend City Center. If you don’t like malls, go Christmas shopping in Vaci Street and if you’re on the lookout for clothes, Fashion Street (Deak Ferenc Utca) has names like Lacoste, Hilfiger and Hugo Boss.
I love the holiday season. It doesn’t matter that the years when I was small enough to sit on Santa’s knee and whisper my most wished for present have long since gone by. I love buying gifts and if I’m lucky enough to get to visit one of these best places for Christmas shopping , then so much the better. How about you?