“Where did you get that?”
“Oh, just a little spot I know in Marrakech.”
There’s something about finding just the right little household item or piece of clothing that can feel so good—and it’s even better when it comes with a story. Sure, online and big-box shopping has some perks, such as convenience and predictability, but isn’t it wonderful to fill your home with things that you really love? If you’re serious about shopping, how about treating yourself with a long weekend away, to buy something that really is unique in a local market?
Here are five suggestions for great shopping getaways:
1. Belgrade, Serbia
Belgrade is a summer holiday destination par excellence, but it also has a great deal of winter charm. As soon as autumn weather hits, quick as a flash the ice cream vendors that line the banks of the River Danube swap their frozen treats for hot corn on the cob and roasted chestnuts, and couples, families and pensioners continue to gaily parade along the jolly lights of the river bank.
The produce in Belgrade at the fresh food markets is really excellent, and although some dedicated foodies end up taking kilos of delicious apples and pumpkin home, what really attracts shoppers from overseas are some very strong liquors, called rakija, honey products, including pure beeswax candles and a very more-ish honey rakija called medovica, and hand carved wooden kitchen tools. Goat milk soap and fresh herbal teas are also both attractive and popular.
2. Marrakech, Morocco
Still warm in the winter months, and blissfully free from crowds, wandering round the markets of Marrakech is a wonderful way to get your shopping fix.
You are totally expected to bargain in the market, and you should do it with a smile on your face. In the souk and boutiques, prices are fixed though (pretty much anywhere you see the price written down). Things to buy include sequined shopping baskets, African print tunics, embroidered table linens, silk scarves, hand carved juniper wood bowls, spices and jewellery.
Prices range for pretty expensive for beautiful antique jewellery, to absolute bargain for rosewater, argan oil, hand-made copper teapots, and ceramics. If you start to wilt from shopping, take a break, sip some mint tea, and chat with the locals—or just gaze around at the rich colours and hustle and bustle.
3. Berlin, Germany
Berlin is changing every day, but it still retains a lot of its charm and independent spirit. One great place to indie businesses and delicious foods is at Markthalle IX on Eisenbahnstrasse, where an 18th-century covered market was nearly sold to developers five years ago. A group of locals decided to save the market, and now you can find fresh, heritage foods and interact with small business owners from the area in a laid-back, distinctly hip environment.
If you’re looking for something stylish for the home, Berlin has a wealth of options, from Local, a highly-curated independent boutique, to Sueper Store, where modernist household objects are built to last, and presented in a clean, fresh, well-designed shop.
4. Vienna, Austria
Vienna has quietly become one of Europe’s most stylish cities, so it’s well worth a look if you’re in the market for fashions that celebrate local style—you’re sure to impress with clothing from up and coming Austrian labels.
Check out spots like Firis for hand-selected pieces that work together into an effortless wardrobe of classic, clean lines. The owner, Firis herself, carefully chooses each item to work into an overall “look,” and she carries both men’s and women’s clothing. Wolfensson is the place to go for tough-chic pieces that will last a lifetime—everything from leather jackets to deconstructed boots will be calling for you to take a second look.
Vienna is a wonderful combination of Old World elegance and cutting-edge design, so consider a trip there before the summer crowds take over and you’re jostling for deals.
5. London, UK
If you don’t live in the capital city, booking a long weekend in one of its many hotels and losing yourself in the shops and markets is a brilliant way to enjoy the energy of the city without getting overwhelmed. Start by gazing into the window displays of Harvey Nicks, Harrods and Selfridges, as they’re always a lavish affair that has crowds clustering and jaws dropping.
For major shopping, however, it might be more refreshing to stay away from the big stores and hunt for your presents somewhere more unusual. The South Bank has an excellent food market, with many foodie treats such as cheese, wine and chocolates which are suitable as gifts, and for something absolutely unique visit the Dogstar in Brixton, for its Crafty Fox craft markets in December featuring some brilliant contemporary artists and makers.
One of the fabulous perks of living in Europe is having access to world-class shopping—and this year, you’ll be all set to take advantage of it. Happy hunting!
[This is a Collaborative post. Images under Creative commons: Kalenic Market Belgrade, Jmaa el-Fna Market Marrakech, Harrods window London]