We talk a lot about the culinary gains of traveling the world. But what about all the sartorial fun to be had in shops, markets, and souks around the world? With fashion week in full swing here in NYC, we thought we'd narrow down the 15 cities across the globe that are a cut above when it comes to all things style and shopping. From Los Angeles to Melbourne and New York City to Dubai, these cities may not be kind to your wallet, but your closet will certainly thank you.
By Maggie Gorman
New York City
In terms of sheer variety and abundance of styles and shops, New York City is the gleaming shopping Mecca that dreams are made of. Hip creative types will love scoping edgy finds in Williamsburg boutiques like Bird and Graymarket. Designer devotees can't miss Fifth Avenue's famed designer outposts and palatial department stores, while SoHo's vast and eclectic offerings from Opening Ceremony to Levi's make it the top shopping 'hood of the city.
Insider Tip: Vintage hounds should head to What Goes Around Comes Around in SoHo for everything from rare vintage rock tees to Azzedine Alaia dresses.
Just saying the city's name conjures visions of couture, but this shopping dreamscape holds even more than you'd imagine. Head to the Marais for an eclectic experience or drain your accounts along the Champs Elysees—there, vintage stores mingle with designer boutiques like L'Eclaireur and A.P.C. A taste of Paris' dizzying grands magasins like Galeries Lafayette and Au Printemps is imperative—head to Boulevard Haussmann in the 8th and 9th arrondissements for those.
It's designers amongst the dunes in Dubai, where shopping and opulence are the norm. For precious stones and gold jewelry in particular, it's a top spot (check out UAE-based Damas). The city's extravagant, labyrinthine malls are the best places to get a taste of the rare saturation of French, Italian, American, and British designers. Dubai Mall is the world's largest, while Al Bustan Centre is best if you've got kids in tow.
Insider Tip: Coveted silky, colorful, 100% pashmina shawls are abundant here—find bargains at East and West in the discount district Karama.
Ample local designers mean you're sure to return home with a bag full of unique,porteño handicrafts and fashions from Buenos Aires. "Argentina's best designer" Pablo Ramirez sells his couture on a cobbled San Telmo street corner, where nearby boho-chic boutiques nestle. Leather goods are a bargain here—head to Villa Crespo and the street Murillo for plentiful leather outlets, along with brand-name outlets like Lacoste along Aguirre street.
In Hong Kong, sales are calendar events and most stores close for just three days a year. That translates to frenzied shopping of an almost religious fervor: find designer knockoffs in both bustling markets and marble malls, each within spitting distance; flamboyantly Chinese silhouettes are elevated to 21st century chic at Shanghai Tang; Times Square mall's 12 frenetic floors are organized thematically. Causeway Bay caters to the manic Hong Kong shopping experience; Mongkok is great for bargain-ridden markets like The Ladies' Market.
London's Harrods is a Disneyland of material goods: stroke soft designer fur coats as you stroll past section after section of luxury brands before heading to Jigsaw for the Kate Middleton look (she was a buyer before her marriage!). Next, there's Mayfair for more-realistic yet still tony shops, like Dover Street Market or Browns. Just want to blend in? Paul Smith in Covent Garden lends the quintessential British look, while byzantine Portobello Market lets you disappear in a throng of kitschy bargains as well as pricier threads.
Insider Tip: If you tire of the luxe life, head to Shoreditch and Spitalfields for of-the-moment shops and cheaper finds.
Gwen Stefani brought Tokyo's Harajuku neighborhood into fashion renown, but Aoyama has recently seen a boom in designer retail, resulting in some of the world's most innovative retail experiences. Be sure to see the Prada store if you go, then move on to boutique heaven Daikanyama and Nakameguro. Expect exceptionally friendly service and a relentless focus on fine presentation everywhere you go.
Insider Tip: A quintessential Tokyo boutique is Harcoza in Shibuya-ku, with a quirky collection including a Bonsai tree watch and croissant- and dessert-shaped rings.
This world renowned design haven is also famous for its leather goods. Find the latter in flea market-y El Rastro. Designer hounds will go crazy for El Corte Ingles, a sprawling center on Preciados street, while the spoils of shopping hub Salamanca district can be discovered in El Jardin de Serrano (located in two restored 19th century palaces). Serious shoppers can tackle Serrano's 'Golden Mile' of ultra-luxe boutiques.
Insider Tip: Remember that many shops close during lunch hours, on Sunday, and on Saturday afternoons.
Any one of the top three main department stores in the city will cater to all your acquisitive desires. Mood, Stockholm's newest destination for high-end shopping, spans an entire city block; Hennes & Mauritz—better known as H&M—reliably has the latest styles at reasonable prices; and Filipa K stocks trends from one of Sweden's hottest designers. Unique and trendy pieces are found on Södermalm, in cute vintage shops like Beyond Retro and Lisa Larsson.
Insider Tip: Want to shop where Sweden's princesses do? Try Sturegallerian, one of the country's most exclusive shopping malls.
In the shopping blowout city of Marrakesh, hard bargaining yields discounts of up to 80%. Most bazaars are in the souk, just north of Djemaa el-Fna. Gueliz is less about the bargaining; Avenue Mohammed V boasts designer shops that offer a distinctly modern take on Moroccan fashions. Take a break from bargaining by visiting a fondouk, a gallery where you deal with artisans directly—there are some on the Dar el Bacha en route to the souk, as well as on Rue Bab Taghzout.
Insider Tip: Take advantage of the personal shopping guides working in Marrakesh (mostly European expats)—they know the ropes and can get you the best items for the best deal.
Silom Road and Surawong Road are the most popular shopping zones for the Thai capital's signature cheap silk, gems, and tailor-made clothes—don't be afraid to haggle! Sukhumvit Road is good for leather, while Peninsula Plaza boasts upscale shops. Be sure to catch the Chatuchak Weekend Market, where you can find silk items in a mudmee design that would sell for five times as much in the US.
Insider Tip: Check out the extravagant Terminal 21 mall on Sukhumvit, which boasts a different global theme for each floor, from the Caribbean to San Francisco.
The Venetian in Las Vegas is a shopping galaxy in and of itself. The interior is a complete illusion—an entire Venetian cityscape is recreated with weird realism, possibly hypnotizing you into spending even more. You'll also find any designer ware you could desire. Don't miss similar supermalls Crystals and Caesars, and check out Bettie Page for unique 50s-style corsets and dresses.
Insider Tip: Head to the Forum Shops if you're hoping to spot celebrities shopping. If one of the stores closes its doors midday, you can bet it's because a celeb is browsing the racks inside.
Shop in Milan, and you'll return stateside looking very on-trend: discarded designer duds mean outlets and second-hand stores (try Il Salvagente or Dmagazine Outlet) are treasure troves, and Milan is already a sartorial year ahead of the rest of the world. Haute couture fills Milanese boutiques, most found in the Quadrilatero d'Oro. Don't miss the Dolce & Gabbana there.
Insider Tip: The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II opened in 1867, making it one of the world's oldest shopping malls. Its glass-roofed arcade is definitely worth a visit.
One of the very few walking streets in the City of Angels, Venice's Abbot Kinney is an inviting shopping destination, along with standbys like The Grove, Century City, or Rodeo Drive. If you're looking for a side of celeb-spotting with your shopping, skip Rodeo in favor of Robertson Blvd, where paparazzi follow starlets into shops like Kitson, Madison, and Lisa Kline on the regular. For more unique and locally made items, stick to Venice and Silver Lake, while Downtown's Fashion District hosts the city's best sample sales.
Insider Tip: It's not exactly budget, but head to Fred Segal, an LA institution. You may find yourself browsing beside an A-list celeb at any of the boutiques locations.
While it isn't the capital of Australia, Melbourne is the country's the fashion capital. Peruse Australian designer labels on High Street in Armadale, on Toorak Road and Chapel Street in South Yarra, and on Bridge Road in Richmond. Awesome vintage wares are found on Greville Street in Prahran, and bargain hunters will love the sprawling Discount Factory Outlet next to Southern Cross Station on Spencer Street.
Insider Tip: On the weekend, stop by Rose Street Artist Markets in Fitzroy near Brunswick Street for handmade jewelry.