Fodor's travelers' favorite European destinations for shopping range from big cities like Paris and Rome to countryside regions like Provence and Germany's Rhineland. Whether you're looking for famous food markets, high-fashion clothing boutiques, or classic antique shops, Europe's best shopping destinations have something for browsers and shopaholics alike—from a perfect souvenir to a major purchase to remember your trip forever.
Milan is the pulse of Italy—commercial, fashionable, and forward-looking. If you love to shop, Milan is one of the world’s great fashion centers, and offers experiences and goods for every taste, from Corso Buenos Aires, which has a higher ratio of stores per square foot than anywhere else in Europe, to the edgy street style of Corso di Porta Ticinese and upscale Via Montenapoleone, where there’s no limit on what you can spend. Milan is home to global fashion giants such as Armani, Prada, Versace, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Ermenegildo Zegna; behind them stands a host of less famous designers who help fill all those fabulous shops.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Milan Guide
Paris's legendary shopping destinations draw people from the world over—The Champs-Élysées and Rue St-Honoré are the ultimate shopaholic high—but perhaps a deeper allure lies in lesser-known attractions: the city harbors scores of hidden neighborhoods and shopping streets—some well traveled, others just emerging. Each has a distinct style that reflects the character of the particular quarter. At the outer edge of the Marais, Rue Oberkampf is well known among youthful fashionistas for its eclectic atmosphere and bohemian flavor. High-end jewelry and of-the-minute boutiques are clustered amid stylish wine bars and comfy cafés. Just around the corner from teeming Les Halles, Rues Étienne Marcel, du Jour, du Louvre, and Montmartre are jam-packed with big names (like Yohji Yamamoto and Agnès b), but it also boasts a multitude of smaller boutiques (such as Shine) that are popular with hip young Parisians. For more ideas, read Best Shopping in Paris.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Paris Guide
They say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”—and the Romans love to shop. After all, this is the city that gave us the Gucci “moccasin” loafer, the Fendi bag, and the Valentino dress that Jackie O wore when she became Mrs. Onassis. There are so many hole-in-the-wall boutiques selling top-quality merchandise in Rome’s center that even just wandering, you’re sure to find something that catches your eye. Handmade leather goods are among the best things to splurge on in Rome—excellent workmanship and attention to detail are the norm, and you’ll find beautifully constructed jackets, shoes, gloves, handbags, and more. You can even have items made to order at artisan workshops.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Rome Guide
Antwerp is a sophisticated shopper's paradise, with a center that's crammed with trendy stores and designer boutiques showing off the latest creations by the region's top fashionistas—although you may need fresh air when you see some of the price tags. Since the 1980s, Antwerp-trained fashion designers have become renowned for experimental styles paired with time-honored workmanship. Several designers, such as Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester, stay firmly rooted in the city; others have filtered into major European couture houses. On their home turf, you can experience the fascinating mix of tradition and innovation that influences their work.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Antwerp Guide
Window-shopping in Florence is like visiting an enormous contemporary-art gallery. Many of today’s greatest Italian artists are fashion designers, and most keep shops in Florence. Florence’s most fashionable shops are concentrated in the center of town. The fanciest designer shops are mainly on Via Tornabuoni and Via della Vigna Nuova. The city’s largest concentrations of antiques shops are on Borgo Ognissanti and the Oltrarno’s Via Maggio. The Ponte Vecchio houses reputable but very expensive jewelry shops, as it has since the 16th century. The area near Santa Croce is the heart of the leather merchants’ district. Discerning shoppers may find bargains in the street markets. Do not buy any knockoff goods from any of the hawkers plying their fake Prada (or any other high-end designer) on the streets. It’s illegal, and fines are astronomical if the police happen to catch you. (You pay the fine, not the vendor.)
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Florence Guide
In Provence, forget about the supermarket and head to the marketplace—an integral part of French culture anywhere in France, but even more so in this region. Provence is the equivalent of market heaven. Whether foodie, collectibles, antiques, or clothing, there is a (very often famous) street market in every Provençal town, each with an energy of its own and offering the best way to interact with the natives. So even though you may wonder if you should resist that tablecloth of pink-andyellow Souleiado fabric, yield to the delight of puttering through a village market. Happily, they are a daily occurrence in Provence, passed from village to town—Sunday is for Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Saturday for Arles, Wednesday for St-Rémy, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday for Aix. Remember to pick the wheat from the chaff. Provence lovers back home will appreciate those sunflower coasters much more than Day-Glo versions of Van Gogh masterpieces.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Provence Guide
There are galleries scattered across Brussels, but low rents have made boulevard Barthélémy the “in” place for avant-garde art. On the place du Grand Sablon and adjoining streets and alleys you’ll find antiques dealers and smart art galleries. The Galeries St-Hubert is a rather stately shopping arcade lined with posh shops selling men’s and women’s clothing, books, and objets d’art. In the trendy rue Antoine Dansaert and place du Nouveau Marché aux Grains, near the Bourse, are a number of boutiques carrying fashions by young designers and interior design and art shops. Avenue Louise and its surrounding streets in Ixelles have a number of chic boutiques offering clothes new and vintage, jewelry, antiques, and housewares.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Brussels Guide
Globalization has made most goods available in Venice and items like Venetian glass widely available in major cities throughout the world. While the selection of Italian and Venetian made goods may be a bit better in Venice than at home, the prices may actually be lower in the United States, especially considering that U.S. retailers discount sale goods quite radically. Venetian antiques, especially antique Venetian glass, is almost invariably cheaper in other places, because Venetians are ready to pay high prices for their own heritage. So, before your trip, check the prices at home on what you may wish to buy abroad before you leave. Alluring shops abound in Venice. You’ll find countless vendors of trademark Venetian wares such as glass and lace. The authenticity of some goods can be suspect, but they’re often pleasing to the eye regardless of their place of origin. There are also some interesting craft and art studios, where you can find high-quality, one-of-a-kind articles, but Venice is a design center only for glass, lace, and high-end textiles. You will probably find a better choice of leather, clothing, and furnishings in other Italian cities.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Venice Guide
In Wiesbaden, broad, tree-lined Wilhelmstrasse, with designer boutiques housed in its fin de siècle buildings, is one of Germany’s most elegant shopping streets. Wiesbaden is also known as one of the best places in the country to find antiques; Taunusstrasse and Nerostrasse have excellent antiques shops. The Altstadt is full of upscale boutiques; Kirchgasse and its extension, Langgasse, are the heart of the shops-filled pedestrian zone.
In Köln, a good shopping loop begins at the Neumarkt Galerie. From there, head down the charmless but practical pedestrian shopping zone of the Schildergasse. From Schildergasse, go north on Herzogstrasse to arrive at Glockengasse. A block north is Breite Strasse, another pedestrian shopping street. At the end of Breite Strasse is Ehrenstrasse, where the young and young-at-heart can shop for hip fashions and trendy housewares. After a poke around here, explore the small boutiques on Benesisstrasse, which will lead you to Mittelstrasse, best known for high-tone German fashions and luxury goods. Follow Mittelstrasse to the end to return to the Neumarkt. For some of the city’s coolest shopping, head a few blocks farther west to the Belgian Quarter, where you’ll find a hodgepodge of indie fashion designers, concept shops, and secondhand stores.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Rhineland Guide
Cappadocia and Central Turkey
Bustling Göreme offers the most options for hotels, dining, nightlife, shopping, and other commercial enterprises. Elsewhere, in Ankara, The upscale district of Kavaklıdere—and in particular, the main drag, Tunalı Hilmi Caddesi—is home to a range of Turkish and international brands and designer labels. Karum shopping mall, next door to the Sheraton, has more of the same. Kızılay. The pedestrian area of Kızılay, especially Konur Sokak, is a good place to find books and Turkish music. Samanpazarı. The area from Atpazarı Sokak down the hill from the citadel towards Ulucanlar Caddesi has narrow, winding streets with shops selling antiques, handicrafts, carpets, metalwork, and other items. There are also a few such shops inside the citadel, aimed mostly at tourists but with some interesting wares.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Cappadocia and Central Turkey Guide
The French Riviera
There is something about St-Tropez that makes shopping simply irresistible—unlike Cannes, you’ll be welcomed into the stores no matter what you look like or what you’re wearing. Rue Sibilli, behind Quai Suffren, is lined with all kinds of trendy boutiques, many carrying those all-important sunglasses. Tuck in behind here to Place de la Garonne for some extra-hip purchases.
Whether you’re window-shopping or splurging on that little Raf Simons number in the Dior window, you’ll find some of the best shopping outside Paris on the streets off La Croisette. For stores carrying designer names, try Rond-point Duboys-d’Angers off Rue Amouretti, Rue des Serbes, and Rue des Belges, all perpendicular to the waterfront. Rue d’Antibes is the town’s main shopping drag, home base to every kind of clothing and shoe shop, as well as mouthwatering candy, fabric, and home design stores. Rue Meynadier mixes trendy young clothes with high-end food specialties.
Nice’s main shopping street, Avenue Jean-Médecin, runs inland from Place Masséna; all needs and most tastes are catered to in its big department stores (Galeries Lafayette, Monoprix, and the split-level Étoile mall). The tramway, launched in late 2007, has made this mini–Champs-Elysées all the more accessible, so expect crowds on Saturday (the majority of shops are still closed on Sunday). Luxury boutiques, such as Emporio Armani, Kenzo, Chanel, and Sonia Rykiel, line Rue du Paradis, while Rue de France and the Old Town have more affordable offerings.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s French Riviera Guide