10 best shopping destinations in the world

10 best shopping destinations in the world

Get your retail therapy at Bond Street in London, Fifth Avenue in New York or Orchard Road in Singapore

Lalitha Sridhar
July 03 , 2014
13 Min Read
1. Bond Street, London
It’s still the most expensive street to buy on the British Monopoly board, this historic shopping mecca in London’s posh West End, and it has consistently remained a fashionable go-to since the 18th century. Bond Street runs south-north via the British capital’s eponymous Mayfair, between Oxford Street and Piccadilly, with the southern section, which came up first, called the Old Bond Street, and the much longer northern section of some 40 years later, the New Bond Street. Sotheby’s and the Fine Art Society are century-old residents, and Bond Street houses some of the world’s finest art and antique stores, fashion boutiques, and, especially, upmarket jewellers (Cartier, Tiffany, Asprey). Mulberry and Burberry have their flagship stores here. While you’re here, look out for Lawrence Holofcener’s bronze statue of Churchill and Roosevelt conversing on a park bench.
Getting There Parking is available, so feel free to drive down; plenty of buses service the area; the nearest tube stations are Bond Street, Oxford Circus and Green Park; bondstreet.co.uk

2. Fifth Avenue, New York
It’s particularly between midtown Manhattan’s 49th and 60th Streets that Fifth Avenue, which runs all the way from Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village to Harlem River in the 142nd, thrives in a world of such wealth that price tags are pooh-poohed. Edith Wharton’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel
The Age of Innocence made the Fifth Avenue central to New York’s social elites of the 1870s and, down the years, this world-famous shopping district has been consistently rated as one of the top attractions in the United States. Historic landmarks jostle shoulders with the iconic labels on the Fifth. Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, Armani (its curved white staircase dubbed the Guggenheim 2), Bloomingdales, Bendels, Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman have flagship stores, every notable fashion label is here (Fendi, Armani, Salvatore Ferragamo, Bvlgari, Emilio Pucci, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Van Cleef & Arpels, Prada…), there’s the iconic Apple Store (open round the clock, 24x7), and so are the Empire State Building, the New York Public Library, St Patrick’s Cathedral (currently undergoing a magnificent restoration), the Rockefeller Center, and the eponymous Museum Mile, which includes the Guggenheim and MoMA. By the way, a visit wouldn’t quite be complete without stopping for afternoon tea at the Plaza Hotel.
Getting There Take a cab or one of many buses; the N, R and Q lines of the BMT Broadway Line have stops along the Fifth Avenue; visit5thavenue.com

3. Avenue Montaigne, Paris
Unlike its peers in London and New York, Avenue Montaigne, set in the 8th arrondissement of Paris and a study in discreet bourgeoisie elegance, did not set out to be the toniest part of the French capital. It was originally the allée des veuves (the alley of widows) because women in mourning gathered here—but that was back in the 18th century. Michel de Montaigne, a French Renaissance writer, created a new identity for it, and the talk-of-the-town Mabille balls held on Saturdays completed its transition into a high-fashion address. Located not far from the other famous high street of Avenue des Champs Elysées in what’s arguably the fashion pinnacle of the world, the ultra chic neighbourhood is naturally the toast of renowned couturiers: Dior, Chanel, Valentino, Ralph Lauren, Céline, Loewe, Inés de la Fressange, Emmanuel Ungaro, Versace, and even the infamously twice-robbed Harry Winston jewellery store are proud to call it their home. La grande dame of French shopping has been reigning supreme since the 1980s, and the opulent Plaza Athénée Hotel is where you might like to pause for some refreshment after all those difficult choices to buy or not to buy.

Getting There Metro Line 1 to Champs-Elysées-Clemenceau/Franklin D. Roosevelt/George V/Charles-de-Gaulle Etoile, or Line 12 to Concorde for a lovely walk into the avenue; avenuemontaigneguide.com

4. Via Montenapoleone, Milan
Italy’s instantly recognisable road to luxury traces its origin to the Roman empire though it staked claim to a leading position among the world’s most important ‘streets of fashion’ much later, after some of the aristocratic mansions that once lined it managed to survive WWII. Fashionistas come here to pick the latest in prêt-à-porter and haute couture, to find the most exclusive jewellery houses and shoemakers, and so Montenapoleone reigns supreme in Milan’s formidable Fashion District, aka the
quadrilatero della moda (‘the quadrilateral of fashion’). It has been instrumental in establishing the ‘Made in Italy’ label as among the world’s finest. Valentino, Philosophy by Alberta Ferretti, Alexander McQueen, Bally, Ars Rosa and Ferragamo — everyone is here. Quite a few global satraps of fashion are headquartered here, with large emporia and discreet back offices where big deals are struck in hushed tones. But its pedigree was established beyond doubt when Caffé Cova, one of Italy’s oldest confectioners, relocated here from its original marquee premises next to the La Scala.
Getting There
Cab it, or take Milan’s yellow line on which Via Montenapoleone is a subway station; viamontenapoleone.org

5. Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

No, not NY or Tokyo, it’s Hong Kong that stakes claim to being the world’s most expensive retail real estate. There’s a hyper-energy to its maze of streets, noise and neon in every direction, with some pedestrians-only streets to cope with the fantastic crowds — Causeway Bay has to be experienced to be believed. The 13-storey Sogo department store and the 16-storey Times Square mall (good food to be found on the upper floors) are legends of course, but it’s Causeway’s quirky-hip fashion boutiques (most of them along what’s called the Fashion Walk) and standalone enterprises bang on the streets (instead of getting tucked into malls), that lure the discerning shopper. There’s also Lee Gardens and Lee Gardens Two, both high-end malls on Yun Pin Road. But you can take your time — Causeway begins to wind down only after midnight. Rest your legs at the tranquil Victoria Park, a vital green lung in this megapolis of dazzling attractions. All of its manic vibe stands on what was once a heavily silted, extensively reclaimed bay.
Getting There
Take the blue Island Line on the MTR subway to the humongous Causeway Bay station, or the tram to Sogo; Yee Woo St is the navigational centre; discoverhongkong.com

6. The Ginza, Tokyo
It’s an über posh slice of an upscale city, and whereas the rest of Tokyo’s total Westernisation, especially in attire, invariably gives visitors momentary pause, it’s perfectly suited to Ginza’s understated luxury. Ginza easily fits the more obvious definition of a high street with its classy boutiques, glitzy department stores, gourmet restaurants and elegant coffee houses, so it’s impossible to believe the entire area was a swamp reclaimed in the 16th century for an Edo period mint. A disastrous fire in 1872 brought ruin first, which was followed by revival as the authorities redeveloped Ginza to be a ‘model of modernisation’ with wider streets, fireproof structures and a stylish promenade all the way from the Shinbashi bridge to the Ky?bashi bridge, lined with three-storey Georgian brick buildings. You’ll appreciate why this real estate turned precious in what was to become a land-starved mega-metro of skyscrapers even though there was widespread criticism when it first came up for the manner in which Ginza abandoned local construction ethics. This perception faded quickly as Ginza set trends in window displays and casual browsing, which is now encouraged with a pedestrians-only rule on weekend afternoons (based on the principle of hokoten or ‘pedestrian heaven’). Every international label worth its name can be found here; Sony, Apple and Ricoh have flagship stores; the Wako building and its clock tower date back to 1894; and the art galleries deserve an afternoon by themselves.
Getting There
Tokyo Metro’s Hibiya, Ginza and Marunouchi lines stop at the Ginza Station; the Y?rakuch? line stops at the Ginza-itch?me Station; the Hibiya and Asakusa lines stop at the Higashi- Ginza Station; gotokyo.org

7. Na P?íkop?, Prague
This beautiful boulevard at the centre of Prague literally means ‘on the moat’. Evoking the restrained magnificence of eastern European architecture, it runs from Wenceslas Square to the Square of the Republic, separating the Old Town from the New Town. Na P?íkop? is full of history (dating back to the 14th century), housing old palaces, historic buildings and financial institutions including the Czech Republic’s national bank. These sit cheek by jowl with posh stores retailing the finest brands from around the world. Luxury stores front the street with quiet sophistication, and ‘galleries’ of shops like ?erná R?Â?e and Myslbek offer everything you’ll find in the more famous European capitals. ‘Máte pání?’ visitors are asked (‘what is your wish?), and a vastly number of whims are met. Enjoy the restaurants, bars, clubs and cinema, and look out for the buskers.
Getting There
Take the underground rail M?stek to Na P?íkop?; Prague’s reliable network of rail, trams and buses is laid out here dpp.cz/en; praguewelcome.cz/en

8. Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, Brussels
This historic structure designed by Jean-Pierre Cluysenaer was inaugurated by King Leopold in 1847. Visitors stop by to admire the heritage building as much as to consider the luxury goods which adorn its spotless shop windows. The Dutch name of this glazed arcade in central Brussels is even more formidable — Koninklijke Sint-Hubertusgalerijen. The impossibly delicate cast iron framework holds up two upper floors, the gorgeous glassed roof lets in the sunlight, and the shop fronts are separated by pilasters in the Italianate Cinquecento style. There’s a King’s Gallery, a Queen’s Gallery, both over a hundred meters long, and a smaller Gallery of the Princes to a side. A colonnade separates the two main galleries where the Rue des Bouchers intersects the complex, ‘bending’ its enormous length for better perspective. Fashionable folk cross its portals often, revelling in the suffused lighting, relaxing at the atmospheric cafés, pausing and purchasing from stores steeped in European elegance. We wager you won’t be able to resist the speciality chocolate stores
Getting There Just a few steps from the Grand Place or Grote Markt, connected by trams, buses and trains to Gare Centrale; galeries-saint-hubert.com

Portal Del Angel, Barcelona

It’s best pronounced with a Catalan lilt, this pedestrians-only high street in the Ciutat Vella district of Barcelona, part of an expanse of retail therapy that stretches from Avinguda Diagonal (the L’illa Diagonal ‘superblock’ complex is here) to Barri Gòtic. The entire district begs shopping: Passeig de Gracia (look into Vasari for gold jewellery) and the streets to its southwest; and Barri Gòtic’s Carrer de la Portaferrissa, Carrer de la Boqueria and Carrer de Ferran. Portal del Angel is best for clothing and accessories; Plaça de Sant Josep Oriol for handicrafts; and Avinguda Diagonal for international haute couture. Bargains are best found in the two annual sales: in winter (early January to end February) and in summer(mid-June to end August). The Gothic Quarter has an array of heritage structures: Augustus's ancient temple to Els Quatre Gats and the restored pub where Modernists met. Portal del Angel’s swirl of tourists lends it a cosmopolitan sensibility in sunny España. If you’ve been planning an al fresco meal, have it here. And relax by the cathedral at the end of the street: just follow the sound of street musicians who perform without any artificial amplification.

Getting There
Get to the Placa Catalunya hub, which is connected to all metro lines, and then take the air-conditioned ‘Tomb’ T1 bus with music, magazines and armchairs — there’s one every seven minutes; barcelonaturisme.com

10. Orchard Road, Singapore
Trust Singapore to get systematic even about its high street. Orba (the Orchard Road Business Association, a wing of the Singapore Tourism Board) simply calls Orchard Road, the island nation’s premier shopping haven, ‘A Great Street’. More than 5,000 brands are retailed in 22 shopping malls and six departmental stores over 2.2km of a boulevard which offers 800,000sq.m. of landscaped real estate for retailing leading brands, high fashion and limited editions of consumer goods. Electronics, phones, kid stuff, artworks, books, music, gourmet food and fashion accessories... there’s nothing that Orchard doesn’t sell. Many stores offer tourists a refund on good and services tax. The association also rolls out events like the Christmas Light-Up and Fashion Steps Out. Most of the malls, except those linked directly by the MRT system (above), are connected via underground link-ways. The sidewalks are lined with angsana trees: their shade is a preferred place to rest after a shopping romp. Why the name? In the 1830s, it was home to fruit orchards, nutmeg plantations and pepper farms.

Getting There
Plenty of SBS and SMRT buses ply to Orchard Road; Wisma Atria and Ion Orchard are accessed from the Orchard MRT Station, 313@somerset is best reached via Somerset MRT station, and Plaza Singapuria by Dhoby Ghaut MRT Station; orchardroad.org

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