Top 10 shopping cities by train
Yes, Europe has museums. And yes, it has culture and art. But why not scoop up some of that art, history and culture in a whirlwind shopping spree across Europe by train? Europe’s top 10 shopping cities help you do just that. And with so many open air markets to choose from, you get a taste of the great outdoors too!
The cities included in our roundup are places where you can find everything from punk rock wig supplies to lavender-scented sachets for grandma. And with your Eurail pass, you don’t even need to pick between them. Just pack your ticket and go.
Home to some of the world’s most famous fashion labels, the most sought-after food and the most easily recognised art, Paris is one of the best cities for shopping that the world has ever seen. And while Rue du Faubourg St-Honoré and the Champs-Elysées don’t come cheap, you can still find a bargain at the Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen. With over 3000 stalls, it’s thought to be the biggest flea market in the world.
Milan is synonymous with fashion, and you’ll find Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Prada, Valentino and Versace within the “golden quad” or Quadrilatero d’Oro. (That’s the area between Via Montenapoleone, Via Sant’Andrea, Via Monzani and Via della Spiga for you and me.) Stroll through the arcades of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Founded in 1867 and set just metres from Milan’s Duomo, it’s a beautiful lesson in Belle Epoque, Louis Vuitton and Campari.
Forget about the fashion rules and find your own style on the streets of Berlin. In a city that sells clothes by the kilo (try Garage at Ahornstrasse 2) and serves drinks while you shop (Voodoo Market, Oderbergerstrasse 4), you can quench your shopping thirst among tattoo artists and all the designer brands. For alternative shopping in the city, walk along Kastanienallee…or shop right within the main stations if you’re pressed for time!
London is one of the most cosmopolitan cities on earth, and it’s hard to think of something you can’t find in London – except for reliable sunshine, perhaps. Shop like royalty at iconic department stores Harrods, Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason, or experiment with London’s edgy side at the Camden, Portobello Road and Spitalfields markets. While the Eurail pass doesn’t cover U.K. travel, it does provide discounts on the Eurostar to Brussels, Paris and Lille. Check their special offers directly for the best deal or else hop on a ferry to the Netherlands to reach mainland Europe and begin your rail adventure.
Immerse yourself in the flavours of Catalonia in the frenetic yet fascinating La Boqueria Market just off La Rambla. Aside from its more than 72 fruit and veg stalls, the market is a great place to pick up bacalao (salted cod), fresh seafood and jamon (cured ham.) You can find all the big-name stores in and around Placa de Catalunya, while it’s not hard to find boutique designer, antique and specialist food and beauty stores across the city. Barcelona’s a main transport hub for both Spain and routes connecting to France, so it fits nicely into any shopping itinerary.
Istanbul is a city designed to dazzle shoppers. First, there’s the Grand Bazaar of James Bond fame, with spices piled high and glittering fabrics priced low. After that, there’s an explosion of artistic talent going on in the maze-like streets of Galata, just across from Sultanahmet. (Think fashion, art and interior decoration.) Antiques cluster in the districts of Çukurcuma and Cihangir, and if you believe the merchants, you can even find your own magic flying carpet.
For the bargain of all bargains, head to weekly flea market El Rastro. After that, try some establishment shopping in the nation’s favourite department store, El Corte Inglés. You’ll find all the top designers in the smart Salamanca district and a younger, boho feel in and around Fuencarral. Madrid lies at the heart of Spain’s rail network, making it easily accessible with your pass. Don’t forget that many shops still close in the afternoon to allow for a siesta.
All roads may lead to Rome, but all shopaholics head to the flea market at Porta Portese in Trastevere. Loaded with antiques, oddities, hagglers and the odd pick-pocket, it’s one of Europe’s most lively shopping grounds. Independent fashion designers live around Via del Boschetto, Via del Pellegrino and Via del Governo Vecchio, with the big names on Via Condotti. And don’t forget the food. Stock up on strong cheese and salami, shipping it home if you need to.
Nice fills its cobbled streets and covered markets with all the beauty of Provence. Think lavender soap, sachets and scented just about everything, followed by sun-soaked Mediterranean produce: beefy tomatoes, flowering zucchini, pumpkins, mushrooms and outrageously leafy lettuce. Don’t miss the lace and artisanal ceramics and the flower market at Cours Saleya. Nice provides a handy stop-off point on the journey between Paris and Milan, plus a little rustic balance to those two high-octane fashion cities.
There’s more to shopping in Amsterdam than tulips and, er, special coffee shops. That said, the floating Flower Market is indeed worth a visit for its flamboyant displays of tulip bulbs – and of Christmas Trees once winter comes around. Leidsestraat offers plenty of souvenir shops (clogs, anyone?) as well as boutiques, large fashion stores and canal views. Beyond the mainstream, you’ll find shops specialising in vinyl, comic books, holograms and sex toys. Well, it is Amsterdam after all.