My souvenir habit started as a child, with noisy maracas and castanets brought back from Tenerife by my nana, and a growing collection of the pencils, rubbers and postcards I bought for myself. These days I’m more likely to pick up a bottle of the local tipple (honey rum from Gran Canaria’s a definite favourite) or some traditional handicraft or other. But if you’re ready to take your souvenir shopping to the next level, or maybe turn your whole holiday into one big shopping trip, you need to put a bit more thought into it, so I’ve got a few suggestions to get you started.
1) New York
Think of a shopping holiday and New York probably springs straight to mind. No wonder, with so many famous places to spend your money. There are the department stores (Barney’s, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s), the luxury boutiques of Madison and Fifth Avenues (Tiffany & Co, Saks Fifth Avenue, Cartier) and the quirkiness of Greenwich Village (think vintage, books and vinyl) and Chinatown (we came home with some beautiful bamboo chopsticks). Tour the best shopping districts and you’ll get to see a lot of the city along the way, so it’s not just spending, it’s exploring too.
Dubai’s an absolute dream of a destination for any shopaholic but the malls are so much more than just classy shopping centres stocked with tax-free luxury goods. At the huge Dubai Mall you can take a break from shopping to watch fish in the aquarium or go ice skating, while Mall of the Emirates is home to the slopes and family Snow Park of Ski Dubai. If you’ve ever wanted to go skiing or snowboarding in the desert, this is your moment.
But let’s face it, it’s the shopping you’re really there for, and you definitely won’t be disappointed. There are nearly a hundred malls to choose from, plus characterful souks, including the famous Gold Souk and Spice Souk. They’re perfect if you’re looking for more traditional shopping areas, with their bustling little streets and colourful wares.
Whether you’re into high fashion or classic style, if you love clothes shopping then Italy’s your perfect destination. But if your bank balance won’t quite stretch to a full-blown shopping trip in this mecca of all things fashionable, don’t worry. You can get your retail fix with a day in the ultra-stylish high-end boutiques and spend the rest of your holiday unwinding somewhere much more relaxing. To visit the beautiful old malls and trendy outlet villages of Milan, make your base in Lake Garda. If you want to shop in the fantastic designer and independent shops of Naples, known for its sharp suits and silk ties, head to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast; you can also pop across to the celebrity-chic island of Capri from there, for even more exclusive shops.
All this top-notch shopping’s all very well but my favourite kind of thing to take back from a holiday is something local. The Greek islands are brilliant for authentic holiday mementoes and special gifts, from traditional leather sandals and carpets to the worry beads you see everyone wearing.
You can find some beautiful artisan jewellery too, ranging from cheap and pretty trinkets to the stylish collections of the upmarket jewellery shops in Old Rhodes Town. And if you’re staying at Casa Cook Rhodes in Kolymbia, you can even take part of the hotel home with you too. Well, sort of. Casa Cook’s signature chilled-out style is pretty cool (just look at that photo), and the reception area doubles as a designer store, selling lots of the gorgeous things that are in your room. Now that really is taking souvenir shopping to the next level.
5) Christmas markets
I don’t know about you but I’ve got a real soft spot for city breaks. I also love the atmosphere around Christmas, when you can feel the frost in the air, fairy lights twinkle in the trees and mulled wine’s an acceptable choice at all times of day. If you’re like me, a trip to one of Europe’s traditional Christmas markets should definitely be on your bucket list; they’re the perfect combination of two of my favourite things. Just imagine shopping for cute little tree decorations, unusual presents and mouth-watering treats in one of the most beautiful old cities in the world, like Bruges, Berlin or Krakow. I can’t think of a more magical way to start the festive season.
I’m a sucker for a pretty bowl, so it’s probably a good job I’ve never been to Marrakech. I’d spend my dirhams like water. Colourful pottery’s just one of the many things you’ll find in the city’s bustling markets and souks, alongside pungent spices, shoes, rugs, kaftans, lamps and, well, just about anything you can think of. If you’re shopping for people back home, Berban necklaces and traditional leather bags make beautiful gifts. Haggling’s all part of the process, I’m told, but don’t worry if you’ve not done it before, it’s easy to get the hang of.
It may not be the same as the shiny malls and neat department stores you think of when you’re planning a shopping holiday, but shopping in Marrakech is sure to be a fantastic experience; the perfect way to get to the heart of this exotic destination.
7) On the plane
And finally, if you’re a fan of good old fashioned duty free (and who doesn’t relish the chance to buy a big bottle of perfume for a fantastic price?), you’ll love this last tip. You can do your shopping before you even go anywhere near the airport, and it won’t even count as part of your baggage allowance. Just go to the Airshoppen website and browse at your leisure, place your order and it’ll be waiting for you on the plane. No more faffing about trying to get your purse out of your hand luggage mid-flight, or rushing around the airport shops when you could be relaxing with a coffee and a pastry. What’s not to like?