By Callie Watson
It’s a conundrum many a traveller has faced. In our bid to wander far and wide, the bulk of our hard-earned money goes on flights, accommodation and food, leaving very little room in the budget for shopping. At least this always seems to be the case for me.
One glamorous shopfront after another seems to call my name, only for a quick squiz inside to reveal that even the cheapest items are out of reach. So I spent a lot of my six months abroad window shopping.Not only is it a great way to kill a few hours, it’s a great opportunity to people watch and experience the local culture. But if you’re lucky enough to have a bit of money to spare, or just happy to window shop like me, here’s five of the best markets and shopping strips I’ve come across.
Fifth Ave, New York, America
Almost every big international brand imaginable has a store on Fifth Ave, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a millionaire to shop here. A cupcake from Magnolia’s Bakery, made popular by Sex and the City, will only set you back a few dollars while a trip to the engagement ring floor of Tiffany’s is free. Watch in envy as couples sip champagne and check out some serious rocks. The gaudy gold interior of Trump Tower is also worth a look. For a less glitzy, more grungy experience, head to the cobbled streets of SoHo. There’s gorgeous markets scattered throughout this trendy area. My favourite was selling one-of-a-kind statement necklaces in bright colours for prices that won’t break the bank.
Oxford St and Notting Hill, London, England
It’s the king of the British high street- and with good reason. Where Australia has got Portmans and David jones, the Brtis have the superior Top Shop and House of Fraser. And that’s only the start of it – there’s everything you can imagine more on this shopping haunt in London’s sophisticated Westminster. But a word of warning – UK shop attendants in general aren’t nearly as friendly as our Aussie ones. If you’re standing outside a change room waiting for the shop assistant to tell you if the dress looks any good, you’ll be waiting for ages. Also worth a mention in the English capital is Notting Hill, where records, vintage threads and antique furniture all jostle for space.
San Telmo Sunday Markets, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The grand buildings that line this popular market has a distinctly European feel – but when the tango dancers and Latino musicians make their way down the street, there’s little doubt you’re in the Argentinean capital. The products on offer are great and vary from impressive high-quality souvenirs to hats and shoes. Best of all, there’s plenty of bars spread along the way. Use them as an opportunity to sit back, order one of the country’s famed wines and enjoy the atmosphere.
Luxor Baazar, Luxor, Egypt
The hawkers who approach you at every corner can be a bit overwhelming, but sticking it out at this huge market, smack bang in the middle of Luxor, is well worth it. You’ll find everything from scarves to fridge magnets, paintings and homewares. Some of it’s cheap and tacky, while other items are real gems. It’s the trying to differentiate between the two that’s half the fun. Bartering is a must – try and get the vendors to go as low as possible before handing over any Egyptian pounds.
The Harajuku District, Tokyo, Japan
Remember the Japanese girls Gwen Stefani used to feature in her music videos? Here’s where these spectacularly dressed women, dubbed Harajuku girls, hang out and shop. Think everything weird and wonderful and you’re halfway to imaging just what Harajuku is like. Just one example is this cat drivers licence (pictured below) that me and my Japanese- speaking boyfriend came across. Clothes in pretty pinks and pastels, along with anything adorned with bows and Hello Kitty are the order of the day, but there’s also plenty of mainstream options too.