Shopaholics, it's time to spread your (highly fashionable) wings a little further this winter in search of a bargain. Yep, we're talking Christmas sale shopping!
Ready to find a festive bargain?
When it comes to retail therapy, Europe's bagged the top spot, hands down. Here's the lowdown on where to go for the best December and January sales - from fashion to furniture and everything in between.
And, the best part? When you travel by train, the baggage restrictions aren't as strict as airlines, so you can shop 'til you drop and not be charged excess baggage - hello discount label!
Paris is highly regarded as THE fashion capital. And, as it's just over two hours away on the Eurostar, you could spend a full day stocking up on French goodies and be home in time for tea! The French government are pretty strict with retailers on when they can go sale and it's only twice a year.
Key word for you... Soldes. That's the word for 'Sales' in French. By late December/early January, you'll see this word plastered all over shop fronts up and down the chic high streets. Galeries Lafayette is a designer-label mecca, drawing in shoppers from all over the world to worship at the clothing racks, makeup stands and perfume counters of the likes of Givenchy, Dior and Chanel. It's worth a visit to see the pretty domed roof, even if the price tags inside might make your eyes water.
If huge department stores aren't your thing, take your pick of homemade jewellery, furniture and fashion in the Passage du Grand-Cerf, one of the covered shopping areas - also known as Les Arcades.
Often overshadowed by the capital, Brussels, and the fairytale charm of Bruges, Antwerp is Belgium’s hidden gem. Snap up a New Year's treat in the Wilde Zee district. These five pedestrianised shopping streets should be your first port of call. There's a relaxed, almost hippy vibe here, made all the nicer by the smells of food from the numerous delicatessens and sweet shops.
Who wants to spurge on the train fare, when it could be put towards new shoes, a new suit or a handmade crystal lampshade? Search and book train tickets to Antwerp in advance and see how much you could save.
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
The largest city in the Netherlands, Amsterdam doesn’t disappoint when it comes to shopping. You won't have far to walk once your train arrives, as it’s a short stroll from the Centraal station to the heart of the retail action. Unlike in France and Belgium, Amsterdam doesn't have fixed dates for sale periods, but you can bet your bottom dollar there'll be discounted items in the shops just after Christmas and through to mid January.
Begin in Kalverstraat, a busy street where you’ll find a mix of boutiques and department stores, before heading to De 9 Straatjes. The nine streets - as it translates - are a collection of alleyways around Amsterdam's canal belt, just behind Dam Square. Vintage bargains are yours to snap up there, and once you're done, you can stop in for a refreshing cup of tea or coffee in one of the cosy cafés.
Things kick off a little later in Germany, so if you've still not found what you're looking for, or you just can't get enough of the sales, head to Berlin in late January. Get your head around the lingo - 'Winterschlussverkauf', that's 'winter sale', and 'alles muss raus' translates as 'everything must go'. KaDeWe is Berlin’s big department store and a must for bargain-hunters. You’ll find all 60,000m2 of it on the Kurfürstendamm and names like Calvin Klein, Fendi and De'Longhi (the coffee makers) there.
If you’re a fan of Scandi chic, then there’s only one place to go and that’s Copenhagen. The main shopping street is Strøget, where you can hop from store to store following in the Danish Queen’s footsteps – Illums Bolighus, Royal Copenhagen and Georg Jensen all have the prestigious “By Royal appointment” sign above their doors.
For a splash of colour, visit the hip area of Jægersborggade. Art galleries, organic produce, ceramics and vintage fashion are just some of the treasures on offer.
No self-respecting sale shopper could resist Italy’s fashion capital, Milan. This northern city is the country’s wealthiest, so it’s no surprise that all the designer boutiques have found a home here. But, the big names knock a fair amount of euros off their unsold stock after Christmas. Dates for the “saldi” as they’re called locally are flexible but usually start beginning to mid-January.
Our final suggestion if you’re planning to visit the European winter sales is Barcelona. The sales kick off during the first weeks of January and have been known to go on as long as March! We'd recommend heading there in January though, so you can cherry-pick the best deals. Look out for signs saying “Rebajas” and focus on Plaça Catalunya, Passeig de Gràcia or Diagonal if you’re looking for the big international retail brands such as Mango and Zara. For something a little different, try the Barrí Gotic or El Born.
Plan ahead to the Christmas sales and celebrate with a bargain or two. Book your train travel to Europe with us.