the best Chrismtas shopping cities in the UK

Top 12 Best Christmas Shopping Towns In The UK

19 mins read

The UK is home to some of the best cities in the world, filled with centuries of history, well-preserved buildings, and unique cultural scenes. 

The same reasons that make them popular with tourists are also the reasons why they make fantastic shopping destinations. Being a bit of a shopaholic I’ve spent many years visiting them all this time of year so I’ve collated a list of what I think are the best. From cities filled with quaint arcades and boutique stores to popular high street chains and mega malls, there really is something for everyone’s taste! Here are my favourite Christmas shopping towns in the UK…

1. Oxford Street, London – the most popular and famous shopping street in the UK

London’s central shopping street is still one of the most popular shopping destinations in the world and forty million shoppers making their annual Christmas pilgrimage here can’t be wrong.

People come for the lights, the two-mile stretch of more than three hundred shops, and the extended ranges in many of the international flagship stores and although there have been some shop closures in recent years there is still a huge amount of choice including major department stores like Selfridges, Nike Town, John Lewis, Marks and Spencer and TK Maxx.

Although they probably don’t come for the crowds. If you’re planning a trip, I would suggest getting to the shops as soon as they open to try and avoid the afternoon crush!

My favourite things to do/highlights

  • Hunting for clothes in Selfridges before heading to their Food Hall eatery for a well-earned bite to eat!
  • Going to nearby Liberty’s (Regent St., Carnaby, London W1B 5AH) and checking out their gorgeous Christmas decorations, organic toiletries, and designer homeware. 
  • Hunting for designer bargains in the huge TK Maxx store.

Check out our Top 20 Cool and Unusual Hotels in London

2. Manchester – a cool shopping city in the UK filled with both mainstream and independent shops

Christmas Shopping in Manchester

England’s unofficial second city, Manchester has the cooler edge on many of its rivals. Not even counting the busy The Arndale Centre which is filled with mainstream brands, this Northern city is a shopper’s paradise.

Manchester has a network of streets and I love that they’re crammed full of small niche retailers, vintage boutiques, and shabby chic/boho stores many with an original Mancunian style. I definitely think this sets the city apart as a shopping destination as there is really nowhere else quite like it.

Head for the Northern Quarter for the more bohemian shops and the Castlefield area for more sleek and stylish offerings. It’s perfect if you’re stuck for Christmas shopping ideas as there are so many unique offerings – I would recommend packing an umbrella though, the weather in the North of England can be very unpredictable!

My favourite things to do/highlights

  • Head to the funky Modernist Shop for interesting books, prints, and homeware. 
  • Hunt for cool vintage items and kitsch at Pop. 
  • Go to Fred Aldous store for arts and crafts gifts.

For our Top 20 Cool and Unusual Hotels in Manchester

3. Brighton – the eclectic and creative seaside city home to a wide range of independent stores

Brighton - The best Christmas shopping town in the UK

Although a smaller city, the eternally popular seaside of Brighton has an incredible and diverse range of shops and I would honestly say it really is a joy to wander around here even in the bracing sea air in the winter! They range from chic boutiques, and contemporary unique fashions to antiques, original art, and stylish jewellery.

The trendier shops are located in the famous Brighton’s North Laines and the South Laines and here you can buy everything from retro kitsch and genuine vintage goods to aspirational lifestyle products and French reproduction furniture.

Make sure you also stop for a jackfruit burger at one of the many health and vegan food outlets – this is a city that’s both trendy and progressive! Designer bargains can be found in the Brighton Marina and the big high-street name stores are located mostly in Churchill Square.

My favourite things to do/highlights

  • Spending hours wandering around the unique independent stores in the North Laines
  • Heading to Dowse for incredible and cute homeware. 
  • Stopping at the cosy and healthy Food for Friends and having a tasty lunch.

Check out our post on the Top 15 Cool and Unusual Hotels in Brighton

4. Edinburgh – do your Christmas shopping against a backdrop of stunning historic architecture

Christmas shopping in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a beautiful city in the UK and a fantastic location for shopping. People brave the cold to come here and view the sights, soak up the incredible atmosphere, stop at a traditional tavern for a wee dram as well as do their Christmas shopping.

I love that the style-conscious locals take consumerism very seriously here and the mostly elegant and pristine streets are packed with stores.

As well as all the usual high street shops you’ll find plenty of designer names (Stella McCartney, Louis Vuitton, Prada), smaller boutique shops, and some unique and interesting gift shops.

Head for beautiful and elegant Princes Street for lots of flagship stores and the historic Royal Mile to shop against an incredible backdrop of medieval architecture, long winding corridors, and historic courtyards. I would recommend timing your visit to coincide with their world-famous Christmas Markets which take place towards the end of November.

My favourite things to do/highlights

  • Browsing the incredible and atmospheric Christmas Markets. 
  • Stopping at the upscale restaurant and bar The Dome which is home to a truly incredible Christmas Tree. 
  • Shopping at my favourite Department Store Harvey Nichols.

Our Top 20 Cool and Unusual Hotels in Edinburgh

5. Birmingham – brands galore in the UK’s official second city

shopping in Birmingham

The UK’s second-largest city certainly knows how to attract shoppers and it’s an easier place to get your bearings than you might think.

Most shops can be found in the newly redeveloped Bull Ring or the lovely New Street. Brummies love trendy designer labels but they also love a bargain and unusual architecture too. There are a lot of retro and hipster-friendly shops here too.

The £40 million futuristic Selfridges building is worth coming to Birmingham to see in itself although, having said that, it might not be to everyone’s taste but I personally think it really adds to the city.

The city is filled with major high street shops including Harvey Nichols and House of Fraser and the famous jewellery quarter in Birmingham should sort you out with all your bling…

My favourite things to do/highlights

  • Browsing the incredible Bullring Selfridges store.
  • Checking out all the shops in the fabulous Jewellery Quarter.
  • Shopping for retro-style clothes in Top Banana.

Our post on the Top 15 Cool and Unusual Hotels in Birmingham

6. Spitalfields Market, London – a shopping paradise in London filled with creative products and produce

Shopping in Spitalfields Market London

One of London’s oldest and most beloved markest Spitalfields (located in London’s East End, the nearest underground station is Liverpool Street) is a great alternative shopping destination.

When I’m bored with the usual high street stores I head to Spitalfields Market with its eclectic range of stalls and pop-up shops – many with original designs. If I’m feeling more energetic I also wander to nearby Brick Lane which has vintage stores galore.

Buy your hipster cousin a retro satchel, your mum a vintage brooch, your new niece or nephew a trendy printed babygrow or just pick up a slice of vegan-free and gluten-free Christmas cake! I love this place! 

I would suggest not leaving without checking out nearby Shoreditch (around a 10-minute walk) which also has some very interesting hipster-friendly stores as well as independent cafes and restaurants.

Our Top 20 Cool and Unusual Hotels in London

7. Newcastle – home to the largest shopping mall in the UK

the best UK Christmas shopping cities

If you like to shop on a large scale then take a trip to Newcastle. I’m a big fan of the enormous Metrocentre that attracts visitors to the city in their thousands and it’s actually one of the largest shopping and leisure centres in Europe.

In Newcastle, you can find all the usual high street favourites, a wide range of independent shops, quirky boutiques and also a popular art and craft market (which takes place on Armstrong Bridge every Sunday).

Other great places to shop in Newcastle are Eldon Square Shopping Centre which is great for High Street shops, Trinity Square, Grainger Market home to fresh produce and hidden gems, Monument Mall which is known for its flagship stores, Central Arcade a stunning arcade filled with quaint stores and my personal favorite, High Bridge Quarter which is home to many excellent independent stores.

8. Bath – a beautiful city to shop in the UK and home to many charming independent stores

Christmas shopping in Bath

If it’s a quintessentially English Christmas shopping experience you’re after, look no further than beautiful Bath in Somerset. With its grand Georgian streets, Roman baths, and beautiful abbey, Bath is a historical and attractive city where even the most discerning shopper is well catered for.

The city offers all the familiar big-name stores, a wide range of independent shops, gorgeous homeware stores, upmarket high-street shops, stylish boutiques, and a very popular Christmas Market.

When you’re finished I would recommend taking a dip in a thermal spa or just doing a spot of sightseeing, there are plenty of beautiful and well-preserved historic buildings here so I suggest you make a weekend of it if you can.

9. Dublin – the fun city which is also an incredible shopping destination

Dublin Christmas shopping

Okay, I’ve cheated a bit on this one as it’s not in the UK but Dublin is a fun and vibrant city that would make an excellent choice for an easily accessible Christmas shopping destination.

I especially love that it’s a compact city which means all the shops are within easy walking distance of each other. Most of the shopping is centered around the pedestrianised Grafton Street for top-end shops and St. Stephens Green Shopping Centre – for all the usual high-street shops.

When you’re all shopped out here head for buzzing Temple Bar for trendy and more unusual clothing, music, and art stores (and probably also a pint of Guinness).

10. Cardiff – a vibrant city which is easily one the best shopping cities in the UK

Christmas shopping in Cardiff

Even if you’re not searching for a rugby shirt or a Welsh Love spoon don’t overlook Cardiff as a UK Christmas shopping destination.

I have always found Cardiff to be a very friendly city and is now one of the best shopping locations in the country thanks to St. David’s shopping centre £675 million extension.

Every major store is represented in the very impressive St David’s Dewi Sant Shopping Centre but if it’s a more intimate shopping experience you’re after I would recommend heading for the cute Morgan and Castle shopping arcades that have quaint Victorian and Edwardian features.

11. York – charming cobbled lanes full of independent stores and boutiques

the best Chrismtas shopping cities in the UK

One of my favorite cities in England, the gorgeous and elegant city in Northern England makes an excellent place to shop. Shop against a backdrop of stunning historic buildings (including the famous York Minster) and discover hidden gems down the narrow cobbled lanes.

Expect designer stores, independent shops, and boutiques galore and each shopping area in York has its own specialty. I would recommend heading for Parliament and Coney Street for high-street favourites and Gillygate and Petergate for independent shops.

Alternatively, I would suggest trying the daily Shambles Market which is home to more than 85 stalls offering a wide range of goods and produce. Stop at one of the many quaint tea or cake shops for a well-earned rest along the way!

12. Canterbury, Kent – an elegant and bohemian UK shopping destination

the best UK shopping towns

Canterbury, a wonderful cathedral city in Kent, England is an excellent place to head to for a spot of shopping.

It’s a charming and compact city with an air of elegance and a bohemian side too, I’m a big fan. Canterbury’s Whitefriars is best for well-known high-street fashion and lifestyle brands and the more quaint and historic areas of the King’s Mile, Westgate, and St Dunstan’s offer unique independent shops and boutiques. It’s a fairly compact city so it’s pretty easy to walk around.

Canterbury offers everything from fine art and crafts to jewellery and antiques as well as clothes and I would highly recommend it for an atmospheric Christmas shopping spree!

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