Each major city in Britain offers a distinct shopping experience, showcasing a diverse array of independent shops that mirror the local character and traditions. They reflect each city’s local tastes, cultures, history, and values
These shopping hubs cater to a wide spectrum of needs and desires, often surprising visitors with unique finds that reflect the cities' rich heritage and contemporary trends.
In this article, we share seven of the best shopping cities in the UK, together with the hidden gems each of them contains.
Where are the best shopping destinations in the UK?
From high street brands to luxury brands, here is a selection of brilliant UK shopping destinations and why you should visit them all.
London stands out for its eclectic and upscale shopping scene, combining historic markets with modern retail spaces. In London's diverse shopping districts, from the classic charm of Covent Garden to the modern flair of Westfield, you can find an array of choices catering to varied tastes.
The most famous shopping street in London is Oxford Street. There's everything here from toy stores and electrical retailers to fashion shops and jewellers. From discount retailers to high street flagship stores, you’ll find them here.
Criss-crossing Oxford Street is Regent Street. Regent Street is an upmarket Oxford Street with a grand architectural elegance and a great selection of exclusive stores. International brands have major stores here including Barbour, Burberry, Hamleys, Liberty, and Theory.
A 20-minute walk away from Regent Street is the trendy Covent Garden. Come here for an eclectic mix of retailers including boutique fashion houses, handmade cosmetics, and even hat shops. Inside Covent Garden, you'll find the Apple Market, a destination for lovers of antiques and handcrafted goods.
20 minutes away from Covent Garden is the luxury of Bond Street, the epicentre of high-end retail in the capital. Come here for the latest from Alexander McQueen, Cartier, Gucci, Rolex, and Victoria Beckham.
A quick Tube ride from Oxford Circus takes you directly from the luxury of Bond Street to the eclectic buzz of Camden Market. What’s on offer at this extensive range of stalls reflects London’s diversity at its finest. You can get anything here from vintage American clothing and artwork to one-off African handmade jewellery.
Between shopping, there are plenty of buzzing pubs, bars, and restaurants you can visit to recharge your batteries. Although one day is not enough to enjoy the full breadth of the capital, so you might want to consider a long weekend here instead.
Go shopping in London by train
Given its convenient connection to much of London’s bustling shopping hubs, we recommend kicking off your retail adventure in Covent Garden. It is conveniently located near major railway stations like London Euston.
From here, you can take a Northern Line from Euston to Leicester Square, then enjoy a short walk to Covent Garden.
To see the city in its full glory, consider visiting the vibrant Notting Hill Carnival, held every August Bank Holiday weekend. Attracting millions of people each year, this three-mile street parade is famous for its party atmosphere with plenty of dancing and music.
Manchester's dynamic shopping landscape, from the bustling Arndale Centre to the chic boutiques of the Northern Quarter, stands as a premier shopping destination in Northern England. The shopping venues in Manchester cater to a diverse crowd, ranging from indie culture enthusiasts to those seeking luxury items for personal indulgence.
Right in the heart of the city is the enormous Arndale Centre. There are over 200 stores in this massive shopping centre including big brands like Apple and Levis. There's a healthy community of independents here as well, ranging from memorabilia stores to plus-size fashion shops.
Five minutes away is King Street, the Bond Street of the North West. Come here for high-end fashion, designer watches, luxury jewellery, and artisanal baking. Throughout the year, King Street is host to many exhibitions and events so time your visit well to catch one of them on your trip.
Another great place to shop for luxury shopping in Manchester is the Spinningfields area in the city's financial centre. 15 minutes away from King Street is the Northern Quarter, the trendiest and most cutting-edge part of the city centre.
The area is home to fashionable retailers, music venues and a great pub and restaurant scene. It also hosts Affleck’s Palace, a famous indoor market packed with one-off retailers, quirky stalls and independent boutiques.
Go shopping in Manchester by train
Arriving at Manchester Piccadilly, your shopping experience begins just a stone's throw away at the Arndale Centre. Simply walk down Station Approach, turn right onto Piccadilly, and in less than 10 minutes, you'll be amidst a vibrant array of shops and independent boutiques.
Manchester is special at any time of year but, if you can, try to get here in December for the celebrated and enormous Manchester Christmas Market.
The beautiful city of Edinburgh is one of Europe’s most exciting retail destinations.
As soon as you exit the majestic Edinburgh Waverley station, you're right on one of the main shopping thoroughfares, Princes Street. Here, you’ll find big flagship stores like M&S, Primary, Apple, Boots, and Superdrug.
At the end of Princes Street is the city's newest shopping centre, St. James Quarter. Fully indoors, there's a great John Lewis store here as well as JD Sports, Lego, L'Occitane, and Tommy Hilfiger. You’ll find all the household brands you want on Princes Street and St. James Quarter.
At the other end of Princes Street is the intersection with the breathtaking Royal Mile. Rising towards the castle, this historic street is where you should go for souvenirs of your trip to the Scottish capital.
If you want tartan or whisky, the Royal Mile is the centre of the world. Most of the retailers on the street are independent and you can spend hours finding intriguing items here that you’d not find anywhere else.
In fact, given its sheer beauty and architectural significance, it's worth coming to Edinburgh just to walk up and down this amazing street.
A 10-minute walk away back into the New Town is George Street. This elegant street is glamorous, stylish and away from the hustle and bustle of the centre. Some of the luxury retailers based here include All Saints, Anthropologie, and Molton Brown.
For something more indie, make your way to the Grassmarket and Victoria Street district. Just off the Royal Mile, this vibrant district contains rare bookshops, artisanal gifts, and independent fashion boutiques.
As befits a capital city, there are plenty of places to have a drink and a bite to eat in between your shopping. The city is always buzzing, particularly during the Festival Fringe so try to time your visit to come during those three weeks in August.
Go shopping in Edinburgh by train
From Edinburgh Waverley Station, step right into the heart of Edinburgh's shopping district on Princes Street. As you exit the station, Princes Street unfolds before you, lined with flagship stores and offering breathtaking views of Edinburgh Castle.
While Edinburgh is a year-round favourite for a city break, it becomes even more electric during the renowned Fringe Festival.
If you want to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere this event brings with its array of international performers and budding talent, you’ll want to visit the city during the three weeks of August when it’s held.
Of all British cities, Birmingham is the best at reinventing itself. The modern city centre, with its gleaming and ultra-modern appearance, has dramatically transformed from its somewhat drab appearance of the 1980s and 90s.
The city has carried that dynamism and energy into its retail spaces, too. Nowhere in the centre epitomises that better than the eye-catching Bullring & Grand Central with its iconic SkyPlane roof.
Bullring and Grand Central are the two halves of the same centre and Link Street connects them. Link Street is home to newer brands and its retail line-up changes all the time as the landlords encourage temporary pop-up shops to be located here.
A short stroll away is the exclusive Mailbox shopping centre. This is a massive complex with offices, hotels, leisure facilities and more.
It's also home to retailers like Harvey Nichols, Harvey Jones, Castle Fine Arts, and the Eden Suits Co. Celebrity hairdresser Nicky Clarke has an outlet here and luxury hotel group Malmaison has a spa here too.
Birmingham has a tradition of making the most beautiful jewellery and that continues to this day. You can hop on the tram outside the train station to go to the city's famous Jewellery Quarter.
Here you will find some of the country’s finest diamond rings, engagement rings and luxury watches.
Go shopping in Birmingham by train
Upon arriving at Birmingham New Street Station, the iconic Bullring & Grand Central is just a short walk away. Exit the station and follow the signs to this shopping haven, where over 130 retailers await in its strikingly modern setting.
One famous Brum event to mark in your calendar is the St. Patrick’s Day parade on the weekend closest to the date itself, the 17th of March. Running from Camp Hill Island to Digbeth High Street, get caught up in the buzzing atmosphere all day and night in the city.
Cardiff is the premier shopping destination in South Wales and its pull is such that it attracts many shoppers from over the English border too.
Cardiff uniquely merges its contemporary shopping centres like St David’s Dewi Sant with historic Victorian arcades, offering a charming and diverse shopping experience.
St David’s Dewi Sant is the city's largest shopping centre with over 150 outlets. Its flagship tenants are icons of British retail John Lewis and M&S. There's a great selection of clothing, electrical and beauty retailers too plus a couple of independent art galleries.
You'll find a similar selection of retailers on Queen Street, the traditional main outdoor shopping street in the city.
Cardiff is the "City of Arcades" thanks to the seven stunning Victorian and Edwardian arcades there are in the city centre. These architectural wonders in themselves are now home to some of the best independent shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants in the UK.
Cardiff's central market has been around since the 1700s and at its current indoor location for the last 100 years. This traditional working market has a wide selection of butchers, bakers, fruit and veg stalls and clothing stores.
To see the newest Cardiff has to offer, make your way down to Mermaid Quay. There's a small retail arcade here as well as a great selection of restaurants and pubs. Paired with the stunning views it offers across the bay, this is an ideal way to end your busy day of shopping in Cardiff.
Go shopping in Cardiff by train
From Cardiff Central Station, you’ll want to begin your shopping journey at St David’s Dewi Sant. Head northeast on Wood Street, turn right onto The Hayes, and in under 10 minutes, you'll be at the doorstep of this retail paradise.
In recent years, Cardiff has developed a great reputation for some of the UK’s finest cuisine. See for yourself by coming to the annual Food and Drink Festival at Cardiff Bay every July.
Though smaller in scale, Newcastle's city centre, including the vibrant Northumberland Street and Eldon Square, packs a diverse range of shopping options.
Northumberland Street is so popular that, outside London, it's the most expensive street in Britain to rent a shop. On the street, you'll find a wide choice of big household brands including department stores and a multi-floor HMV.
Around halfway up Northumberland Street is Eldon Square, an indoor shopping centre full of other big-name brands. Here, you'll find a local department store, Fenwick, famous for its Christmas window displays that draw in the crowds. Eldon Square is also home to M&S, John Lewis, and around 100 other retailers.
For something more traditional, head out of the Monument exit of Eldon Square to go to the Grainger Market. This 200-year-old indoor market has an eclectic mix of small independent retailers, food outlets and eateries. It's also home to the world's smallest branch of Marks and Spencer.
For Newcastle's boutique shops, make your way down to the very trendy High Bridge Quarter. This stylish, mediaeval alleyway offers you everything from vintage vinyl records to the latest in fashion.
If you want more choice, catch a train from the Central Station to the Dunston Metrocentre, once Europe's biggest shopping centre.
For food and drink, you're spoiled for choice in Newcastle. Try the Quayside though to eat in one of England's most dramatic city riverscapes.
Go shopping in Newcastle by train
Stepping out of Newcastle Central Station, make your way to the bustling Northumberland Street for a premier shopping experience. A short 10-minute walk along Neville Street and Grainger Street leads you to this popular shopping destination.
One of the best times to visit Newcastle is during its Christmas Market. Held outside Monument Metro station, it’s open to the public from November to December every year.
A trip to a Christmas market by train is the perfect adventure. Hop on a train to the city of your choice, maybe one you’ve never visited before, then spend the day exploring the city followed by bratwurst and glühwein to warm up.
The only choice is: which market to visit? There are plenty to choose from across the UK, with exceptional markets warming the streets of London, Manchester, Birmingham, and beyond. Let’s take a look at some of the best Christmas Markets the UK has to offer.
Like Newcastle, Glasgow is a grand old city of palaces. It also has a buzzing and trendy urbanite edge to it which makes it such an interesting and fun place to visit.
The city is famous for its rich retail landscape. The main destination is Buchanan Street, a stunning shopping boulevard lined by hundreds of stores. Here you will find the flagship department store of House of Fraser and Princes Square shopping centre.
A 10-minute walk away from Buchanan Street is the Merchant City district. So-called because that's where the city's merchants used to operate from, it's now home to a great range of independent cafes, bars and shops.
Here, you’ll find Merchant Square, a very stylish venue that hosts many unique events, including amazing weekend craft fairs.
For a more bohemian shopping experience, try Byres Road and Ashton Lane in the West End. This cosmopolitan part of the centre has a wide range of vintage clothing shops, booksellers and artisanal food vendors.
Go shopping in Glasgow by train
From Glasgow Central Station, Buchanan Street, the city’s prime shopping boulevard, is just a short walk away. Head north on Hope Street and then turn right onto Buchanan Street to immerse yourself in an array of shops and department stores.
To submerge your shopping holiday in Scottish culture, consider coming to the Celtic Connections Festival. In the last two weeks of January and the first week of February, the city comes alive with a range of world, roots, and folk music.
Travelling by train to Britain's best shopping destinations
The UK's top shopping destinations are conveniently accessible by train, connecting you effortlessly to the heart of each city's retail hub.
To enjoy your day or weekend away in these brilliant cities with ease, leave the car at home. Let others worry about traffic jams and parking spaces. Travel in comfort by train to these shopping cities, enjoying scenic views of the British landscape along the way.
If you're planning on doing a tour of these destinations by train in the next 12 months, invest in a Railcard to save even more money on each trip.You can keep up to date with the latest train timetables by downloading the Avanti West Coast app.