New York has Fifth Avenue and the original Tiffany’s, not to mention world-famous department stores like Macy’s and Bloomingdales, the houses of just about every big-name fashion designer and some of the best-known bookshops.
However, that doesn’t mean that New York is the only place to do your Christmas shopping. This year, why not seek out some real Christmas charm? Use your shopping list as an opportunity to travel somewhere wonderful, and spoil friends and family with gifts you’d never find at home.
Christmas market in Cologne (Germany)
Germany is famous for its Christmas markets, where painstakingly handmade Christmas ornaments, gifts and toys, rather than mass-produced items, are the order of the day. Also expect hot spiced wine, gorgeous-smelling spice cookies and traditional singing and dancing.
Most popular of all the German Christmas markets are those hosted throughout Cologne – and of these, the most famous is the market set up directly in front of Cologne Cathedral, which is the largest cathedral in Germany and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
At the Cologne market, over 160 stalls offer a range of tempting gift items, foods and warming drinks. Don’t miss specialties like the carved nutcrackers, rustic doll figures made of dried plums (known in German as zwetschgenmännle) and candied toasted almonds. Also take the opportunity to stock up on German Christmas classics like lebkuchen and magenbrot.
Strasbourg Christmas market (France)
Not to be outdone by Germany, France is host to some of the world’s longest-running Christmas markets. One of the best and most famous is the market held alongside the cathedral in Strasbourg, in the Alsace region. Known as the Christkindelsmärik, this market has been an annual tradition since 1570.
At the Strasbourg Christmas market, Christmas goodies are sold from charming wooden chalets. On offer are Christmas ornaments and gifts, spice breads, pastries, sweets and steaming drinks.
People are still talking about the Christmas tree from the 2010 Strasbourg market, which was one of the highest at a whopping 32.5 metres.
Hong Kong – from markets to high fashion (China)
Hong Kong is famous throughout the world as a shopping paradise, whether you’re hoping for cheap electronic goods, delicate Chinese artworks, handbags, computers, bargain clothing or the latest French perfume.
For bustling, colourful markets, head to Mongkok. Here you’ll find everything from handbags to cell phones, toys and denim jeans, at affordable prices.
At the other end of the spectrum, the four-floor Landmark is one of Hong Kong’s swankiest shopping centres, with outlets for, among others, Louis Vuitton, Alberti Ferretti, Vivienne Tam, Tiffany & Co, Moschino, Harvey Nichols and Sonia Rykiel. The centre is also home to the Landmark Mandarin Oriental, which is one of Hong Kong’s best hotels.
Philadelphia (United States)
In the United States, Philadelphia is unique in that clothing and shoes are sold tax-free. Downtown Philadelphia is also known for its boutiques and high-fashion retail outlets, making it the ideal destination if you need Christmas gifts for fashion lovers.
For example, head to Liberty Place and you’ll find big brand names such as Nine West, Express and J. Crew. You can also stop off for some of the world’s finest chocolate, at Godiva Chocolates.
On the corner of Broad and Walnut Streets, you’ll find one of the largest outlets of Banana Republic. Nearby, Shops at the Bellevue – located on the ground floor of the historic Bellevue building – offers top brands like Polo, Ralph Lauren, Williams-Sonoma and Nicole Miller.
Vilnius Christmas market (Lithuania)
Last but not least, visit the annual Christmas market on Odminius Square in Vilnius, Lithuania and be transported to a magical Christmas fairyland. At the market, snow-decked wooden chalets and a 25-metre Christmas tree are circled by the cathedral and historic buildings of Vilnius’ Old Town. Carollers sing in the streets and there are nightly firework displays.
When it comes to Christmas shopping, you can choose from a range of hand-crafted items, including pottery, jewellery, Christmas ornaments, knitted goods and a range of traditional Lithuanian Christmas pastries and sweets. The market is also host to the the International Christmas Charity Fair, where staff from foreign embassies sell home-made goods to raise funds for worthy causes.