UK shopping hot spots
An eclectic mix of vintage finds, unique designs and High Street brands makes the UK a shopping haven for the stylish set -- especially outside London.
When it comes to mastering the street chic style of the Brits, most of us from the other side of the pond take our cues from the hipsters, models and musicians on
London’s streets. And, truthfully, most style mavens make the traditional Topshop excursion if visiting the UK’s largest city, as well as must-make pit stops at mega chain Selfridges, cheap thrill Primark and designer laden Harvey Nichols. But it’s not just London that has a slew of fashion offerings. Day trips north of the city will provide amazing vintage finds, unique designer options and a real taste of true Brit style. From the gritty streets of Manchester and Newcastle, to the swanky shops in Leeds and York, we have your guide to the ultimate shopping trip in the UK. Trust us, all your friends back home will be dying to ask, "Where did you get that?!"
newcastlegateshead.com) has an attitude of no one can do it better — and when it comes to their own sense of style, nothing could be more true. Despite being in one of the most northern parts of England, these party-loving hipsters wear what they feel like, no matter the temps (i.e. coats and jackets on a chilly night are a rare find). Newcastle is a vintage heaven, and when you mix in the recent additions of Topshop, Selfridges, River Island and more, it’s a funky combo.
Take a look at our street style snaps from Newcastle here!
skirtboutique.co.uk), an adorable little shop on the increasingly popular High Bridge street, has a mix of vintage pieces and local designers, so whatever you find, you’ll be sure that it’s limited edition or one-of-a-kind. Be sure to poke around this street (which feels more like an alley), where you’ll discover other one-of-a-kind stores with unique finds.
And not far away you’ll find all the major brand name stores like Topshop, River Island and more. But for another eclectic store, head down to Electrik Sheep (
electriksheep.co.uk). Brimming with graphic Ts, hats, scarves and bags, it’s one of Newcastle’s hidden gems.
Head to this suburb just north of Newcastle to take a break from the city vibe and browse through the tiny stores brimming with handmade clothes and crafts. Then be sure to visit the Jesmond Dene House Hotel for a bite to eat — the food is delicious and the setting is the perfect place to relax.
Where to stay:
Hotel du Vin
There’s a reason why so many amazing British musicians come from Manchester (
visitmanchester.com). The urban city (the 2nd largest to London) has long been hailed as London’s, dare we say it, ugly sister with a strong industrial feeling and port. But its mix of industrial with art gives a mod vibe that is as thick as their northern accents. Here you’ll find that there are no wrongs when it comes to fashion. If you want to pair your ripped vintage tights with a embellished designer mini dress, scuffed army boots and loads of false eyelashes, go ahead.
Check street style snaps from Manchester here!
The Northern Quarter is the hot spot for vintage finds, and the longstanding Afflecks (
afflecks.com) is a haven of vintage hats, handcrafted jewels, design student dresses, tops and pants, and just about anything else under the sun. If you don’t leave here with a one-of-a-kind piece, shopping is not your thing.
Still in the Northern Quarter, you’ll find even more vintage shops. What do you get when you take vintage fabrics, cut them up and sew them into modern confections? You get Pop Boutique’s (
pop-boutique.com) adorable dresses in fun vintage patterns, denim cutoffs, and slouchy bags made from old tweed suits. Stock up on the cute dresses and pair with tights, boots and a vintage leather jacket for a
Manchester-inspired street look.
Designer and High Street shops
The Arndale Shopping Centre (
manchesterarndale.com) is a mecca of brand name stores like Topshop, River Island, Oasis and the like. Here you’ll find cheap trendy items, so get ready to lug around bags of loot. Across the street from the shopping complex you’ll find the British classic Selfridges (think The Bay department store), Primark (ridiculously cheap trend pieces) and around the corner is Harvey Nichols, a high-end department store that carries lines like Balmain, Alexander McQueen, Prada and up and coming British designers (hint: this is where you’ll find footballer wives in private shopping sessions).
Where to stay:
The Princess Hotel
MacDonald Manchester Hotel and Spa
Check out the cool fashion in Leeds on the next page …
visitleeds.co.uk) is about a two-hour train ride north of London, with an artsy feeling and a delightful architectural mix of hip ’70s and cobble streets and Victorian-esque buildings. There’s definitely a young vibe in this city and there’s a casual nature that makes you want to just hit the pubs. One of the biggest attractions, and fitting for our shopping guide, are the Victorian Arcades. Beautiful buildings constructed during the Victorian period housed chic shops during those times and today are home to luxe brands. Picture shopping under incredibly high ornate ceilings, trimmed with gold and fine paints. What could be better?
As with much of England, vintage finds are not only of amazing quality, but there are loads of shops to choose from. In Leeds, the most popular vintage spot is Blue Rinse (
bluerinseleeds.co.uk), where you can find items from the ’70s, ’80s belly-baring tops that have been reinvented by Topshop and bags from the ’60s.
Where to stay:
Residence Six Hotel
visityork.org) used to be known as the most stylish counterpart to London, with the upper class making jaunts to the quaint and charming city for stylish shopping and dining. Today is no different. York has a fashionable vibe that is sophisticated and quaint all in one. The wall-lined city is filled with winding, cobbled streets that are home to tea places, antique shops and British standards.
If you only get a day or two in York, a stroll down The Shambles is an absolute must. Deemed the most picturesque street in all of England, it still has all its charm from centuries ago. A walk down this street and you’ll find quirky souvenir shops, quaint tea places and antique stores (hint: if you want something with a bit of history, York is your place, with loads of antique stores).
Where to stay:
Cedar Court Grand Hotel
It’s not hard to get around England, especially with a trusty
BritRail pass. The pass will take you from Manchester to Leeds, York, Newcastle and back to London in a stress-free, relaxing ride. Plan you trip with a little help from Visit England (
visitengland.com), you’ll find amazing destinations, restuarants and hotel suggestions to complete your trip.
And flying across the pond is pretty easy, too, with weekly flights from Toronto to Manchester through