5 of the best UK shopping breaks

Photo: PCL
GONE are the days when the big-name department stores and designer boutiques were the sole preserve of London.
Whether it’s that pair of Emma Hope shoes you want, or a little black dress from Harvey Nichols, a trip to London is no longer necessary – retail heaven can be found all over the country.

Take Birmingham, once  derided for its Bullring. The city  has undergone a makeover, with the opening of a Selfridges and the super-chic Mailbox – housed in a former post sorting office – which is home dozens of designer labels.

It’s the same story around the country. Here are Travel Weekly’s top five retail havens around the UK:



You still get more bang for your buck up north. Among Leeds’ elegant Victorian and Edwardian arcades, small boutiques, speciality shops, teaming malls and high-street names, there truly is something to suit every taste and budget. Big spenders can flex their plastic at Harvey Nicks on Briggate, in the Victoria Quarter, or at Joseph and Flannels on Vicar Lane
– the latter is great for men’s Prada, Armani and Burberry.

There is a bewildering array of shops packed into a small area. And when you’ve shopped till you’re ready to drop and need some lunch, the restaurant scene is pretty good too. Try Anthony’s in Boar Lane. Owner Anthony Flinn’s previous incarnation was as a chef at one of the best restaurants in the world: El Bulli in Spain.

Who would it suit?
Anyone not keen on traipsing the length and breadth of the city to find that perfect outfit. It’s compact and easy to get around.

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Highlife Breaks offers a weekend break at Jurys Inn in Brewery Place for £27 per person, sharing a twin room.


Those who have not visited Birmingham for a while would not recognise the city.

Aside from the transform-ation of the Bullring, the centre of the city is also filled with great restaurants – try Indian at Café Lazeez, Mexican at Santa Fe, Italian at Don Salvo or just sip champagne at Bar Epernay. The city has more than 1,000 shops, including five department stores and every high-street name you can think of. Hotspots include the Burlington Arcade and the Mall Pallasades on New Street, and the City Plaza in Cannon Street. If bling is your thing, head to the Jewellery Quarter in Hockley.

Who would it suit?
Shoppers with energy – Birmingham is a huge city and it takes stamina to get round.

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Malmaison in the Mailbox offers rooms, with commission, from £53.50 per person per night, based on two sharing a twin or double room. Visit


Manchester has been quietly developing its shopping experience for years. After the IRA bomb which destroyed a large part of the city centre in 1996, the local business community decided to make Manchester’s retail potential the heart of a massive regeneration project. Out of the ashes came The Triangle, the nucleus of the city’s retail offering, selling more than 150 high-profile brands. The revamped Arndale Centre contains just about every high-street store, from Ann Summers to West One.

Kendals is a sumptuous eight-floor department store specialising in designer labels such as Nicole Farhi, Pink Soda, and Ronit Zilkha. For a quirky touch, head to Afflecks Palace at the centre of the city’s Northern Quarter – the building has four floors of independent boutiques selling kooky retro and army surplus gear, and cool gifts galore.

Who would it suit?
Anyone with eclectic tastes. The huge student population in Manchester means there are lots of thrift stores. At the other end of the spectrum is the footballers’ wives brigade, who like nothing more than Beckham-style bling.

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Uber-cool Rossetti at 107 Piccadilly is a funky weekend hotel hangout with a nightclub downstairs. Commissionable rates start at £105 per night for a standard double on a room-only basis. Visit


With Coleen McLoughlin a local resident, it’s no surprise Liverpool’s designer shopping sector is booming. Dozens of top designer stores have opened in the Met Quarter on the old Post Office site. In addition, the Grosvenor development – due to open in time for the city’s year as European Capital of Culture in 2008 – will give Liverpool the biggest shopping centre in Europe.

Shoppers wanting to take in a bit of the city’s past can try some retail therapy at the Albert Dock, where gorgeous boutiques and cute gift shops mix with museums and galleries such as the Tate Liverpool. Retail heaven continues at the Cavern Designer Shopping Centre on Mathew Street – yes, where the Beatles played. You will find names such as the Westwood Store, Drone Couture and Cricket, favourite haunt of footballers’ wives. The centre’s main thoroughfare, Bold Street, has all the high-street regulars. The giant glass edifice that is Clayton Square houses more of the same, plus some market stalls and a cool open-plan art gallery.

After dark there is an endless choice of places to chill, from the traditional grandeur of the wonderful Philharmonic pub to the superclub Cream.

Who would it suit?
Shoppers who like a good night out to round off a perfect day.

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The Hope Street Hotel offers commissionable rates from £125 a night per room. Visit

Brighton and Hove

You don’t need an excuse to spend the weekend in hip and happening Brighton and Hove, but the shops are pretty special. Rock lovers should make a beeline for the 17th century Brighton Lanes, which are packed with quirky jewellers.

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Photo: PCL
Designer togs, interior-design stores, perfumers, milliners and to-die-for shoe shops are crammed in among dozens of bars, cafés and intimate restaurants. Don’t confuse this area with the boho North Laine further back from the sea. The area’s buzzing alternative shops are crammed with the sort of items you just didn’t know you needed or wanted until you entered – a Sex Pistols baby vest, for instance, or an Indonesian sofa throw.

On Sunday mornings, there is a huge flea market in the car park next to the railway station, where you can pick up everything from a three-piece suite to a three-piece suit.

On Sunday afternoon, visitors should take a stroll along the seafront to the artists’ quarter between the piers where they will find some wonderful hand-made arts and crafts.

Who would it suit?
Shoppers on the lookout for something original.

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Superbreak offers a stay at the four-star Lansdowne Place Hotel from £60 per person per night, based on two sharing, on a
bed-and-breakfast basis.

The rate applies Sunday to Thursday until April 30.

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