Shop ‘n’ Drop Destinations
For tech-savvy types…trip on over to Tokyo, Japan
Shop: The Shibuya district in Tokyo is like New York Times Square on steroids. The colourful and flashy shopping area can see as many as two million people pass through it on any given day. It’s home to the most two-storey television screens than anywhere else in the world, but what’s really important is that it’s also the birthplace of Japan’s fashion trends. Known for its complicated labyrinth of streets, the best way to explore this area is to discover it as you get lost. Spend the morning on the well-known side street of Takeshita-dor, where you’ll find boutiques stacked high with glitzy jewellery and one-off fashion pieces. You’ll find almost anything you want in this busy area, from luxury labels and trendy designer boutiques to department stores and a giant second-hand vintage store. But if you’re lacking in time, it’s best to head straight to the Ginza district (five mins from the main Shibuya area), which is famous for its glittering showrooms displaying the latest high-tech gadgets, elegant department stores and contemporary galleries. Here, you’ll find Shibuya 109, which is a hip fashion complex for women (it houses more than 100 stores on 10 floors).
Flop: Late March and early April are the perfect times to visit Tokyo as it’s cherry blossom season, meaning you have to take a stroll around the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, which is a short walk from the Shibuya district. For dinner, you can easily spend a fortune, but it’s more fun to rub elbows with salarymen at a Japanese diner. The Ebisu area is full of these and is easily accessible – one stop away from Shibuya on the JR Yamanote line. Our favourite is Momotaro (japanchickenfoodservice.co.jp), a ‘sumibi yakitori ‘n wine’ (charcoal grilled chicken) restaurant.
Drop: Hotel Seiyo Ginza (seiyo-ginza.com) is in the heart of the shopping district, so great if you like to get a head start on shopping. In addition to your own butler, the hotel boasts the most spacious baths in Japan (where space is at a premium, this isn’t to be sniffed at). A room for a night is approx Dhs1,400, without breakfast.
Hop: Fly to Tokyo direct with Emirates Airline for Dhs5,815 return.
For bargain hunters…hot foot it to Berlin, Germany
Shop: Shopping in Berlin is a varied affair. The difference between East and West is still felt and, as a rule, the more traditional, high-end shopping can be found in West Berlin, while East Berlin is home to more independent designers and quirky shops. The famous main avenue of West Berlin is Kurfürstendamm, which runs through Charlottenburg and Wilmersdorf. This is a great place to shop if you’re looking for big brands. The neighbourhood is also home to the city’s top department store, KaDeWe (kadewe.de), which houses everything from Chloé, Gucci and Prada to DKNY and Moschino Cheap&Chic. However, most Berliners will agree that the best (read ‘real’) shopping can be found in the Mitte district, next to Alexanderplatz (formerly in the East). This is packed with rows of independent boutiques, all featuring their own mix of up-and-coming designers. You never know, you could find the next Roberto Cavalli.
Flop: Like its shopping, Berlin can sate all appetites, from true German grub to downright posh. For the fearless, head to the Sputnik-inspired Television Tower, which was erected in the 60s by East Germany to demonstrate its technical superiority. At 1,207 feet, it remains Berlin’s tallest structure, as well as one of its most touristy. But you can skip the line by dining at its restaurant, Telecafe (.tv-turm.de) at Alexanderplatz, which offers revolving views of the once-divided city. It’s as cheesy as it sounds; with comforting dishes like veal roulade with potato dumplings making you feel right at home. Reserve online and at least six weeks ahead for the sunset seating. After dinner, head to the Spree River. What was also once divided now has some of the city’s coolest nightlife. If it’s warm, beat a path to Club der Visionäre (clubdervisionaererecords.com), which is a riverside bar in Kreuzberg. It’s like a shipwreck that’s been overrun with hip youngsters.
Drop: If you like your living lush and plush, Rocco Forte’s Hotel de Rome (hotelderome.com) was made for you. Converted from an 1889 former central bank of old East Berlin, Rocco Forte has turned it into an ultra gorgeous five-star hotel. The underground vault has been transformed into a swimming pool and, if you get a front room, you’ll be overlooking the famous square, Bebelplatz, where Nazis staged the famous book burning of 1933. Who says fashion and history don’t mix? From Dhs1,300 a night, including breakfast.
Hop: Travel from Dubai to Berlin, via Munich, with Lufthansa for approx Dhs2,900 return.
For boutique beauties…make for Madrid, Spain
Shop: The city has a slew of intriguing boutiques – 50,000 of them to be precise – and they’ll fulfill your every shopping desire and then some. The Salamanca neighbourhood should be your first stop, offering chic boutiques and designer shops. The street Calle Serrano, is commonly known as the ‘poshest street in Salamanca’ and it’s easy to see why with its rows of some of the most exclusive shops in the city. Peruse the expensive jewellery stores and designer boutiques, while admiring the stunning architecture along the way. Here you’ll find Armani, Versace and Hugo Boss, as well as Hoss and Javier Simorra. But if you prefer your boutiques boho, stop by the El Centro area, which is teeming with tempting one-offs and edgier designs. For intrepid hagglers, try El Rastro, Spain’s largest and most varied flea market. Located along Plaza de Cascorro and Ribera de Curtidores, it’s open every Sunday.
Flop: There is so much shopping to be had in Madrid, you’ll be hard-pushed to fit in a gourmet dinner, which is lucky considering the city is famous for its quick and tasty tapas.Whatever happens, do a visit to Calle de la Cava Baja – which traces the one-time route of Madrid’s long-disappeared city walls and is now the city’s favourite street for eating. Stop by Juanalaloca (+91 364 05 25) for the finest tortilla de patatas (potato omelette) and its feel-good buzz, making it one of the best places to hang out in the evening.
Drop: Labelled as ‘an experience beyond accommodation’ ME Madrid Reina Victoria (memadrid.com) is a hotel extraordinaire. The rooms are über luxe but what we really love is the rooftop bar, The Penthouse Terrace. Be whisked up in a private lift from the ground floor and find spectacular views of the city. Rooms costs from Dhs755 a night, without breakfast.
Hop: Fly direct to Madrid from Dubai with Emirates for approx Dhs3,700 return.
For interiors lovers…catch a flight to Copenhagen, Denmark
Shop: Although not a well-known fashion hub, Copenhagen has a lot to offer. One of the things we love about this place is that it feels like a big city but it’s walkable – everything can be done on foot, including the shopping (a real novelty coming from Dubai!). With the world’s longest pedestrian mall, Copenhagen offers shoppers everything from Gucci to H&M and is known for its vintage fashion, edgy boutiques and Scandinavian home décor. Stroget and Kobmagergade, two of the main shopping streets in the pedestrian-only area, house the luxury brands like Prada, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Marc Jacobs. It’s also home to the city’s two oldest department stores – Illum and Magasin. On the adjoining side streets of Kronprinsensgade and Silkegade (known as the ‘Fashion Streets’) shoppers will find hip hosiery houses, grand interior boutiques and great second-hand bookstores.
Flop: Copenhagen is home to the world’s best restaurant, Noma, which knocked El Bulli off the top spot last year. While you might not be able to afford it (or have the patience to stay on the waiting list), the accolade has brought the foodie spotlight here, making the city’s restaurants up their game. Our favourite of them all is Fiskebaren (fiskebaren.dk), where the seafood is so fresh it practically jumps off your plate. Find it in in the trendy Meatpacking district and make sure you get a late reservation so you can stick around into the early hours for cocktails and people-watching.
Drop: For the world’s fashionistas and interior designers, First Hotel Skt Petri (firsthotels.com) is a mandatory stopover. In the 30s, the site was the much-loved department store Dalle Valle. Today, it’s become one of the grandest hotels in Copenhagen. Its shopping package, which includes accommodation for two, breakfast and a shopping voucher for Illums Bolighus, starts from Dhs1,150 a night.
Hop: Fly from Abu Dhabi to Copenhagen, via Brussels, with Etihad for Dhs3,400 return.
For the brand obsessed…rush to Moscow, Russia
Shop: Love to shop surrounded by old-world glitz and charm? You don’t get more extravagant than Tsar-style extravagance and Gum (gum.ru), on the Red Square, is where you’ll find it. This is the largest and most prestigious shopping mall in Russia and it’s crammed-full of 200 shops selling Hugo Boss, Dior, Louis Vuitton and the like. But once you’ve had your fill of Chanel and caviar, head to Petrovka, Moscow’s equivalent to London’s Bond Street. It’s lined with windows glittering with every non-essential item a girl might desire: diamond tiaras, fur coats, Italian white truffles – not to mention Fabergé eggs.
Flop: For a true Russian night out, an evening at the Bolshoi Theatre (bolshoi.ru) is a must. Afterwards, head to O2, the rooftop lounge at The Ritz-Carlton and drink a toast to a perfect stay.
Drop: The most glamorous of all hotels
here (and that’s saying a lot) is The Ritz-Carlton, Moscow (ritzcarlton.com), which is also slap bang in the centre of it all. The shopping deluxe package starts from Dhs3,380 a night. This includes breakfast and a 30-min foot massage.
Hop: Fly direct to Moscow from Abu Dhabi with Etihad for Dhs1,935 return.