Great vacation memories spring from many sources: Photographs tell the literal side of the story, but those one-of-a-kind acquisitions – an intricate Colombian rug, an antique Mexican doorknob, a one-off dress by an Israeli designer – continue to live with us, transmitting their provenance through time.Great vacation memories spring from many sources: Photographs tell the literal side of the story, but those one-of-a-kind acquisitions – an intricate Colombian rug, an antique Mexican doorknob, a one-off dress by an Israeli designer – continue to live with us, transmitting their provenance through time.
Since shopping districts the world over are becoming increasingly interchangeable with big-box stores, Smart Luxury Travel magazine sought out urban neighborhoods, some emerging and others longer established, where visitors can still find homegrown items that impart a true sense of place.
Artists, designers, and restaurateurs flock to this shopping city's historic (and formerly run-down) La Candelaria neighborhood to open galleries, design shops, and trendy cafés amid newly restored colonial buildings. The district boasts some of Bogotá’s top cultural sites (such as the Botero Museum and the Cristóbal Colón Theater), and visitors can find traditional Colombian wares for sale along the sidewalks and narrow alleys.
Where to Shop: Artesanías de Colombia carries an array of expertly created Colombian crafts and furnishings: Intricate woven rugs, handmade vases, colorful ceramic bowls, braided hammocks. Travelers will get a feel for the country’s contemporary art scene at the Nueveochenta gallery, showcasing local artists’ works, including painted wood and graphite installations by Natalia Castañeda and collages by Jaime Tarazona; the small outdoor patio doubles as an installation space and a venue for lively exhibition parties.
With neighboring Palermo Soho reaching a stylish crescendo in the last five years, art galleries, design hotels, and quaint boutiques have spilled over into Buenos Aires’ Palermo Hollywood, so named for its many movie and TV studios.
Where to Shop: Housed inside an old livestock market, the Mercado de las Pulgas is a critical shopping point for antiques gurus. Dozens of vendors display rare items (along with a fair share of bric-a-brac), from Venetian glass chandeliers to vintage Argentine furnishings. At Braga Menéndez Arte Contemporáneo, a collective of 39 Latin American artists produces wildly original furnishings, sculptures, paintings, photography, and installations. The members’ work – on view and for sale – has made this gallery the neighborhood’s hub for contemporary art and creative types.
Some of Hong Kong’s best shops and restaurants lie amid the skyscrapers in its bustling Central District, an immense pulsating commercial zone near Victoria Harbour. Tourists, who pay no sales tax and can pick up a VAT refund in this top shopping city, can have a ball browsing the boutiques from D’Aguilar Street and Connaught Place to the harbor’s promenade.
Where to Shop: Famous Shanghai tailor Ascot Chang runs a small boutique on Chater Road specializing in fine men’s business wear and accessories. Nearby, D-Mop, a unisex boutique, is stocked with casual fashions by names like Y-3 and Seal Kay. Artisans at heritage jeweler Yewn toil away making delicate brooches, bangles, and earrings. A few streets over, the flagship lifestyle store Homeless sells everything from funky furniture to handsome wallpaper and sculptures by Umbra, Mathmos, Kartell, and such.
West of Mexico City’s historic center, Colonia Roma – a quaint, leafy neighborhood where the privileged once lived in Art Deco buildings – is proving a fulcrum for creative endeavors. With contemporary art galleries and design and fashion boutiques taking up residence in its converted mansions, the area is a beacon of cultural renewal inside this shopping city's sprawl.
Where to Shop: Smart locals go nuts for NaCo Miscelánea, a trendy athletic wear boutique co-owned by actor Diego Luna. French designer Emmanuel Picault’s perfectly curated boutique La Valise offers unique home furnishings, artwork, and curios, while his larger design boutique, Chic by Accident, presents fine glassware and cutlery, along with contemporary tables, chairs, and sofas. His store is favored by interior designers seeking Mexican antiques and architectural elements such as colonial wooden doors and door knobs.
Chic By Accident
Fashion matters in Paris, and nowhere is this more evident than in the shopping city’s 2nd Arrondissement along Rue Tiquetonne, where shrewd shoppers raid newish boutiques and vintage shops for leather wear, flouncy skirts, and shiny new shoes. Hemmed into the heart of Paris, this lively little street just off the bustling (and übercool) Rue Montorgueil is close to beloved attractions like the Pompidou Center and Tuileries Gardens.
Where to Shop: Kiliwatch offers a dapper collection of men’s and women’s vintage wear, from gowns and handbags to Italian leather boots and 1940s sailor uniforms. Down the road is the women’s cobbler Maloles. Famous for its ballet slipper designs, the shop carries a vast selection of handmade shoes and bags in fine leathers and exotic materials like crocodile. For street wear, the Royal Cheese boutique features groovy basics (jeans, T-shirts, and sneakers) by an international mix of men’s and women’s designers like Gloverall, Dunderdon, and Baracuta.
Close to Philadelphia’s main enclave of early American independence-era attractions is Northern Liberties. This small grid of cobblestone streets, registered as a national historic district in 1985, has seen its share of hardships over the years, but is now undergoing a revival. Tourists passing through to catch a glimpse of the Liberty Bell can comb the shopping city's regenerated neighborhood, ripe with trendy fashion boutiques, galleries, and outdoor cafés.
Where to Shop: Art Star showcases works for sale by local artists along with one-offs of everything from fine stationery to animal-themed coffee mugs and plates. One street over is Vagabond Boutique, a women’s clothing store stocked with wares by young Philadelphia designers and independent labels such as Moonblood, beloved for its silk-screened T-shirts.
Once the home of gladiators and courtesans, Monti features historic attractions like the church of San Pietro in Vincoli (not to mention the Colosseum), and draws shop owners and chefs eager to leave their creative marks. Boutiques, bespoke bakeries, and contemporary Italian eateries are moving here in droves, making this urban enclave – still populated with old-school furniture makers – a nexus of Rome’s glorious artisan past.
Where to Shop: Unisex clothing boutique Super specializes in casual street apparel by hot designers like La Fabrique and Majaco. Hydra II Leather and More offers kitschy T-shirts and vintage items like leather boots, dresses, and men’s flannels. A few blocks away is Misty Beethoven, a sensual boutique filled with shoes, jewelry, and clothes (by both small Italian designers and glittery names like Vivienne Westwood), in addition to lingerie and other unmentionables.
After five years of renovations, Tel Aviv’s HaTachana, comprised of Jaffa’s former train station and a set of surrounding buildings, has been transformed into an up-market shopping and leisure zone. A bevy of stores and stalls, coffee houses, and galleries have infused new life into some 49 acres of disused railway space. The revived complex, sandwiched between the old port city of Jaffa and the posh enclave of Neve Tzedek, features pedestrian spaces – for strolling and people-watching – and market stalls that host weekly design fairs and organic produce markets.
Where to Shop: Ahava, lauded for its Dead Sea mineral mud body scrubs and lotions, is one of HaTachana’s flagship tenants, with a concept store and a spa. Popular Israeli women’s wear designers Charlie Paloma and Ronen Chen have boutiques in the station. So does Gaya Games, a haven for puzzle buffs and board game lovers featuring fun, mind-bending children’s toys.
Fashion showrooms and artists’ studios populate the bosky streets and river banks of Nakameguro, a trendy neighborhood in south central Tokyo, which has become a spiritual epicenter for hipsters who flock here to shop and be seen. After decades of decline, the now-revitalized hood has become a magnet for emerging art galleries, vintage thrift stores, and boho cafés, attracting both trend-setting locals and in-the-know travelers.
Where to Shop: Contemporary gallery Mizuma Art shows both budding and well-established Japanese artists like Shinsuke Tsutsui and Sachie Noda. Exhibition openings rank high on the social calendars of creative types and businessmen alike. Vase presents rare vintage clothes and accessories, while Mansion of Owls sports high-end men’s clothing like couture-cut leather jackets and wool trousers.
Returning to London after a month away, one is likely to find yet another pocket of eastside Shoreditch reaching a climax of cool. This area is rife with old warehouses and Victorian town houses that have proved ideal locations for young artists and fashion professionals. Bisecting it is Brick Lane, a street packed with boutiques, vintage furniture dealers, bicycle garages, and cafés.
Where to Shop: British product and industrial designer Jasper Morrison set up his eponymous housewares shop in 2009. The store carries reworked classics like vintage-inspired ceramic doorknobs and rainbow-hued Basel chairs – all Morrison-fashioned or sourced by business partner Ruth Donaghey. Thursdays are when Spitalfields Market sets up stalls selling furniture, art, jewelry, and crafts. Farther afield is Beyond Retro, where racks and bargain bins are filled with funky throwback clothes and accessories as well as high-end vintage dresses and jackets.