Whether you enjoy a day out perusing antiques or want to freshen up your wardrobe for summer, some destinations are better than others for shopping.
The best cities offer a mix of trendy boutiques, sprawling malls and vibrant high streets. And now that lockdown is over, in store retail is back on the cards.
Thousands of Which? members rated UK city destinations for their food and drink, shopping and value for money.
Some cities that scored highly for their shopping scene will be no surprise, but a few major retail hotspots such as London weren’t awarded the full five stars. It could be because readers prefer their shops to be less sprawled out and easier to navigate like those in Liverpool.
Read on to find out the best cities for shopping in the UK.
Best large cities for shopping in the UK
Shopping in Liverpool
Liverpool not only scored highly for its shopping, but it won best city overall in our survey*, so there are plenty of reasons to visit.
A large number of Liverpool’s shops are compacted into the Liverpool ONE open-air centre. Making this a time-efficient way to shop.
Away from the main shopping hub, head for Bold Street. On its cobbles you’ll find vintage pieces in Cow as well as at Pop Boutique, and wonderful gift ideas from an eclectic array of stores.
Shopping in Glasgow
Most of Glasgow’s shops are situated on the ‘style mile’. In the Buchanan Galleries you’ll find more than 80 stores from John Lewis to Levi’s.
Head to the West End for streets of independents such as Voltaire & Rousseau Booksellers and Caledonia Books. Both stock second-hand and antiquarian books. The difference? Caledonia is for those that like to browse in an orderly fashion, but choose Voltaire & Rousseau if you’re happier digging through messy piles of books to find a gem.
Glasgow was also awarded five stars for food in our UK cities survey, so it shouldn’t be tricky to find a decent lunch or dinner spot when you’re all shopped out.
Shopping in Cardiff
From H&M to Hollister and Reiss to River Island, the St David’s shopping centre is a one-stop in Cardiff for high street fashion.
For a more characterful spree, head to the Victorian and Edwardian arcades just a five-minute walk away. The old architecture of the arcades adds to the charm and the area is filled with boutiques and cafés.
Stop by the Pontcanna Farmers Market on Saturdays from 10am to 1.30pm. You’ll find stalls selling Welsh cheeses and breads, and pop-up eateries from local traders.
Best medium-sized cities for shopping in the UK
Shopping in Chester
Chester no doubt scored its four out of five stars for shopping due to the unique experience it offers. Along with modern shopping centres, Chester is also home to The Rows.
Dating back to medieval times, The Rows consists of two tiers of timber-framed buildings joined by galleried walkways, with shops at street level as well as on the first floor.
Hundreds of years ago you’d find people shopping at The Rows, too, but in search of fruit and vegetables, shoemakers and ironmongers’ wares. Inside, you’ll now find clothing stores, jewellers and art galleries.
Shopping in Chichester
If you’re hoping to avoid throngs of people while shopping, Chichester might provide you with more space than other cities. It scored five out of five stars for lack of crowds in our survey.
Although not famous for its shopping scene, it still scored four out of five in this category. Readers may have enjoyed browsing stores in a historic setting; a 12th-century cathedral sits at the heart of its pedestrianised shopping streets.
Pop into Hansfords, a family-owned menswear store, situated just yards from the Cathedral. The store has been in the family since 1908. You’ll find both smart and quirky garments inside.
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Shopping in Norwich
Typical high street shops are found inside various shopping centres in Norwich, but it also has a quaint arcade – designed in 1899 – which hosts various boutiques.
On winding cobbled lanes sit independent jewellery stores and toy shops, while a central market sits at the city’s heart. You can’t miss it because the stalls are covered with candy-striped canopies.
But we can’t mention Norwich without a nod to Jarrold, a family-run department store since 1823. Pop in to shop well-known brands, including Kate Spade and Barbour, as well as products made in Norfolk.
Find out how Norwich scored for food and drink in our city breaks survey
Best small cities for shopping in the UK
Shopping in Bath
Awarded four stars for its shopping scene, Bath with its quaint Georgian buildings is the best small city to head to for a spree.
Much of the city centre is pedestrianised, so it’s easy to dart from shop to shop – that’s if you visit on a less popular day. It scored just two out of five stars for lack of crowds. Despite it being busy, Which? readers still loved it – demonstrated by its five-star shopping rating.
If you visit, head to the Guildhall Market – it’s the oldest shopping venue in Bath. Traders inside offer everything from artisan cheese to fine jewellery and traditional sweets.
Find out how Bath scored on value for money in our city breaks survey
*Last carried out in December 2019.