European Outlet Shopping Never Looked So Good!
An Experience With The Chic Outlet Shopping® Villages In Europe
By: Inna Shamis
We all need a little shopping therapy now and again, right? That’s what journeyPod thought when we set out to see what all the excitement was about at the Chic Outlet Shopping® Villages in Europe.
Here was the challenge: to visit three countries in five days and see what we could uncover about these retail havens in Europe. Challenge or not, we were up for it – needing no convincing once we heard the words: “Europe”, “shopping” and “discounts”!
A Shopping Destination Like No Other
There are a total of nine Chic Outlet Shopping Villages in Europe, each uniquely located on the outskirts of gorgeous Metropolitan cities including: London, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Brussels, Frankfurt, Munich and Dublin.
Each of the nine open-air Villages boasts anywhere from 55-120 designer outlets and provides a rich ambiance that reflects the flavor and culture of the respective location; this includes everything from the architecture to the cuisine. More importantly, each of the Chic Outlet Shopping Villages in Europe features child’s play areas, restaurants and cafes, and special events. The Villages also offers VIP services meant to impress, including: Tourist Information Centers, multi-lingual Welcome Hostesses, personal shoppers, gift-wrapping, tax-free shopping (up to 15%), VIP Club member discounts/special price reductions, and in some cases, free transportation!
It’s no wonder these shopping destinations are recognized among many of today’s jet-setters, fashionistas, and celebrities! Check out our podcast interview with Desirée Bollier!
With discounts from a minimum of 33% to an upwards of 60% (in some cases we found items marked down almost 80% off the regular retail price) – we were excited to see how much damage we could do during these excursions (shopping, that is)!
First Stop: Madrid’s La Rozas Village
Located roughly 30-45 minutes north-west outside of Madrid’s city center, La Rozas Village is the only outlet boutique in Spain and boasts over 100 boutiques, featuring internationally-recognized brands like Burberry, Diesel, Hugo Boss and Zegna, along with leading Spanish fashion and lifestyle brands like Antonio Miró, Bimba & Loa, Custo Barcelona, Desigual and Pedro del Hierro. So when it comes to high fashion, this is definitely the place!
While filling up our bags and making a dent on our wallet (albeit, discounts and all), we made sure to fill up on our palate too! One of our favorites was the stop at the Village’s Spanish chocolatier boutique, called Chocolat Factory, for their famous “Tiessler Ball” – a large chocolate ball filled with liqueur.
While in Madrid…
Located on the river Manzanares, Madrid is the capital and the largest city in Spain. Fortunately for us, we had an opportunity to visit and get a feel for several of its historic neighborhoods and streets. Some of the landmarks we recommend include the Royal Palace of Madrid, Plaza Mayor, Puerto del Sol, Santa Ana Square, Buen Retiro Park, and the Prado Museum.
This cosmopolitan city offers world-renowned art galleries, hip shopping, an exceptionally special live music scene, tenacious nightlife and a glorious selection of some of the best restaurants and tapas bars.
journeyPod checked into the cozy Villa Real Hotel, centrally located in the city and across the street from the Spanish Parliament and Prado Museum. With an eclectic mix of ancient artifacts and modern art, this boutique hotel offered up antique furnishings, aged marble, and great city views over Plaza de las Cortes.
We also had a chance to visit the luxurious hotel Urban – one of the most stylish and modern hotels in all of the city, featuring an all-glass exterior, sleek décor, and unique Egyptian artifacts and sculptures distributed throughout the hotel and each room. The “Glass Bar” offers one of the hottest spots for drinks, and the award-winning Europa Deco, (both located inside the hotel) serves up some creative Mediterranean fare and offers several chef’s tasting menus (in 4 and 8 courses).
Next Stop: London’s Bicester Village
Our first night in the region was just a taste of what was to come! This began with a night at The Capital Hotel in London – a luxury hotspot, located just a sneeze away from Harrods, Hyde Park and Sloane Street.
Voted ‘Best Hotel for Food’ in the UK by Conde’ Nast Traveler, we also weren’t about to leave without a taste at the Michelin Star rated, Capital Restaurant located right on the premises! Offering a traditional English ambiance and a tasting menu meant to impress, our favorites included the Foie Gras and Fillet of Lamb, along with the “Le Plateua de Fromages Affinés” (cheese tasting, handpicked by the chef).
After a night in the heart of London, we ventured over to Bicester Village (pronounced like “Bista”), located an hour outside of London in the heart of Oxfordshire. This Chic Outlet Shopping Village features over 130 luxury outlet boutiques and is often recognized as the shopping destination in Britain outside of London.
Home to the local giants like Alexander McQueen, Thomas Pink, Anya Hindmarch and Temperley, Bicester Village features big-names like Diane von Furstenberg, Gucci, Max Mara and Dior; and boasts the only outlet boutique of Agent Provocateur and Theory’s only European outlet boutique.
With previous seasons’ collections reduced by up to 60% all year round, this too is a shopping destination often on the itinerary of travelers to the region.
Like the other Chic Outlet Shopping Villages in Europe, Bicester Village offers crème de la crème services to those who visit, including: complimentary Personal Shoppers, multi-lingual boutique staff and concierge services.
Did someone say Harry Potter?
Home to one of the world’s oldest and most famous universities, Oxford (known as the “City of Dreaming Spires”) is nowadays recognized as a bustling cosmopolitan town – with its mix of ancient and modern offerings.
While visiting the area, we recommend some of these architectural treasures: Oxford Castle, University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford University Press, Radcliff Camera/Square, Bodlelan Library and the Church of St. Mary Magdelan.
Like most university areas, Oxford boasts a wide array of nightlife options and the typical fast food joints. However, the area has seen an advancement in its culinary scene by branching out with more stylish, upscale dining hot spots including: La Petit Blanc, Gee’s and the Brasserie located at the Malmaison.
Prison Break in Oxford
journeyPod checked out the awe-inspiring and luxurious hotel destination, Malmaison Oxford – what was once a prison set on the grounds of the Oxford Castle (built circa 1071).
Located in the heart of Oxford, this boutique hotel offers 94 stylish and sultry rooms that showcase architecture retained from the original prison. The rooms are spread across different wings, all joined together by the grand prison atrium with its metal staircases and uniform walkways. Most of the rooms are three cells joined together, but the original doors, brick walls, bars and vaulted ceilings remain the same. There are also suites available in the C-Wing (the former Governor’s house).
The Malmaison is as close to staying in a prison as it gets, minus the great style of each room: incredibly comfy beds, “mood-y” lighting, huge rain-soak showers, heated bathroom floors and more!
We heard that a number of guests have asked to be moved from the cell rooms after finding them “too incarcerating”, but we were excited to experience a night locked up!
Last Stop: Munich’s Ingolstadt Village
Located less than one hour from the heart of Munich, Ingolstadt is a fashion-packed destination filled with niche-German brands like Aigner, Bogner, Salomon, Helly Hansen Oska, and Falke, along with internationally-known brands like Calvin Klein, Mexx, Samsonite, Wolford and 7 For Al Mankind, among 85 luxurious outlet boutiques. This Village also plays host to one of Hanro’s only two outlet boutiques in Germany.
Like its sister locations, Ingolstadt Village features the look and feel relative to the region, and relaxed surroundings perfect for a day of shopping. Ingolstadt Village also offers the same VIP Member Services, along with a free VIP Shuttle Service on Saturdays.
To experience shopping like royalty, and a taste of Bavarian fare, this destination is a definite must!
From Castle Prison Hotel To City Centre Hot Spot!
The capital city of Germany, Munich is the largest city in the country, located on the River Isar north of the Bavarian Alps. Recognized for its architecture and culture (and of course the annual world-famous Oktoberfest beer celebration), Munich is a cosmopolitan hot spot that’s often forgotten. With quality attractions, warm hospitality, unlimited food and nightlife choices, and a cultural scene that’s second to none in Germany, this destination is prime!
Fortunate for us, we had the chance to check out the newly-opened Louis Hotel, located in the heart of the city, across from Viktualienmarkt, close to the Frauenkirche, Marienplatz, and the boutiques of the Theatinerstrasse. This hotel’s location couldn’t be better!
With its 72-rooms, modern interior design, Italian fabrics, and panoramic views, the Louis Hotel is a great combination of modern and traditional.
While the area boasts great culinary selections like Restaurant Käfer Schenke (a hidden gem in an alley off of Maximilianstraße), our favorite was the hotel’s restaurant Emiko – which provided a great taste of Tokyo with a combination of tradition Japanese selections fused with “influences of modern, international” fare.
The Luxury of Spending
While the pound and euro may be weak, we couldn’t help but notice that the spirit and the excitement of all those at the Chic Outlet Shopping Villages in Europe was strong!
Perhaps it was the charm of each location, or the fact that retail prices were discounted an upwards of 60% – either way, the Chic Outlet Shopping Villages in Europe offer exceptional value to every traveler and an experience that’s hard to forget.
A “smart solution for stylish, savvy shoppers looking to save money whilst not trading down on style”, these Villages offer more than just shopping. They simply “redefine shopping tourism”, and its no surprise, considering the 23 million+ people who visit per year. Here you get an opportunity to experience the food, culture and the lifestyle Europeans treasure – and now we know why!
So why not combine a visit to some of Europe’s hottest regions with a unparalleled mix of retail therapy!? We certainly can’t think of a reason not to!
As a matter of fact, we’re already planning a visit to the remaining six Chic Outlet Shopping Villages in Europe… Paris, Barcelona, Milan, Brussels, Frankfurt and Dublin – here we come!