It’s more than just shopping. It’s the chance to do so in these legendary places as a way of discovering the city and learning about the local culture in terms of preferences, customs, bartering and more. The souks in Fez, the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II are more than just shopping malls. They are larger than life.
Cities and shopping, an inseparable combination
Milan: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
The building: This gorgeous 19th century glass-vaulted arcade is one of the oldest shopping malls in the world and probably the most famous and elegant. It was named after the first king of the unified Italy and some of the architectural details make allusion to him. To top things off, it is centrally located between two of the city’s great symbols: the Duomo and Piazza della Scala, home of Teatro Alla Scala.
What to buy: The latest and most exclusive styles, perfect accessories, books, designer homewares and more, all by the best brands. It is no wonder that this is the home of the original Prada, Louis Vuitton and Gucci shops. The four levels also house other brands and establishments, some of them historical, such as Café Biffi, Savini restaurant and Zucca bar. Another appeal of the Galleria is the chance to see the locals who shop here in scenes that are akin to fashion runways.
An interesting fact: Several arcades dating back to the same period follow the same pattern, inspired by the original Burlington Arcade in London. These include the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert in Brussels (1847), the Passage in St. Petersburg (1848), the Galleria Umberto I in Naples (1890) and the Párizsi Udvar shopping arcade in Budapest.
Where to stay: At the Barceló Milan 4****Superior, a boutique city hotel located in the financial district and equipped with the latest technology. This is the best option for spending a few days in the city of fashion.
Fez and its souks
The building: In this case, it is made up of several buildings. The souks are located inside the medina of this imperial city and Morocco’s spiritual capital. They are usually divided by guilds: the Attarine souk sells spices, Nejjarine features wooden objects and Chemainne is the place for dried fruits and nuts.
What to buy: Countless items can be purchased in Fez, although some are more original and of better quality than others. In general, the most advisable goods include handicrafts such as mirrors, trays, copper lamps, platters or traditional tajines. Moroccan fabric and wool have always been renowned, which means that lovely rugs, pillows, tapestries can be found along with quality leather products such as babouches, wallets and purses at great prices (when negotiated well).
Let’s not forget about food purchases, like delicious dates, amazing sweets and exotic spices such as curry, saffron (at interesting prices), pepper and tea. Other souvenirs worth bringing back from Morocco include natural cosmetic products and medicines, such as argan oil and essential oils.
Tip: When shopping in Fez, keep two things in mind. The first is to never buy at your first stop and the second is to never pay more than 60% of the initial price.
Where to stay: The Barceló Fès Medina hotel, with a contemporary style, is located next to the ancient medina and offers convenient access to tourist attractions and the city’s modes of transportation. After some shopping, you can relax in the hotel’s spa, which features a sauna and hammam.
Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar
The building: The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul needs no introductions. Throughout its long history, it has inspired poetry, books and songs as well as hundreds of articles about local customs and manners. It is almost a city within a city and its statistics are astounding: 45,000 m2 of floor space, 64 streets, 22 doors, 3,600 shops where 20,000 people work, and nearly half a million visitors each day.
As one of the oldest markets in the world, it continues to be a great place to shop, learn and enjoy.
What to buy: Jewellery boxes, precious metal creations, pottery and more. You can find just about anything here and the bazaar is divided into sectors according to category. Aside from customary souvenirs (key chains, magnets, small bags, etc.), look around to find other treasures such as leather goods or high-quality rugs with excellent prices.
Interesting fact: Although spices can be purchased in the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar housed in a lovely building features many specialists in this field. It is definitely worth visiting.
Where to stay: The newly inaugurated Occidental The Public hotel is located in the heart of the city. Tastefully designed, it features a lovely courtyard filled with plants of many colours that is the perfect place for relaxing after a day of shopping and sightseeing.