Top of the shops

Wherever you travel on the KQ network, there’s a bargain to be had or a unique souvenir to pick up. We’ve rounded up the pick of these diverse shopping experiences, from markets to malls and from department stores to diamond merchants

Harrods-exteriorShopping, it might fairly be said, makes the world go round. And increasingly, shopping makes us go round the world – it’s a big part of the travel experience. A recent report suggests that London’s West End alone generates £7.6 billion in retail sales each year, while visitors to Hong Kong spent almost 60% of their total travel budget on shopping during visits in 2012. In short – we love to shop!

Whether you’re buying a gift for loved ones during a business trip, picking up souvenirs while on holiday, sniffing out a bargain or just indulging in a spot of retail therapy, there are dozens of reasons for shopping.

Of course, shopping isn’t just one kind of experience. Bartering for a memento on a market stall in Bangkok or Livingstone is quite different from browsing high fashion in a London department store or cutting-edge designs in a Johannesburg arts project. And each place boasts its own distinctive style: some are glitzy palaces awash with luxury, while others are hectic with haggling voices or redolent with the aromas of spice or incense.

You can discover all of these experiences and more on the KQ network. From the bustling bazaars of Africa and Asia to the chic boutiques of Paris, and from the malls of Nairobi to the atmospheric souqs of Arabia, we’ve picked a selection of the most tempting places to spending your shillings, dollars, euros or baht – each of which offers a unique insight into the history or culture of the destination.

London’s department stores
Best for… Everything under one roof
“All things for all people, everywhere” – that’s the motto engraved on the facade of Harrods (actually in Latin: Omnia Omnibus Ubique). And at London’s landmark department store, with 330 departments spread over seven floors, there’s not much you can’t buy, at least if you have the money – the degree of luxury has gone up several notches since Charles Henry Harrod opened the store in 1849.

But whether or not you can afford the high -end fashions, foods and homewares is missing the point. Walking into one of the big London department stores is like landing in a world of shopping – one where you can buy anything you could imagine, and plenty more you couldn’t.

Harrods is probably the world’s most famous department store, and also the largest in Europe. If you’re peckish, you can choose from 28 restaurants including the Georgian, renowned for its champagne high tea – an English institution – or stock up on caviar, truffles and foie gras in the food hall. Personal shoppers are on hand to help you spend, and you can recover from the bill in the in-house spa. Mostly, though, it’s fascinating wandering its vast halls in the footsteps of royals and celebrities, gasping at the opulence of it all.

Other stores specialise in various niches. Named the ‘Best Department Store in the World’, Selfridges & Co – founded in 1906 by the ambitious, theatrical American Harry Selfridge – focuses on contemporary fashion, featuring the world’s largest shoe department and an acclaimed selection of handbags.

Liberty, a magical, rambling mock-tudor palace near Oxford Circus, has always been a more art-centric proposition since Arthur Lasenby Liberty opened his first store in 1875. Indeed, Oscar Wilde said of it that “Liberty is the chosen resort of the artistic shopper.” With its curving wooden staircases and unique designer wares, this is the place to come for colourful, floral fabrics, fashions, jewellery and homewares.

Fortnum & Mason is a more gastronomic experience, famed for three centuries for its hampers, blended teas and other delectable edibles. Founded in 1705, it claims to have invented the Scotch egg and provisioned the first British expedition to climb Everest in 1922.

Find them
Harrods, 87-135 Brompton Road, London SW1X 7XL
Selfridges & Co, 400 Oxford Street, London W1A 1AB
Liberty, Regent Street, London W1B 5AH
Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, London W1A 1ER

Johannesburg’s Maboneng Precinct
Best for… Urban-tinged art and design
For a long time, central Jo’burg offered little to attract shoppers. But the rebirth of a neighbourhood on the eastern side of the city has created a bustling hub with a youthful verve, luring artists, photographers, designers and a range of entrepreneurs – and providing a terrific place to spend a day or more browsing, grazing and discovering new ideas.

Maboneng, meaning ‘Place of Light’, also hosts the Museum of African Design (MOAD) as well as Market On Main, a weekly food and design market where more than 100 independent traders set up each Sunday (10am-3pm) and at night on the first Thursday of the month – munch on artisan goodies while shopping locally designed furniture, vintage clothing and craft.

The main hub of the project, Arts on Main, houses artists’ studios, galleries, eateries and tempting shops – duck into Love Jozi ( for edgy urban T-shirt design, Iwasshot in Joburg ( for photo-based products created by former street kids, and Smack Republic (, a brewery creating delicious craft beers.

Find them
Maboneng Precinct, 286 Fox Street, City and Suburban, 2094 Johannesburg
Arts on Main, 264 Fox St, City and Suburban, 2094 Johannesburg  Museum of African Design,  281 Commissioner Street, 2094 Johannesburg

Dubai’s Souqs
Best for…  Gold, frankincense and more
All that glitters is gold – and, sometimes, silver – in the famous Deira Gold Souq, a warren of covered walkways lined with around 300 shops gleaming with precious metal. The souq evolved from the stalls set up in 1940s by entrepreneurs from India and Iran, catering to the demand for large quantities of gold needed for dowries to accompany the weddings of daughters of the wealthy. Today you can wander among veiled Arabian women perusing bangles, bracelets and anklets, necklaces, bridal headdresses, earrings, nose rings, finger rings and toe rings.

Some estimates suggest the souq holds 25 tonnes of gold at any given time, in an array of colours. Artisans are on hand to craft pieces to your specification – it’s the ideal spot to pick up a personalised piece. And if you want a new scent to go with your gold, head a little east where a perfume souq is heady with the aromas of countless scents – from the latest European fragrances to powerful and exotic Arabian attars.

Just to the west, Deira Spice Souq is even more atmospheric, its stalls laden with frankincense, cumin, cardamom, sumac, zaadar, and countless other aromatic seeds
and powders. And across the Creek to the west is another worthy spot to wander: the Old Souq, packed with antiques, souvenirs, slippers, fabrics and some kitsch goodies for good measure.

All of the souqs are best visited at night, when local customers descend in throngs and the bartering picks up pace.

Find them
Deira Gold Souq, Sikkat al-Khali Street, Dubai, UAE
Deira Spice Souq, Al-Sabkha Road, Dubai, UAE
Old Souq, Bur Dubai, Dubai, UAE

Nairobi’s Malls
Best for…  Inner-city shopping in style
The hotly anticipated reopening of the Westgate Mall, closed for over 18 months, has reminded us of the variety of options in shopping centres in the capital. Step inside the cool Aladdins’ caves and you can wander between supermarkets and snack stops, banks and beauty parlours, fashion boutiques and furniture stores, electronics outlets and bookshops.
To see where the boom began, visit Sarit Centre – the first enclosed shopping mall in Kenya, opened in 1983, and one of the largest in East Africa. Covering nearly 50,000 sq m, this ‘city within a city’ encompasses a cinema, a health club, a large expo centre and a food court serving a variety of cuisines.

There’s a new option on the horizon, too – the Two Rivers Mall, due to open in October in Gigiri, just north of Westgate and Sarit in Westlands. And it’ll be a biggie. With more than 200 stores across an area of 62,000 sq m, it will be one of the largest malls in sub-Saharan Africa, supported by eco-friendly energy and a water recycling plant. If you can’t bear to be too far from retail therapy, you’ll be able to sleep here, too, with a five-star hotel and three-star options on site. Restaurants and cafes will overlook the waterfront, and a jogging track means you can work off the calories afterwards.

Most importantly, the shops run the gamut of international brands – Hugo Boss Orange, Levis, Adidas, Swarovski, Samsung – along with a spacious Carrefour hypermarket.

Find them:
Two Rivers Mall, Limuru Road, Gigiri, Nairobi
Sarit Centre, Karuna Road, Westlands, Nairobi
Westgate Mall, Mwanzi Road, Westlands, Nairobi

Amsterdam’s Diamond Merchants
Best for… Stylish sparklers
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend… at least, so sang Marilyn Monroe. She’d have loved Amsterdam: the most fabulous gems have been sold in the Dutch ‘City of Diamonds’ for over 400 years, ever since Sephardic Jews introduced the trade in the 1580s. Long the centre of an international trade, famous jewels such as the Cullinan – the largest diamond ever mined – were graded, cut and polished in Amsterdam. Though your own budget might not stretch to the estimated US$2 billion value of that vast brilliant, there are jewels of all sizes and classes to be bought here.

Today, a dozen or so factories still operate in Amsterdam, and several offer free tours, demonstrating how diamonds are cut, polished and mounted, displaying some of the most dazzling – and, of course, offering the opportunity to buy top-quality gems straight from the factory.

One of the most renowned is Coster Diamonds, which has operated since 1840 and was responsible for polishing the Koh-i-Noor (‘Mountain of Light’) which is now part of the British Crown Jewels. Another is gassan Diamonds, founded in 1945 and now home to a Rolex boutique – in case your taste in watches is only satisfied by plenty of sparkle.

Find them
Coster Diamonds, Paulus Potterstraat 2-4, 1071 CZ Amsterdam
Gassan Diamonds, Nieuwe Uilenburgerstraat 173-175, 1011 LN  Amsterdam

Paris’ Covered Archades
Best for…  Browsing boutiques under cover
From the end of the 18th century, and particularly after the fall of Napoleon, shopping in the French capital was transformed with the introduction of passages couverts – covered arcades along which the chic consumers of the day could stroll without getting rained on, pausing for refreshments or entertainment. They quickly became destinations in their own right, and many were beautiful constructions of glass, iron and tiling.

Of the 150 or so passages and galleries built by the first half of the 19th century, just 18 remain today, the rest lost – victims of the rise of department stores. But those that still stand offer a unique shopping experience, not least for the diversity of goods on offer and the styles of outlets selling them. There are those with specialist niches – Passage Brady, for example, known as a ‘Little India’, with curry houses and shops selling spices, exotic fabrics and incense. Then there’s the labyrinthine Passage des Panoramas, the oldest covered arcade in Paris (opened 1800), with shops selling wines, autographs and, especially, stamps.

In contrast, nearby Passage Jouffroy was the last to open, in 1846, and still boasts a spectacular glass-and-iron skylight. Here you can browse books, antiques, toys, walking sticks, and colourful rocks, minerals and jewellery in Brésilophile at no 40.

Galerie Vivienne is the most elaborately decorated and best preserved, with wonderful floor mosaics and bas reliefs – plus some of the smartest outlets, with prêt-à-porter fashion boutiques, art galleries and an upmarket watch shop, Garde-Temps, at no 43.

Find them
Passage Brady, 46 rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, Paris 75010
Passage des Panoramas, 11 boulevard Montmartre, Paris 75002
Passage Jouffroy, 10-12 boulevard Montmartre, Paris 75009
Galerie Vivienne, 4 rue des Petits-Champs, Paris 75002

The art of the barter
Bargaining, haggling, bartering – whatever you call it, negotiating over a purchase, whether it’s a camera, a car, a souvenir or a suit, is the usual way to shop in many parts of the world. It can be fun, as well as helping you get a good price, so long as you choose the right place and go about it in the right manner.

Bargaining is the norm in many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, though with exceptions: it’s far less prevalent in Japan and South Africa, for example, while in Ethiopia it’s not usual in shops, though it is in markets and taxis. It’s rarely acceptable to haggle in North America or Europe, except at flea markets or sometimes for high-value and second-hand items – and even in large high-street shops, you might try negotiating on price if you’re buying several expensive products. In general, wherever you are, bargaining is not expected in food markets or fixed-price shops. Wherever you are, see what the locals are doing before trying yourself.

How do you start the process, and how can you gauge a suitable finish point? You can commonly expect to pay 30-50% of the initial asking price, but you’ll need to watch for signs. If the vendor absolutely refuses to drop the amount, walk away – and if he or she doesn’t come after you, they probably can’t afford to go any lower. If you’re happy and they’re happy, it’s a good price. Don’t begin haggling unless you really intend to buy, and remember to smile!

Market forces

Shop like a local at the best bazaars, souqs and stalls on the KQ network

Damoen Saduok floating market, Bangkok, Thailand
Drift along a bustling khlong (canal) surrounded by throngs of wooden boats laden with fruit and vegetables at this century-old market.
• Where? Ratchaburi province, 100km southwest of Bangkok • Fly KQ to Bangkok daily

Mukuni Park Market, Livingstone, Zambia
Browse top-notch carved wooden animals, masks, baskets and bangles at this long-established market in the centre of town.
• Where? Mosi-oa-Tunya Road at the corner of Airport Road • Fly KQ to Livingstone three times weekly

Chor Bazaar, Mumbai, India
The ‘thieves’ market’ in the heart of Mumbai is essentially a vast flea market, good for vintage and antique items.
• Where? Mutton Street, south Mumbai • Fly KQ To Mumbai twice daily

Merkato, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
A vast, sprawling market that’s a district of the city in its own right, Merkato sells anything and everything – camels, carvings, silver jewellery, spices – but the best buy is a bag of excellent Ethiopian coffee.
• Where? 1km west of Piazza, central Addis • Fly KQ to Addis Ababa at least daily

Bloemenmarkt, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Stalls laden with rainbow-hued flowers pack this floating market on the Singel each day.
• Where? On the south bank of Singel, east of Konigsplein. • Fly KQ to Amsterdam twice daily

Temple Street night market, Hong Kong
This morass of stalls hawking clothes, electronics, cheap jewellery and watches, noodles and knick-knacks really gets going after sundown.
• Where? Four blocks west of Jordan MTR (subway) station • Fly KQ to Hong Kong three times weekly

Kejetia Market, Kumasi, Ghana
Some 11,000 stalls cram a 12-hectare site that’s claimed to be the largest market in West Africa, selling beads, curios, clothes, pottery, food and traditional kente woven cloth.
• Where? About 4 hours’ drive north of Accra • Fly KQ to Accra daily

Borough Market, London, UK
This gourmet cornucopia has dozens of stalls selling artisan breads, fine charcuterie and meats, cheese and sausages, coffee, chocolates, fish and fruit.
• Where? Stoney Street, just west of London Bridge railway station • Fly KQ to London Heathrow daily

Maasai Market, Nairobi, Kenya
Stalls selling colourful fabrics (kikoys and kangas), clothes, beaded jewellery, paintings, woven baskets, curios and carvings pop up at various spots around the city – the best known is at the city’s Village Market on Fridays, where you can also enjoy a leisurely lunch.
• Where? Limuru Road, Gigiri, Nairobi • Fly KQ to Nairobi daily

Shop then sleep then shop

Six places to stay near our top picks

1 London – Knightsbridge Hotel
Classy, country-style hotel with understated luxury, a peaceful haven just a few steps from Harrods. Tel: +44 (0)20 7584 6300 Doubles from £234.

2 Nairobi – Southern Sun Mayfair
Extensive colonial-style hotel with lovely grounds and poolside restaurant in Parklands, convenient for the malls of Westlands. Tel: +254 2 037 40920 Doubles from US$299.

3 Paris – La Maison Favart
Stylish art nouveau hotel blending modern comforts with Belle Époque panache, close to the finest covered arcades on the Right Bank. Tel: +33 (0)1 42 97 59 83 Doubles from €200.

4 Johannesburg – 12 Decades
Quirky self-catering studio hotel in Maboneng Precinct, with rooms conceptualised by some of South Africa’s most celebrated artists and designers.  Tel: +27 0861 226 787 Studios from R900.

5 Dubai – XVA Art Hotel
Art gallery meets accommodation at this intimate hotel with 13 themed rooms set around three shady courtyards, just across the Creek from the Deira souqs. Tel: +9714 3535383  Doubles from 960 AED.

6 Amsterdam – Seven Bridges Hotel
Small, charming hotel, richly furnished with antiques and oriental rugs, with views over the city’s most beautiful canal, Reguliersgracht. Tel: +31 (0)20 623 13 29  Doubles from €105.