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Online shopping has become the default way we buy things, so it'd be an understatement to say that it's now easier than ever to shop stores and brands from halfway around the world without leaving your home city. But truth be told, there ain’t nothing like the real thing; exploring a destination that’s new to you is endlessly rewarding, both for the sheer fun of it and for the new additions to your closet that absolutely none of your friends will have.
In 2016, we collectively explored destinations both near and far in search of the best shopping that each locale has to offer, and this year will be no different. Here, we’ve selected a few places — from entire cities to small neighborhoods and even single stores — that we can’t stop recommending, or can’t wait to explore ourselves.
For even more inspiration, don’t forget to check out our shopping guides and maps, and stay tuned as we add more and more cities to that list.
Grünerløkka, Oslo, Norway
Vintage lovers will feel like they're in a wonderland of opportunity in the Grünerløkka neighborhood.
Sure, this little alcove calls to mind the hipster enclaves of Brooklyn, New York, but there's so much more to it, flanked with theaters and coffee shops and antique stores lined with kitschy do-dads. You'll swim in a sea of vintage in quiet little Grünerløkka, from classic denim jackets and jeans at Robot (Oslo's top consignment store) to retro sports team jackets and US band T-shirts at Velouria Vintage, which feels so very much like St. Mark’s Place back in the day.
A few blocks down, Retrolykke Kaffebar is a colorful mix of accessories and home goods spanning from the ‘30s to the ‘90s, and it has its own café inside. Bess Retro is a great place to score ‘40s to ‘60s-era womenswear, both true vintage and original reproductions. And my absolute favorite store in the world Frøken Dianas Salonger has that same quirky mix, with entire racks of vintage button-downs in lace and ruffles and baskets full of deadstock hosiery and accessories. —Annemarie Dooling, director of programming
New Orleans, Louisiana
The shopping scene in this vibrant southern city has hit its stride.
I'm turning 30 this year, and am hoping to round up a few friends for a trip to celebrate leaving my 20s behind. I've never been to New Orleans, but have been dying to go — we published a few New Orleans shopping guides last year, but what really had me sold was this photo essay from photographer Whitney Mitchell, where she describes her city as having "the flamboyance of Diana Ross mixed with the bohemian, whimsical ‘90s air of Fiona Apple." Why would I not want to go to a place like this?
The stores themselves look really inspiring. My impression of New Orleans as an outsider is that it contains a vibrant community of young, up-and-coming designers, many of whom are people of color, and that in and of itself is enough of a reason to book a ticket. Plus, a friend of mine with fantastic style put the guide together, and I would basically go anywhere she told me if it meant I could look half as cool as her. —Tiffany Yannetta, shopping director
Barranco, Lima, Peru
If you visit one store in Lima, make it Dédalo Arte y Artesanía.
Years after my last visit to Peru, Dédalo still holds up as one of my all-time favorite shopping experiences while traveling. The concept shop is located in Barranco, an artsy district in Lima that’s dotted with galleries and fancy hotels (but, like most of the city, still feels plenty gritty, just as an FYI).
I heard about it from a former intern who hailed from Lima; Dédalo was the one “must-visit” shop on her list, and she was so right. The store itself is laid out in a way that allows for little surprises — you wander through room after room filled with small handcrafts, funky clothing, kid’s toys, books, and homewares all made by local designers, artists, and artisans. (If the word “artisan” is turning you off, don’t let it; there are a few handcrafts here, but for the most part nothing is kitschy.)
In the very back, there’s a garden store and a shaded outdoor café. I didn’t purchase much since we had a long trip ahead of us, but I did spend about two hours in the store and another 30 minutes chilling in the café space. I walked away with a very cool purse and an asymmetric dress made by a local designer, but if I had more room in my suitcase, I definitely would have left with a few more treasures. —Cory Baldwin, shopping editor
Wicker Park, Chicago
Shopping in Chicago is generally great, but Wicker Park gives you the most variety.
A 15-minute ride on the blue line L train, away from the mass hysteria that is downtown Chicago's South Loop, you'll find yourself in Wicker Park, a neighborhood some refer to as the midwest Williamsburg, but way less annoying. I spent a lot of time here during college, but above anything else, it was my go-to for when I needed a last-minute outfit because there are so many options between just two streets.
On one hand, you have your basic retail giants — like Free People, Urban Outfitters, Doc Martens, and American Apparel (RIP) — and some of the city’s best boutiques, including P.45 and Moon Voyage, which are both stocked with indie favorites and emerging designers.
But you'll also find one-of-a-kind spots like Kokorokoko — a colorful ‘80s and ‘90s–inspired vintage shop that is as hard not to love as it is hard to pronounce — and the Kanye West co-signed, Virgil Abloh-owned RSVP Gallery, which carries everything from Bape figurines to Commes de Garçons wallets. —Tanisha Pina, associate market editor
Seoul, South Korea
Retail-wise, there’s enough to keep you busy for a full week.
Seoul is a great place to visit for many, many reasons: incredible street food, pocket wifi, and yes, really cool shopping. The city has tons of concept stores with crazy merchandising, from the luxury-stuffed Boon the Shop to an outpost of Milan’s 10 Corso Como to the small and special Rare Market, which sells Delpozo dresses alongside glittery socks and fancy pajamas. These are the kinds of places you probably won’t buy anything from, but buying stuff is besides the point (though 10 Corso Como does have an outlet called Ilmo that’s pretty wallet-friendly).
You may actually spend some money at Gentle Monster, the much-beloved Korean eyewear brand that has several stores throughout the city, or at Style Nanda, Seoul’s answer to Urban Outfitters. And for the menswear nerds, there’s MSK, a tiny shop full of refined streetwear on the sixth floor of a nondescript office building. You’ll also want to go to Queen Mama Market, a lifestyle store in the truest sense (so many succulents!) — it, of course, serves great coffee in a terraced café.
And then there’s the beauty. Seoul remains ground zero for the global beauty market, and shopping for beauty stuff there can be overwhelming. Beauty stores are everywhere, subway stations included. Definitely check out the “road shop” stores filled with cheaper mass brands like Etude House, Tony Moly, and The Face Shop, but also specialty stores like Moonshot, which is most analogous to MAC, has no presence in the states, and was started by K-Pop giant YG Entertainment. —Julia Rubin, executive editor
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Montreal is home to the vintage shop of your dreams.
I once went to Montreal and discovered after arriving that I had no money. (Long story.) Luckily, my AirBnB host was down to cash a check from a near-perfect stranger, we wound up becoming friends, and I had enough $$$ to buy a bunch of clothes from Montreal's many delightful thrift stores.
Chief among them was Citizen Vintage, which I think I first heard about on Yelp and whose praises were echoed by the many Montreal-ers I met over the course of the week. It's incredibly well-curated with a generous but unintimidating selection of button-downs, sweaters, jorts, and a few new pieces from local brands as well as remixed vintage. (My favorite purchase was a shirtdress with the sides cut out, so it's sort of like a sexy business-casual apron.) And the staff is equally generous and unintimidating, without a hint of the Cool Face Syndrome that afflicts so many employees of secondhand clothing establishments, wherein they look at you like you are dog poop on the sole of their flatform if you dare to bug them for, you know, help.
If you don't find yourself near Montreal any time soon, you can still peep the store’s glorious Insta or buy select pieces on Etsy. As for me, I'm hoping to go back this summer — preferably with more than zero dollars. —Alanna Okun, senior editor
The perfect mash-up of British fast fashion, cool vintage, and cheap prices make Cardiff a great place to shop.
I’ve long associated Wales with castles and dragons (fun!) and also what I assumed to be honestly-pretty-uninteresting fashion. So when I arrived in its capital city, Cardiff, I was shocked by just how cool everyone was. It didn’t take long to figure out that there's a reason for this, and it is that Cardiff is actually a dope place to shop.
First of all, the sprawling city center is absolutely riddled with iconic British fast fashion chains — Topshop, River Island, Matalan, New Look, Marks & Spencer, and of course the mother of them all, Primark — where trendy clothing is dirt cheap and often unavailable to buy if you’re in the states.
But it also follows the British tradition of having really, really great vintage stores, especially ones whose trademark is re-cutting vintage clothing into ultra-trendy silhouettes. You’ll find that at places like Hobos, Blue Honey, and the newer Sobey’s, which is where I found a waxed canvas farmer’s jacket that basically reads as a $300 Barbour for 35 pounds.
Lastly, and rather importantly if you’re American, shopping in the UK is extremely cheap right now. I won’t say “thanks, Brexit,” but, like… thanks, Brexit. —Rebecca Jennings, associate producer
The shops in this small town will speak to anyone into authentic Western gear.
My sister lives in Austin and she’s getting married in Texas Hill Country this coming fall, so I'm going to be spending a lot of time driving back and forth between the two in 2017.
We passed through the adorable town of Wimberley on the way to visit her venue last weekend, and I can't wait to explore the shopping options there when we've got a few minutes to spare. There's plenty of home and gift-y type places to hit up, but I'm specifically excited to peruse Wall Street Western, which has a ton of vintage cowboy boots, and costume shop The Bazaar to find some only-in-Texas gems. —Laura Gurfein, deputy managing editor
Lower East Side, New York City
This neighborhood is filled with cool shops, but the newest spot to hit is Canal Street Market.
New York City has very few untapped, under-the-radar shopping destinations, and Canal Street Market is one of them — but that’s because it just opened two months ago. Tucked away in downtown where Soho meets Chinatown, the small-scale marketplace hosts a mix of permanent vendors — shops like Office Magazine newsstand and café, Mast Brothers, and indie boutique Jill Lindsey — as well as a dozen other rotating pop-up shops offering everything from pastel-painted home goods to liquor and fine jewelry.
The market also features something of a hang-out spot in the back, stocked with comfy seats and tables, free wifi, and — thank goodness — plenty of outlets. Plus, it’s all new enough that a lot of New Yorkers don’t even know about it, so if you’re visiting from out of town you’ll be way ahead of the game. —TP
San Francisco’s neighbor is worth it’s own trip for the long list of awesome indie boutiques.
I’ve been visiting San Francisco every few years for more than a decade, but this year was the first time I made the jump over the bridge to Oakland. During the three days I spent with locals leading me around to nearly every shop in the city, I was kicking myself for not making it sooner, because the indie shopping scene is 100 percent off the hook. From the little village of Instagrammable stores that make up Temescal Alley — Ali Golden, Mind’s Eye Vintage, jewelry shop Esqueleto, and a bunch more — to one of my all-time favorite vintage stores ever, Mercy Vintage, there’s so much here that’s worth going out of your way for.