Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy some really cool items. No matter your reason for traveling, something that typically falls on the itinerary is “buy souvenirs.” It’s common for us to want to immortalize trips through items brought back from our wonderful excursions. However, some cities offer more than just magnets for the fridge and normal run-of-the-mill trinkets. If you’re looking for an inside scoop into the world’s top shopping destinations, you should pay close attention.
We’re exploring the versatile markets of Hong Kong and Dubai. From rich foods to impressive history and unique architecture, these cities are heavy in culture and unrivaled experiences, but we can’t help to indulge in the one thing that always speaks to our desires: shopping. Pack light and get ready for a little retail therapy when you load up on traditional garments, spices, luxury items, antiques and so much more. In other words, you might want to bring an extra bag – or two.
Stanley Market is a must visit on your market explorations. This popular destination is a world-famous attraction with traditional arts and crafts, postcards and luxury handbags. Most importantly, this spot is a sanctuary for Chinese garments provided to you by passionate vendors who have hand-picked each item to ensure that you leave the market with something you’re proud to wear.
Li Yuen Street East and Li Yuen Street West, also known as “the lanes of Central,” offer an array of clothing and accessories that are embellished with distinctive accents. Tailored garments, leather and silks are stacked tall on the shelves in these stalls. Opposite of the modern counterpart being the heart of downtown, this place sticks to what it knows best: unmatched traditions and authentically crafted garments to add to your closet.
CHINESE SWEETS AND TEAS
Satisfy your sweet tooth in Hong Kong when you take a bite of one of their traditional pastries. Wife Cake, as well as Moon Cake, is a traditional Cantonese pastry. It’s dressed in a flaky crust with winter melon and sugar on the inside. This delicacy is good at any time of the day and can be found at Hang Heung, Kee Wah and Wing Wah. To indulge in more Chinese baked goods such as Yer Tat and Egg Tarts, head to an old-school Chinese bakery.
Tea, also known as Cha, is not hard to come by in Hong Kong. In fact, you can discover flavorful teas including oolong tea and Chinese black tea on just about every block in Hong Kong. To narrow down your search for authentic Chinese tea, head to MingCha. You can sip on fragrant teas sourced from plantations in China while taking a lesson from tea masters who can teach you the art of traditional Chinese tea ceremony. Another place to stop at is the longest established and most valuable tea house, Ying Kee Tea House. Here, you can stock up on green tea, old luk on tea, puerh tea and so much more.
From the Louis Vuitton flagship store to the Burberry boutique, you can shop all luxury treasures at Harbour City. This famous and large shopping center is stacked with 700 stores, 50 restaurants and two movie theaters. Whether you’re hunting for a classic quilted leather bag or in search of great food, this destination holds a fierce collection of some of your favorite designers.
Take a stroll through somewhere different from your typical luxury-studded mall. Featuring more Fendi than flowers, Lee Gardens upholds a fine reputation for its assembly of luxury brands such as Gucci, Hermes, Chanel, Miu Miu and many, many more.
Temple Street Night Market is anything but your average marketplace. As the sun sets, traders emerge with their wares and the entertainment begins. Opera singers and fortune tellers alike make their place known. This “street bazaar” is located in the main drag and offers everything you need, with an impeccable twist on tradition. Collect trinkets, tea ware, electronics, jade, antiques, clay pot rice, seafood and more.
28 Garden is where you go when you want something that no one else has – a trinket for a humble brag. This store is filled with a wide range of eclectic, vintage homeware and décor such as cutlery, potted plants and stationery. This place is extremely affordable and will have you leaving Hong Kong with something unique, whether it’s for you or someone back home.
JADE AND ANTIQUES
Cat Street is the keeper of treasures located off of Hollywood Road. Antique dealers, art galleries and curio merchants make up the roster of what you can find when you pace up and down this street. While there, you can stock up on jade, embroideries, silk and other fine collectibles. Keep your eyes open for trinkets of the past, perfect for the history buff back home.
Jade Market offers the modern traveler a peek into the world of wishful thinking. Made modern over time, this place still possesses charm from another time. With a three-ton jade stone at the beginning of Canton Road, this place is begging for your attention. While here, take your pick of jade-embellished accessories including rings, pendants, earrings and unusual finds. While you’re there, let an expert put together a Chinese good-luck charm for you to wear. But remember, if your piece breaks, that just means bad luck was headed your way but your jade took the hit.
Textile Souk provides travelers with a traditional shopping culture in the Old Town. Fill your bags with a sari or pashmina from the makeshift stalls in Bur Dubai off the creek, each piled with pashminas, saris, abayas and kaftans. Get a feel for the fabrics or chat with local vendors offering sugary tea. If you feel like you’ve spent a little too much, don’t fret. End the day by taking a traditional abra across the creek from the Sabkha Abra Station to Dubai Old Souk Abra Station. A one-way ticket will only set you back 25 cents.
Souk Madinat Jumeirah is a recreation of an ancient Arabian marketplace with shopping stalls, bars and restaurants. Constructed of brass burners and timber ceilings, you can probe indoor stalls for sequined fabrics, beaded slippers and sparkly kaftans. Snag a souvenir like a colorful pashmina and then treat yourself to a cocktail by the water.
SPICES AND SCENTS
Dubai Spice Souk is a sprawling spice market with riveting sights and smells. Savor the flavors of Persian-dried limes, saffron, barberries, rose hips and Middle Eastern spice mixes. Located in eastern Dubai, mounds of aromatic herbs and spices are spilling from large baskets. Chat with the vendors and learn how you can incorporate these spices into some of your favorite recipes back home.
The Perfume Souk speaks sweetly to your nostrils. Fragrance is key to Arabian life. From mild to potent, this place holds hundreds of different stalls with thousands of traditional Arabian scents that can be tested before purchase. When you fall in love with a scent, you can buy it as a stick, powder, crystal rock or wood element. If you’re struggling to find something you like, you can get a personalized aroma based on your skin type and personality.
The Dubai Mall, a refuge from the heat and rich in luxury, draws in almost 100 million shoppers a year. Known as the second largest mall in the world, it’s no wonder it’s located next to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. Treat yourself to fancy threads and the bag you’ve always wanted when you wander through 1,200 retail stores, 70 signature outlets and the Fashion Avenue offering the best of haute couture from designers including Versace and Burberry.
Sheraton Mall of the Emirates Hotel, Dubai is a shopping destination resort directly connected to the world-renowned Mall of the Emirates, featuring over 630 brands. While that might be overwhelming, just know that there’s plenty to do. Stay entertained at Magic Planet complete with games, rides, simulators and more. Munch on popcorn while you catch a flick at VOX Cinemas or treat your taste buds to over 100 dining and café selections. Whatever you do, be sure not to miss the threads of unmatched luxury, with more than 80 of the world’s most renowned designer brands.
The perfect blend of everything you need when shopping, Dubai Design District (D3) is a sanctuary of pop-up fashion stores, art installations, galleries and design studios. Stop at Amato and House of Adore for a taste of local Emirati couture, or make a trip to The Lighthouse for luxury knick-knacks. When you’re tapped out on shopping and running low on energy, get your fill of caffeine at Craft Café.
Alserkal Avenue is beaming with art, consisting of three rows of warehouses that feature more than fifteen art galleries. New York-based Heller Gallery has introduced exhibitions of contemporary American and European artists, while Isabelle Van Den Eynde focuses on showcasing the works of emerging artists from the Middle East. In other words, there’s no shortage of some serious artwork in Dubai.
STONES, JEWELS AND GOLD
Find yourself engulfed in the finest gold and precious stones at Dubai Gold & Diamond Park. This spot features 90 on-site jewelry retailers, as well as 120 manufacturing centers to suit all of your jewelry needs. Everything is ethically sourced and certified. Whether you’re looking for diamonds and gold or emeralds, rubies and amethysts – this place will have you dazzling in the streets of Dubai.
Nothing short of fascinating, Gold Souk is a traditional market that is located in the heart of Dubai’s old commercial district in Deira. This place is home to 380 retailers from well-established stores to smaller merchant-ran businesses. Just so you know what you’re getting yourself into, beware of an eye-catching assortment of must-have gems, diamond-encrusted ornaments, strings of pearls, platinum and silver.
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