New York City
New York sets the standard for a destination shopping city—so dense with options, all budgets will find a way to spend a little too much money. There's the fast fashion (Zara, UNIQLO, H&M) of SoHo; the Prada and Chanel of Fifth Avenue. You could spend a full day exploring Barneys or Bergdorf Goodman, sipping cocktails and wishing they would close up shop and forget you were there—just so you can have a Night With the Céline Bags.
Dubai makes its way up to no. 2 on the list. No surprise here: The UAE city has redefined the mall experience with the Mall of the Emirates, the "world's first shopping resort", complete with an indoor ski slope. The Dubai Mall's Fashion Avenue delivers an alphabet soup of big-deal designers: Chanel, Givenchy, Oscar de la Renta, Louis Vuitton, Valentino. And the sheer volume of gold on display at Gold Souk, a covered market that includes dozens of jewelry stores, is blinding. It's actually a glittering oasis in the desert.
Most people think of the Magnificent Mile when they think of Chicago, but the city’s shopping scene extends far beyond one thoroughfare. Venture into Wicker Park for a less crowded day spent with your credit card: You’ll find everything from home decor at Province, to designer clothing at p. 45, to all the titles on your reading list at Myopic Books.
The city’s main claim-to-retail-fame is Lane Crawford, a high-end department store where you can finally check all those $5,000 handbags off your shopping list. Much less massive but just as chic is EDIT, a colorful womenswear store and personal favorite of Hong Kong-based stylist Tina Leung. And for sturdy yet affordable shoes and sunglasses, pay a visit to Square Street, which sits right on the western edge of the stylish district.
Paris houses flagship stores for some of the most renowned fashion labels in the world—Chanel, Hermès, Givenchy, Louis Vuitton—most of which can be found in the bustling 8th arrondissement. Beyond the classics, head to the trendy 3rd arrondissement (we recommend Merci for a mix of high-fashion and quirky shoes, clothing, and jewelry); Canal Saint-Martin, a chic neighborhood ideal for flâneurs; or the narrow, cobblestoned streets of extra-charming Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
San Francisco is a perfect hybrid of lingering counterculture and modern start-up swag, as evidenced by the fashionable neighborhood of Hayes Valley. In one afternoon, you can pick up cutesy stationary at Yellow Howl Workshop, one-of-a-kind clothing at indie boutique Lavish, and preppy, office-ready duds at Convert.
Handcrafted, historic, artisanal: Florence holds the monopoly on these qualifiers, and shopping here is a quest for the one-of-a-kind find. Stefano Bemer will handcraft shoes onsite and travel globally for refitting sessions; Santa Maria Novella Perfumery is a historic store and museum where you can shop elixirs; Madova does fine hand-made leather gloves; Pineider sells elegant stationary; and Mercato Centrale is the our go-to place for a picnic lunch.
In recent years, London has become a bona fide shopping capital—one whose reach extends beyond the obvious West End. While you can always stop by designer venues or Instagram the lit-up exterior at Harrod’s, the huge network of markets is the city’s real retail draw. Check out Old Spitalfields Market for menswear and handmade goods, or Dover Street Market for Comme des Garçons and Lanvin gowns. Shoreditch stacks boutiques in shipping containers, and we always find some one-off item—a silk top, a crazy pair of socks—that makes for a perfect souvenir.
You’ll find no shortage of wonderfully weird shops or high-end boutiques in Tokyo—and if you only have a few hours to spare, however, head straight to Harajuku, where you can try to replicate Tokyo's famously colorful street style at stores like Visvim and Comme des Garçons. Meanwhile, central Tokyo neighborhood Daikanyama offers—dare we say it—a Brooklyn vibe wth a cozy little atelier that make the perfect jeans, "baking studio" Matsunosuke for some amazing apple pie, and retro record and bookstores.
Do we even need to tell you why Milan deserves to be on this list? We're just surprised the Italian fashion hub isn't higher up. Many of Italy’s most storied fashion houses, from Prada to Dolce & Gabbana, started here, so no wonder it’s home to both fashion week and the buzzy annual international furniture fair. But beyond the sophisticated storefronts that line the Via Monte Napoleone and Via della Spiga, and designer hotels (like the Bulgari and the Armani) are many rich cultural treasures.
Singaporeans do two things incredibly well (among others): eat and shop, discerningly. The island is rich with air-conditioned temples of consumption—some that look like actual temples (just look up at shopping mall Ngee Ann City on Orchard Road). But it also has well-established neighborhoods for boutique shopping. Start with Haji Lane, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it shopping street in the heart of Singapore's Arab Quarter—look to Soon Lee to find a flirty outfit for dinner; then visit Tiong Bahru, which has been revived in recent years, for its "famous wet market, authentic charm, and seriously good coffee."