Second only to Oxford Street in London, probably the most famous on-street shopping area in the UK is Princes Street in Edinburgh. Indeed Edinburgh is one of the few cities in the world where a street name is most closely associated with shopping rather than an undercover and ‘all-in-one’ shopping mall. Edinburgh does have some shopping centres and retail parks, but many of the best shops are to be found as you walk through the streets of the city.
Built toward the end of the Georgian period, Princes Street is one of three parallel streets laid out in a grid formation. The three streets run in a west to east direction from above the site of Edinburgh Castle, the other two streets are George Street and Queen Street. At the west end of these three main streets is access to Charlotte Square and to the east is St Andrew Square. It is at St Andrew Square that the Edinburgh branch of Harvey Nicholls is located. Not only can you visit one of the UKs most exclusive stores but, if you wanted to, you can sample the ‘Taste of Scotland’ in the stores restaurant. With a menu designed by Stuart Muir the £80 a head price tag is only in keeping with the price tags on the clothes and gifts, but then this is an exclusive store. Nearby is the Multrees Walk, a walkway which connects St Andrew Square to the bus station and the St James shopping centre. If you can’t find that exclusive designer label or outfit you’re looking for inside Harvey Nicholls then take a few moments to wander down Multrees Walk. Not only is their a Louis Vuitton store on the corner with the Square, but you could have your hair done at Vidal Sassoon’s or, if that’s not enough, there’s Emporio Armani, Catamini for the younger ones and many more designer label stores to choose from.
For decades the most famous store, or rather department store, in Edinburgh was Jenners. With entrances off Princes Street and St Andrew Square it is situated in one of the prime locations in Edinburgh. Now part of the ‘House of Fraser’ chain it retains its popularity with visitors and the loyalty of Edinburgh residents, remaining one of the places to visit whilst in the city. The undoubted ‘Harrods’ of the north it has occupied the building since 1838 and has over 100 departments that are spread over its five floors. Also, the store has had a Royal Warrant since 1911. There is another House of Fraser store at the west end of Princes Street. Walking down Princes Street between St Charlotte Street and St Andrew Street is, in my opinion, one of the best shopping experiences imaginable. Not only have you got a fabulous selection of shops; apart from the big stores there are others like Zara, Gap and H&M; but on the south side of the road you’ve got views up to Edinburgh Castle and the open spaces of the Princes Street gardens and the Scott Monument – shopping can be a truly pleasurable business. If you should choose to walk along George Street and, to a lesser extent, Queen Street and the connecting roads – you’ll find plenty of other shops including places like Lime Blue a jewellery and diamonds store.
Edinburgh is not without shopping centres. Probably the most significant one is the St James Shopping Centre, at the east end of the city centre, overlooked by Calton Hill. The most largest store here is the John Lewis department store. One of only three John Lewis’s in Scotland it was opened at the same time as the shopping centre in 1973. The shopping centre also has branches of Boots, Next and River Island – amongst many others. The Princes Mall is a small shopping centre between the Waverley Railway station and Princes Street; as such it has small branches of stores likely to attract travellers passing through the station like Tie-Rack and Body Shop. The Gyle Shopping Centre is off the A8 just inside the city boundary on its western approach. Although it is very much ‘out-of-town’ it offers people living on the west side of the city the opportunity to access some of the High Street brand names without having to go into the city. Stores here include the likes of: Boots, Body Shop, Monsoon, Next and Virgin etc.
Markets in Edinburgh these days tend to be rather formal almost corporate events, rather than providing a ‘cheap-and-cheerful’ approach to retail selling. Every Saturday between 9am and 2pm there’s an outdoor Farmers Market of 70 stalls on the Castle Terrace, below Edinburgh Castle. On the second and last Thursday of every month on Castle Street, off Princes Street, there is the Eating Place Market – which celebrates all that’s best in local food production. Also, at different times of the year, there are touring markets at various locations in the city. Such markets include a Christmas Market in the Princes Street Gardens and a German Market over the Hogmanay period.
Retail Parks for Edinburgh include the; Meadowbank, Fort Kinnaird and Straiton Park – which has an Ikea store. However, it is the Ocean Terminal at the Leith Docks, to the north of the city, which is the most prestigious. 75 stores, restaurants, hotels and a 12 screen cinema make this one of the most exciting retail outlets in the country. BHS, Top Shop and Debenham’s are examples of the stores and opportunities you’ll find at this shopping complex.