4 Shopping Festivals around the World You Didn’t Know You Needed in Your Life
Do you shop to live, or live to shop?
If you are of the latter camp, then you’ve come to the right place. Whether it’s getting lost in the alleyways of a Turkish bazaar or winning a bargain battle for a new shirt in Singapore’s night market, shopping is, or can be, an integral part of your travel experience. Some of the world’s most beautiful and intriguing travel destinations also host annual or semi-annual “shopping festivals,” typically a multi-week affair with fanfare, local festivities and sales of up to 90% off on both local souvenirs and major luxury brands.
While the go-to shopping festivals include Dubai Shopping Festival (January) and the Great Singapore Sale (June to July), millions (yes, you read that right) come out for those events and the streets can get congested. If you’re looking for a refreshing alternative to fighting heavy shop-’til-you-drop crowds, check out these four new or emerging shopping festivals.
Retail Abu Dhabi (RAD) Season
- When: Late December to early February (some years, it transitions to June to August)
- What: Don’t feel like fighting the heavy crowds and high hotel prices in Dubai Shopping Festival? Swing over to the UAE’s capital, where a brand-new six-week shopping season just launched last year. The annual Retail Abu Dhabi Season (RAD, or as the shopping aficionados have started calling it, “Really Awesome Deals”) brings together over 650 retail stores and 21 malls offering discounts of up to 90% off. Dining and hotel establishments also roll out the red carpet with special traveller offers during the season.
- Get the deals: Keep an eye out for the “Code Red Sale” across three of its biggest malls (Yas Mall, The Mall at World Trade Centre Abu Dhabi),and Al Jimi Mall) which features some of the steepest discounts on luxury brands that we’ve seen across all global shopping festivals, with discounts of up to 90%.
- Getting there: Travelzoo packages often include both Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the same tour, and a six-night tour with luxe accommodations can run as low as $619 for certain departure dates.
- Pair your shopping trip with: A day trip to Jebel Hafeet, one of the tallest mountains in the United Arab Emirates and just about an hour’s drive from the capital city. Get your gym shoes on and go for a short day hike or a bike ride, and soak in the unforgettable natural views.
China “Singles Day,” also known as the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival
- When: Nov. 11
- What: Started in the ‘90s by students at Nanjing University, Singles Day is an “anti-Valentine’s” celebration for single people, since the date is full of 1s. It grew to become the single largest day in the world for online shopping (even larger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined) after Alibaba (China’s answer to Amazon) branded the date as the “11.11 Global Shopping Festival” to encourage single people to treat themselves. Despite this being an e-commerce shopping festival, retail stores also often participate, so drop into one of China’s largest cities, such as Shanghai or Beijing, and soak in the festivities.
- Get the deals: Electronics from major brands like Samsung and Lenovo are slashed up to 70% off, while luxury brands like Guerlain, Hugo Boss, and Rimowa feature highly coveted limited-edition items available only during the sale week.
- Getting there: During this time of year, Travelzoo package deals to China (including hotel and flights) from major Canadian cities can drop to as low as $599 all-in (yes, you read that right).
- Pair your shopping trip with: A day trip to Zhouzhuang, which is just over an hour’s drive from Shanghai, for some respite from the retail crowds. Known as the “Venice of the East”, this beautiful village was built on water and still retains much of its historical architecture. Or, make it a multi-day escape from the city by pairing Zhouzhuang with nearby Suzhou, another popular getaway that’s known for its beautiful canals and UNESCO-designated classical gardens.
Istanbul Shopping Festival
- When: June
- What: Started in 2011, this festival is a true shopper’s paradise that sees the Turkish capital transformed into 40 days of nonstop entertainment, cultural shows, concerts and parades. Many stores stay open 24 hours, to the point where some have started calling the city the second “city that never sleeps.”
- Get the deals: Local fashion designers slash their prices by up to 50%, while authentic cultural goods get showcased at a fraction of the price at historical shopping destinations like Grand Bazaar.
- Getting there: While the flight from Canada can spike above $1,000 during high season, once you land, 5-star hotels in Istanbul are surprisingly economical, with great finds at just $60+ per night. For an ultra-chic luxury stay, stay at Travelzoo member-favourite Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel, right in the historic Sultanahmet district. Relax post-shopping in its on-site spa, Turkish bath and steam facilities.
- Pair your shopping trip with: A relaxing day trip or multiday getaway to Anadolu Kavağı, a charming seaside village just a short ride from Istanbul. Enjoy freshly caught fish in one of the restaurants along the water, walk around the quaint town centre with its vibrantly coloured wooden houses, or spend the day along the seaside walking trails.
Amazing Thailand Grand Sale
- When: November to January
- What: If the words “shopping” and “Bangkok” resonate with you, then you’re in luck. Come to the Thai capital during this period for the Amazing Thailand Grand Sale, where shops and malls slash their prices to a fraction of the original. Local Asia flights and hotels even slash their prices by 10-80% during this period.
- Get the deals: Clothes, jewellery and electronics are among the most popular categories and see the steepest discounts.
- Getting there: For the best rates, bundle your hotel and flights together.
- Pair your shopping trip with: No trip to Bangkok is complete without a day’s jaunt to the floating markets. Be sure to visit Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, just 1.5 hour’s drive from the capital city, and sample local sweet treats such as coconut ice cream and Thai iced tea.