Four shopping destinations worth visiting this January
Online shopping is great, but it’ll never match the excitement of stepping out of the cold into a cosy independent shop with no idea what gems you’ll find inside. As well as seeing products in person, you get to experience the vibrant sights and sounds of a city first-hand (and grab something delicious to eat while you’re at it).
Our guide to shopping in Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield and Derby explores the best shopping centres, markets and independent retailers each city has to offer.
Leicester ticks all the big brand boxes with High Cross Leicester, its gigantic shopping centre. But there are also plenty of boutiques and characterful independent shops brimming with quirky one-off items in St. Martin’s Square, plus award-winning Leicester Market, where local produce has been on sale since the 13th century.
High Cross Leicester
High Cross shopping centre is less than a mile from the train station in the heart of the city centre. With over 100 shops spread across external street spaces and a striking covered mall, it’s Leicester’s ultimate one-stop shopping experience. You’ll find shops covering jewellery, tech, toys, gifts and fashion, plus major department stores including Debenhams and John Lewis.
High Cross also has over 40 restaurants and food outlets to choose from. Stonebaked Pizza Co.’s thin-crust, creatively topped pizzas are particularly mouth-watering and highly recommended.
If you want the High Cross shopping experience without the usual hustle and bustle, visit during the weekly ‘quiet hour’ on Saturdays between 9 am and 10 am when the centre and its staff create a calmer, more relaxed shopping environment.
Shops include Apple, All Saints, BOSS, Build-a-Bear, Disney Store, The Fragrance Shop, H&M, John Lewis, JD Sports, Levi’s, New Look, Next, Pandora, Reiss, Schuh, Topshop / Topman, Urban Outfitters, Waterstone’s and Zara.
St. Martin’s Square
In contrast to the high street favourites found in Leicester’s sprawling High Cross shopping centre, St. Martin’s Square is the independent heart of the city, full of boutiques and niche independent stores.
The shops of St. Martin’s Square are distributed around a courtyard, so it’s easy to have a thorough look at all of the vintage fashions, home furnishings and unusual gifts on offer.
Shops include Very Bazaar (weird and wonderful gifts, decorations, and jewellery), Harriman & Co. (‘honest and pure’ curated home furniture including zero-waste designs), The Vintage Scene (fair-priced retro clothes including ‘90s designer and sportswear) and Crafty Sew & So (haberdashery and fabrics with a personal touch).
Leicester Market has existed on the same city-centre site, just south of the clock tower, for around 700 years. Its 270+ stalls offer an abundance of local produce, including hunks of Red Leicester and plenty of Melton Mowbray pork pies. Throughout the year, there are other events held in the open plaza, including specialist markets, antique fairs and a makers craft market. It’s a must-visit location to experience the heartbeat of the city.
The Golden Mile
Leicester’s Belgrave Road, known as ‘The Golden Mile’, is home to the highest concentration of traditional Indian jewellery shops outside of India. You’ll also find high-end Asian couture fashion stores and some of the best Indian restaurants in the region, including Bobby’s (offering Gujarati-style dishes since 1976) and Chai Paani (winner of Best Vegetarian Restaurant at the 2019 Leicester Curry Awards).
Nottingham boasts two big shopping centres, with more than 200 shops and only a five-minute walk between them. Elsewhere, you can enjoy an upmarket shopping experience and take stylish selfies at The Exchange arcade, or spend hours in the Creative Quarter looking for your needle in a vintage haystack.
intu Victoria Centre and intu Broadmarsh
Victoria Centre is the larger of Nottingham’s two intu shopping centres and about a 10-minute walk from the train station. Big brands include John Lewis, House of Fraser, Next and River Island. There are also a couple of shops you won’t find in every city, including Flying Tiger Copenhagen, a Danish retailer that sells unique toys, accessories and gifts.
Intu Broadmarsh has around half the number of stores as Victoria Centre, but the two centres are only a five-minute walk apart, so it’s easy to visit both and cover all your shopping bases. Check out FOPP in Broadmarsh for films and music at bargain prices.
The Exchange arcade
The Exchange is Nottingham’s oldest shopping arcade, located inside a Grade II* listed building with a 200 ft high dome. There are around 20 stores in this exclusive venue, including Bobbi Brown, Crabtree & Evelyn, Dr Martens, Jack Wolfskin, Karen Millen, Oasis, Radley, Tutu and Warehouse.
Check out this immersive 360-degree tour of The Exchange for a peek at its stunning architecture and the full range of shops.
While Nottingham’s intu centres cover most high street brands and The Exchange caters to those with more expensive taste, Hockley – part of Nottingham’s Creative Quarter – provides an eclectic mix of independent shops.
On your way to Hockley, you can stop off at nearby Cobden Chambers and browse through hundreds of books, magazines and records, including many by local bands. In Hockley, there’s Cow, a vintage clothing and accessories store with branded and altered products; Mimm Store, a menswear and streetwear shop that dabbles in music events and art exhibitions; and Void Clothing, Nottingham's biggest and oldest alternative clothing and accessories store, known locally as the place for finding ‘something different’.
For a stroll down one of Nottingham’s more relaxed shopping streets, head to Derby Road, where you’ll find elegant shop fronts, many of which belong to family-run businesses. The Worm that Turned is an outdoor furniture shop that stocks outdoor lighting, clocks and other external decorations, plus rare garden books, one-off pieces and vintage goods.
150 yards down the road is Windblowers, a music shop that specialises in woodwind and brass instruments and stocks a wide variety of sheet music. Open Tuesday to Saturday, it’s an Aladdin’s cave of musical charms.
While Meadowhall dominates Sheffield’s shopping scene due to its sheer size and wide range of stores, it’s worth a trip into the centre of the city to experience the cobbled streets of Fargate and distinctive independent outlets found in the Devonshire Quarter.
If you’re serious about shopping, a dedicated trip to Meadowhall is in order. It’s Yorkshire’s largest shopping centre and when development is complete in the 2020s, it’ll be the 4th biggest in the country.
As well as dozens of high street brands and 50 places to eat, there are some new shops worth checking out, including The Independent Yorkshire Shop, which showcases the best products from businesses in the region, including handcrafted jewellery and locally-made gins and ales, and TOG24, an outdoor clothing company founded in West Yorkshire.
Visit the official Meadowhall site for a full list of shops and restaurants.
With a focus on fashion, Fargate is Sheffield’s main shopping area and is located in the middle of the city centre, about a 10-minute walk from the train station. After having your fill of Fargate’s shops, which include New Look, Thorntons, Topshop and H&M, you can stroll back to the train station via the Peace Gardens, an open area of grass and fountains in front of the Town Hall – the perfect spot to have a short rest and peruse your purchases.
Less than a mile from Sheffield train station is the Devonshire Quarter, a half square mile of fashion boutiques, independent music stores and design shops, accompanied by some of the city’s best bars and clubs. Here you’ll find old-fashioned brooches at Mooch Vintage, Sheffield’s largest display of indoor plants at Plantology and old jazz and blues albums at Bear Tree Records.
Most of Derby’s stores are located in the intu shopping centre, but less than a 10-minute walk away in the historic Cathedral Quarter you’ll find specialist shops, friendly independent retailers and the world’s oldest department store.
Derby was lacking a fully-formed retail destination until The Eagle Centre was transformed from a drab 70s-era arcade into intu Derby (formerly Westfield Derby) – an indoor shopping complex that’s home to around 200 shops and a large dining hub. Most of the city’s big brands relocated from the high street to inside intu Derby, which makes it a one-stop shopping location where you can satisfy all of your home, fashion, beauty and department store needs.
If you fancy some entertainment while shopping in Derby, you don’t even need to leave intu – there’s a Showcase Cinema De Lux, Hollywood Bowl and Paradise Island Adventure Golf all conveniently within the shopping centre.
A short walk from intu Derby is the Cathedral Quarter, where you’ll find a mix of independent retailers and specialist shops including Bennetts, the world’s oldest department store. This local favourite, which has served customers since 1734, stocks a wide range of fragrance and beauty products, menswear and ladies fashion, home accessories, gifts and stationery. There’s also a charming tearoom and cafe on the top floor, where you can rest your feet and enjoy a hot drink and some cake before continuing your shopping.
On Sadler Gate, you’ll find a number of independent stores mixed with cosy cafes. There’s 80s Casual Classics, an indie shop that stocks rails of ‘80s and ‘90s retro clothes; Design 44, a cute shop full of oddball gifts and interior design items; London Camera Exchange, a rare example of a surviving specialist camera and photographic equipment retailer; and Doughnotts Derby, which one happy reviewer on Google said serves ‘the best doughnuts in the UK!’ A bold claim, but one that’s surely worth testing…
Derby Market Hall
Derby Market Hall is the city’s oldest market – some local families have traded there since it opened to the public in 1866. Inside the Grade II* listed building, there are bakeries, bookshops, cafes and crafts, plus hardware, clothes, florists and pet products. It’s worth a visit as much to soak up the atmosphere as to make a purchase.
Right next door there’s QUAD, an abstract glass building that couldn’t look more different from the Market Hall. QUAD’s indie cinema shows classic and arty films you can’t see at your local multiplex and regularly hosts art exhibitions and other creative events.