Shane C Kurup
On any given day on the 9.40am train from London’s Marylebone station to Oxford, you’ll find the carriages thronging with eager folk from the four corners of the globe, all with the same destination in mind. These aren’t football supporters heading to a game en masse, however, but players of a less strenuous sport: retail therapy. The endpoint is Bicester Village in Oxfordshire, Britain’s leading luxury retail experience, just under an hour by train from central London, or a leisurely drive through the countryside west of the capital.
With over 150 fashion, beauty and lifestyle boutiques within strolling distance along its landscaped paths, as well as dining spots at which to take a pause – catering to eating on-the-go or at a more leisurely pace, Bicester Village is the ultimate antidote to the frantic and frenetic shopping streets of the capital.
For label lovers, fashion’s powerhouses are here in spades, including Paul Smith, Manolo Blahnik, Dunhill, Mulberry, Vivienne Westwood and Ganni. Alongside these firm fixtures are hotly anticipated newcomers this season, including minimalist favourite Theory, British watch maison Bremont and a pop-up from Stateside stalwart, Marc Jacobs.
Athletic types aren’t left out, either, with The North Face, Under Armour, Lululemon and New Balance appealing to style-conscious fans of sport and the outdoors, while tech buffs can get their upscale gadget fix at luxury Danish electronics firm, Bang & Olufsen.
For discerning magpies, eclectic Mayfair jeweller Annoushka, crystal specialist Swarovski and a new pop-up store from Astrid & Miyu, established by Seoul-born Connie Lam, offer the best in modern bijouterie, while beauty queens can be thoroughly pampered at innovative makeup leader Charlotte Tilbury, Molton Brown, ELEMIS and Clarins. For home birds, colourful cookware from Le Creuset and beautiful scents from Penhaligon’s are an excellent, easy way to spruce up your abode ahead of any festive December house guests.
When you’ve worked up an appetite from your retail endeavours, you can refuel at one of Bicester Village’s diverse eateries, which offer an array of options for those with a taste for the finer things in life. There’s the only outpost of Cecconi’s outside central London, which serves up polished Italian cuisine, while Shan Shui – inspired by the cosmopolitan society of 1920s Shanghai – offers authentic dim sum, regional Chinese dishes and South East Asian staples. For those after classic British fare, there’s The Mayfair Chippy, which presents an upmarket take on the UK’s favourite national dish, while the farmshop restaurant & café offers diners a taste of the famed hospitality and fresh ingredients of Britain’s bucolic landscapes in a refined, rustic setting.
If all that activity sounds ever so slightly taxing, you can lighten the load by enlisting the assistance of Bicester Village’s personal shopping team, who will provide a dedicated stylist to curate a tailor-made selection of pieces for you to peruse at your leisure, in the comfort in your very own private shopping suite.
There’s also a hands-free shopping service, so you can leave your purchases safely in-store, to be brought directly to you when you’re ready to head home. And should you find that you’ve inadvertently acquired more bags than you can manage, just pop by a Village concierge desk where the team will gladly arrange delivery to your door, whether you live in the UK or farther afield. Tax-free international delivery is offered too, taking the hassle out of calculating refunds and making those savings even sweeter.
While Bicester Village is a year-round destination, there’s a particular incentive to visit this festive season as the Extraordinary Sale, offering up to 60 per cent off in select boutiques, is running from 28 November – 24 December. Wrap up your final to-buy list in style while enjoying live music in the Village square, along with mulled wine, cocktails and a Veuve Clicquot champagne bar on-hand to ensure you will have a merry night.