(Closed) Which cities in Europe are cheaper for shopping?

posted 6 years ago in Travel
Post # 2
1362 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2016

Nothing about Switzerland will be cheaper (assuming you’re coming from NA) — it is a stupidly expensive country and since it’s not in the EU they pay import tax on all EU-made items, so unless you’re buying a Swiss brand you won’t save anything (and with exchange rates you’ll be paying an arm and a leg).

Honestly it will really depend on what brands/items you are looking to buy. Italian brands will be cheaper in Italy. I don’t know much about Austria to be honest, hopefully someone else has a better idea. 

I’m an American living in Europe and I can tell you that shopping here is pricey. The only time you can get “deals” are if you are buying from SOME European (luxury) designers — especially now since the Euro has tanked and the dollar is relatively strong to it. 

For “normal” shopping, don’t bother with Europe. Costs are much higher for lower quality clothes.

Post # 3
210 posts
Helper bee

Yeah, honestly, I don’t think any of those countries would be great for any bargains! The UK and Europe have quite high taxes etc, I know a lot of people who wait to buy things until they next go to usa to get higher end items because it works out cheaper

Post # 4
9520 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper

Eastern Europe might be easier. Greece and turkey have low exchange rates from what I remember

Post # 5
260 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: April 2016

I’m in the UK, agreed that 100% Switzerland is NOT cheaper! In comparison to the UK Europe is cheaper in general, especially with the Euro not doing too great. Greece and Portugal I’ve found are cheaper, but as said before a lot of us here will buy flights to the US to go shopping as it actually works out cheaper.

Post # 6
1011 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: April 2017

I was in Poland in late 2012 and it was amazingly cheap. Huge meals for 4 euro, 1L of beer less than a euro etc. I can’t really comment on the shopping as such because we were there to see the sites but I’m sure they have nice shops there that would work out cheap because they don’t have the euro.

Switzerland in contrast cost us equivalent to 80 euro for a pizza and a few beers. 

I’ve been to most European countries for long weekends away and I found that Germany wasn’t too expensive for clothes/shoes etc but I wouldn’t exactly describe it as cheap to shop there by any means. As the PP said, a lot of people here fly to NY for their annual shopping trip.


Post # 7
4235 posts
Honey bee

I’ve enjoyed shopping the most in Germany (Bad Honnef) but out of Italy, Switzerland, and Austria, I’d place Venice, Milan, Zurich, Salzburg, and Rome as the top choices. Rome is last on the list because of so much walking.

Having said that, your question is akin to asking which city in the USA is cheaper. How do we know which store at what time in which location will be having a liquidation sale with rock-bottom prices?

Go travel to the places of your choice, and if you find a great deal along the way, great. Do not travel for the purpose of getting a great deal because your travel costs likely negate the savings from the store.

Just my $0.02.

Post # 8
999 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: July 2016

LOL – do not come to Switzerland for the discount shopping! It does not exist.

Out of those three, Italy is your best bet. Vienna has some really cool shopping but I wouldn’t say it’s cheap (unless of course you are from Switzerland, haha).

Post # 9
893 posts
Busy bee

View original reply
jolieqe:  I’m from Italy and we actually try to get stuff from the US because it so much cheaper, not to mention you need to factor in the exchange rate (which so much closer to 1:1 now than ever, but still you’re losing money going from USD to EUR). I’ve heard Prague is great for shopping and just overall more affordable as well as Budapest.

Oh, and from my experience, the further North in Italy, the more expensive.

  • This reply was modified 5 years, 6 months ago by Profile Photo Honey2Bee.
Post # 11
4235 posts
Honey bee


Makes sense to me. That’s one reason why Bad Honnef was my fav. Birkenstock outlet. I bought about 10pair. Some for $15USD. Still wearing them almost 20yrs later. Totally worth the money even at full retail price but when you can get them at the source, well, bonus.

And when I was in Brasil, I bought gemstones. No shoes that year.

Good times.

Post # 12
555 posts
Busy bee

Buying clothes and cosmetics is generally a lot more expensive in Europe, but I find that some brands are actually cheaper in Europe. When I am there I often shop at Mango and Zara, because they are cheaper compared to the American stores (I think they are both based in Spain, but the stores exist anywhere in Europe). I also think that Desigual is somewhat cheaper. If you’re looking for American brands you will onviuosly not make a bargain in another country, I think 😉

Post # 13
82 posts
Worker bee

Prague is pretty reasonable. Beautiful city as well!

Post # 14
802 posts
Busy bee

It depends on what kind of shopping you’re looking to do. Since you mentioned Louis Vuitton, I’m assuming it’s European brand luxury shopping, which will be cheaper (depending on the currency exchange). The prices in Europe are generally cheaper for European brands, since that is where they are produced. For example a Capucine BB costs $4400+tax (whichever state you’re living in, I live in NYC so it’s 8.75% which brings the total price up to $4785) in the U.S. while it costs 3250 Eu (VAT included, conversion now is 1.09 which brings the conversion to $3,542.5 of which you will probably get about 13% tax back depending on the country).

There are lists online of european vs us prices, although I would suggest looking at the websites of the brands you would like to shop at, most of them will have their european prices listed on their website, and those prices will be the most updated as these brands periodically increase their prices (I just visited Paris at the end of May, when the Capucine BB was 2990 Eu, so they’ve already had a price adjustment). Certain brands have also started leveling out their prices globally (Chanel) to try and minimize the amount of their products on the grey market. 

Certain countries do have sale seasons, however, keep in mind that not all brands participate in sales (Louis Vuitton never does), and also keep in mind that the VAT refund can take up to 3 months to appear on your credit card statement (unless you opt to take cash back at the airport, however the refund will be a smaller percentage, about 10% in Paris). If you want to avoid the whole VAT hassle, figure out which brands have locations at the airport so you can shop tax-free. The link I’ve provided below lists the refund %age by country.


Don’t forget to leave yourself plenty of time to process the VAT at the airport, and take pictures of everything just in case. If you make multiple purchases, take individual pictures of the envelopes as well. Your statement will not tell you which brand you are receiving the VAT from, only which country it’s coming in from, so if you want to check whether or not you received the correct amount, you will be able to narrow it down by the country your form was sent to. At the bottom of your receipt, you will also find the amount de-tax (tax refund) that will be credited to you. Your cashier will ask you upon check out whether or not you would like to receive the detax via credit card or cash, and the amount calculated at the bottom is reflective of the percentage calculated either for credit card, or cash.

Finally, you MUST declare your purchases at U.S. customs (above $800). There are people who will tell you to try to play the game and slip past customs. However, by filing for detax – which is coming from the foreign government you just visited, you have declared your purchases with their customs, and you don’t want to chance it that they have or haven’t contacted our customs about your purchases. If U.S. customs has already been contacted about your purchases made abroad, and sees that you have not declared them, you will be fined, and your luggage will be searched and your purchases will be confiscated.

After you have declared U.S. customs, you may have to pay U.S. tax on your purchase, tax is subject to state, so i.e. that Capucine BB is now $3856.90 with New York tax. Granted, you will get a percentage back eventually (unless you shop tax-free or opt for cash back at the airport) but be prepared to fork over that amount for the time being until the detax shows up on your statement. However, it is still $900 less than the U.S. price for the same product. Whether you are asked to pay the tax or not is up to your luck and the customs agent, however definitely factor it into the total price when you are calculating whether or not it’s worth it for you to purchase something in Europe o not. 

Hope this helps!


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