In the mood for some shopping on your trip abroad? Then find out what to buy in Europe with this list of best products and brands worth buying in the old continent!
As a seasoned shopper in the United States, I must warn you: finding worthwhile items to buy in Europe is not as straightforward as you might expect.
Many popular brands are American-made. Think Apple, Sony, Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Tiffany & Co., Nike, Adidas, and the list goes on. Even Asian brands like Nintendo and Samsung are often cheaper when purchased from US retailers compared to European ones.
Therefore, if you’re an American planning to shop in Europe, it’s crucial to have a strategy in place. Otherwise, you may end up spending more than you would back home.
One smart approach is to focus on purchasing European brands. As you might expect, buying these products on their home continent is generally more cost-effective. But which European brands are worth your money? What should you buy from them? Are there any budget-friendly stores you should visit?
These are some of the questions we’ll answer in this post about what to buy in Europe! We’ll also discuss tax returns, items you should avoid buying while traveling abroad, and much more.
But first, let’s get something out of the way…
If you are not American
If you’re from South or Central America or even Asia, you’re in luck. Even though prices in Europe may be slightly higher than in the US, they’re still significantly lower than what you’d find back home.
For example, an iPhone 14 Pro starts at R$9.176, or around US$1700 or €1685 based on today’s exchange rate, in Brazil. In the US, you’d pay US$999 for the same iPhone, while in Europe you’d pay €1179. So, while it’s more expensive to buy the iPhone in Europe than in the US, it’s still much cheaper than buying it in Brazil.
This is the case for most electronics, clothes, beauty items, accessories, and baby items. You can go wild and not have to worry about doing much research to find worthwhile items to buy. You’ll save money no matter what you purchase.
This guide mainly focuses on what’s worth buying in Europe compared to the US. If you’re looking for general recommendations for what to buy abroad, I recommend checking out my guide on what to purchase in the US. Everything on that list will be a good value whether you’re visiting Europe or the US.
If you are from the US…
…You already live in a shopping paradise, but you can still find some great deals in Europe. The key is to focus on fashion and beauty, especially high-end and luxury items, and you’re bound to find some treasures.
When it comes to electronics, the only reason to consider buying them while abroad is if something happens to the ones you bought back home. In general, electronics are more expensive in Europe, with the only exception I’ve found being the Dyson Airwrap.
If you do decide to purchase electronics while traveling in Europe, be sure they’re compatible with US voltages. Keep in mind that Europe operates on 220V, while the United States uses 100V.
What to buy in Europe – Best products and brands
As I mentioned, the best category of products to buy in Europe are beauty and fashion, so that is what we will begin with.
Luxury Brands (Louis Vuitton, Hermés, Gucci, Chanel, Prada, etc.)
If you are into luxury, you are probably aware that the most popular fashion houses are from Europe. For example, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Cartier, and Hermés are from France, while Gucci and Prada are from Italy.
Even if you don’t visit the country where these brands are originally from, it’s still cheaper to buy them in any shop in Europe, including the UK, even after Brexit.
For example, a classic Louis Vuitton Speedy 30 costs €1150 in most European countries, while it costs £1080 in the UK and US$1550 in the USA.
Polène is a high-end band mostly known for its handbags. They are getting quite popular right now, and it’s not uncommon to see some fashionistas and influencers rocking their bags daily.
The most famous design is Numéro Un, with the addition of Numéro Un Mini and Nano, but they also have some other great styles such as Numéro Huit (bucket bag) and Numéro Dix.
They ship to the US, but the prices are a little higher in USD, and you have to pay for shipping. If you are in Europe, you can get a better deal online or visit their flagship store in Paris.
Since we are discussing French brands, we have to talk about Sézane. The fashion brand is known for its ‘effortless chic Parisian style’ and is the perfect place to shop for some staples and statement pieces.
You’ll notice the photos on the website make every item look stunning, but my favorite pieces are the knits. The Léontine and the Gaspart live in my head rent-free. They also have beautiful shirts, dresses, and denim.
You can find Sèzane across France and in London and Madrid.
COS is the perfect mix between classic and contemporary. The Swedish brand has clothes for every occasion, with classic cuts and colors and statement pieces to make you stand out from the crowd. In addition, they use sustainable, natural fibers, so even their basics feel more luxurious than your usual white t-shirt.
If you are into capsule wardrobes, minimalism, or if your color palette is a mix of black, white, navy, and nudes, spend some time shopping at COS.
Unlike the other brands mentioned before, you can find COS stores almost anywhere, including Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and other European countries.
Another brand from Sweden, Arket’s mission is to make everyday life more beautiful. If you are into the Nordic, Scandinavian aesthetic with clean lines and neutral colors, this is the shop for you!
They have a lot of famous pieces among fashion influencers, but the ones I keep seeing the most are the basic cotton shirts, heavy-weight shirts, and sweaters and knits. But everything looks so chic that it’s hard to choose a favorite.
You can find Arket stores in Belgium, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, Luxemburg, and the United Kingdom.
To me, & Other Stories is a brand that does some classics and romantic pieces. It’s pretty girly, and the stores smell amazing and have a soft light that makes shopping a relaxing and peaceful experience. It’s a great place to find dresses, denim, and even shoes and swimwear. Their beauty section is also worth checking out. Their scents are amazing, and they carry the whole The Ordinary line.
Warning: although & Other Stories has a lot of pieces made of natural fibers, they also have some made with recycled polyester. If that’s a no-go to you, do check the tags for composition before buying.
You can find stores in every popular European destination, except for Portugal.
I lack words to describe Massimo Dutti, so I will say that this is the store where I would shop for a wardrobe if I were going on a luxury vacation. The whole vibe for me is resort chic, and even though the prices are not that high, the pieces look like they cost a fortune.
This is a famous brand when we talk about what to buy in Europe, so it’s easy to find stores in any country.
The shirts and blouses stand out the most, but the blazers and pants are also great! If you are visiting a store during summer, check out their collection as they make excellent chilling at the pool pieces!
If you follow royal fashion, you probably know Strathberry. Megan Markle carried their purses on many occasions, and they became a sensation almost overnight. They are famous for their bags, but they also sell wallets and cashmere scarves.
The most popular bag is the East/West, with its signature bar closure. However, you can also go for the Tote or the Ace to get a similar look, and I love their mini versions.
Although you can find Strathberry in many retailers in the US, the prices are significantly lower in Europe. You can go to a store back home, see which models you like the most and order online during your trip, or go to one of their London stores.
Topshop was known in the US, so you are probably familiar with the brand. However, I had to include them in this list since they are cheaper in Europe and because I love them. To me, they were the ultimate fast fashion, and they had petite and tall lines before that was cool.
After a rough couple of years, Topshop no longer has physical stores. However, you can still find them at ASOS, and the brand is usually included in all promo codes and discounts.
Zara & Mango
You already know Zara – I mean, who doesn’t know Zara? But you may not know that Zara is a European brand, and it has a sister! So, yes, that’s Mango for you.
While it is still hard to find Mango stores in the US, both brands are widely available in Europe, with lower prices and more extensive collections.
Visit Mango if you want office wear or more elegant pieces that won’t break the bank. They have classic and contemporary cuts, and the prices are similar to Zara.
I will put these three together since they are pretty much the same store, with slightly different target markets. These are your typical fast fashion for teens and young adults, with prices going from €10 to €30 for most pieces.
I would say Stradivarius is more trendy, with the latest in fashion, Bershka is for party looks, and Pull & Bear is more for romantic, almost classic pieces.
They are available everywhere in Europe. Don’t worry about choosing one single store to visit. I don’t think they are even allowed to exist solo and are always close to each other.
Another fast fashion where you can shop for affordable pieces that are in right now. I particularly like their dresses and size selection. So if you are a mid-size gal, that’s probably the best store to visit if you are looking for affordable clothes.
The only annoying thing about New Look is that they only have stores in the UK and Ireland. But if you are visiting other countries, you can still order online through ASOS.
By the way, if you want to shop online to save some time during your trip, take a look at ASOS. I already mentioned the online retailer twice in this post, and that’s because they now own Topshop and are an easy stop to shop for all European fast fashions. They also carry high-end brands, beauty, shoes, and accessories.
They also have their own label, which is affordable, trendy, and good quality, with tall, petite, and maternity lines. They also have next-day delivery for most countries.
What I will say might sound crazy, but hear me out: it’s not worth buying European make-up brands in Europe. Skincare, sure, but when we talk about make-up, most brands are the same price or even cheaper in America!
So don’t waste time looking for the latest Dior foundation or the new Charlotte Tilbury release. Save that for when you are back home, and invest in these beauty items and brands instead:
Although La Roche-Posay has high prices in most countries, that is not the case in the US. So you will not be saving that much money if you buy it abroad. It is still worth purchasing the brand in Europe, though, because you will save a little, but more importantly, you will find a better selection of products in the old continent.
This skincare power-house of a brand has a couple of lines and hundreds of products, so whatever your skin concern is, they got you covered. If you don’t know where to start, try the Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer or the Cicaplast Baum B5.
The skincare brand is known for the Lait-Crème Concentré, a multifunction moisturizer with cult status among beauty gurus and influencers.
Since they are not as famous, most people sleep on their other products, but don’t make the same mistake! Their range goes from moisturizers to make-up removers, anti-aging, balms, and everything else your skin needs to feel healthy.
Yes, you can also find Bioderma worldwide, but prices are much lower in Europe! The skincare brand has some great products, but their holy grail is the micellar water for removing make-up. They have different types according to skin concern, but my favorite is the pink-cap one for sensitive skin.
Bioderma has a lot of two-for-one duos, and most of the time, you will pay the same amount for the two bottles that you’d pay back home for only one.
Don’t let the fact that you can find Nuxe at Walmart fool you: that’s a French luxury beauty brand that is more than worth its price. Even better if you buy it in Europe since it’s cheaper.
Their most famous product is the Huile Prodigieuse, a dry oil that can be used for multiple purposes, such as to help with stretch marks and moisturize the skin. Other exciting products are the Rêve de Miel lip balm, made with honey and propolis, and the face cleanser of the same line.
If you are into luxury, heavenly-scented candles, you know Jo Malone. Well, they also have incredible colognes, body washes, and diffusers, so you and your home can smell like a million dollars.
It’s hard to suggest which scents you should go for since that’s personal taste. But, if it helps, the bestsellers are English Pear and Freesia, Wood Sage and Sea Salt, and Lime Basil and Mandarin.
While we are talking about scents, although luxury make-up isn’t cheaper in Europe, the same can’t be said about perfume. For example, a bottle of Coco Mademoiselle Eau de Parfum will cost you $146 in the US, while the same bottle goes for €117 in Sephora France.
Of course, that is only the case when talking about European brands. If you try to buy a bottle of Fantasy by Britney Spears anywhere outside the US, it will cost you more than it would back home.
You’ve probably heard about Revolution Beauty, and maybe you even have some products since they are sold in Ulta and other retail stores in the US. But, you might not know that Revolution has more products for sale in Europe, and it’s also cheaper there.
Just a quick look at their American website shows 279 results for eyeshadow palettes, while the European one has an astonishing 572 results for the same category!
If you are uncertain about what to buy in Europe regarding Revolution, go for their bestsellers: the IRL Filter Foundation, the loose baking powder, and the Conceal and Define concealer. They also have excellent eyeshadow palettes at a great price point!
Usually, beauty utensils are cheaper in the US, but Dyson is the exception to this rule. So if you have been eyeing the famous AirWrap but can’t justify the price, you might consider buying it abroad.
Let me be clear: it is still not cheap. I still think it’s pretty expensive for a hair tool (but do I want one? Yes, I do), but if you are going to buy it anyway, better to do it while saving a couple of bucks.
Other worth-visiting stores
I don’t think Europe has stores across the continent that are popular at the same level as Walmart and Target in the US. Yes, there are big stores, but they are not usually that enormous and cheap. Two stores defy this idea, though:
Imagine a fast fashion retailer, but with prices that are half of what you’d expect. That’s what you’ll find at Primark.
I didn’t put Primark in the fashion category because they sell so much more than that. Yes, you’ll find the latest trends in clothes, accessories, and shoes, but they also have a wide selection of home decor and beauty products. They even sell some off-brand items, like Batiste dry shampoo.
As you might expect, the quality of the products isn’t the best, but everything is so cheap that it doesn’t really matter. Plus, they often have cute collections featuring characters like Disney, Peanuts, Friends, and Harry Potter, so you’ll want to buy everything, even if it only lasts for one season.
The stores are massive and packed with tourists daily, so plan your visit accordingly. If you’re serious about shopping and want to take your time looking at everything and trying things on, you’ll need at least an hour. If you want to avoid the crowds and find everything in its place, go early in the day.
If you like to shop at REI, you will love Decathlon. This sports store has everything you might need for exercising, hiking, and even traveling, and prices are insanely low, especially for their house brand. For example, you can find travel backpacks for as low as €40 for 50 liters. Their €2 10 liter backpack is also great to use during the day to carry your essentials.
If you are looking for clothes, Decathlon also has you covered. They have pieces for every occasion, such as going to the gym or enduring below-zero temperatures while practicing your favorite winter sports. I’ve tried their shirts for working out, fleeces and other warm pieces, snorkeling gear, and even the trainers, and they are all outstanding.
You can also find other brands, such as Nike and Adidas, but it’s not an extensive selection. The best part of Decathlon is the house brand and the amount of equipment you can test while in store. They also have bikes, roller skaters, hiking gear, and accessories for tennis, swimming, soccer, or whatever other sport you might enjoy.
What about food?
Let’s be real: the food in Europe is far superior to what you’ll find in the US. Don’t blame me, that’s just the way it is! Unfortunately, you can’t bring back every delicious cheese or homemade delicacy you come across. You can’t pack fresh produce or fruit in your suitcase, and if it’s not in a bottle or package, it might not pass through customs.
However, there are two things you should absolutely splurge on and bring back with you in your checked luggage: wine and olive oil. I promise you, they’ll be much cheaper than you can find anywhere else in the world, and the taste is unbeatable.
For wine, try the original Champagne, Bordeaux, and Piedmont varieties. For olive oil, look for those produced in Portugal and Greece.
If you’re not a resident of Europe, you may be eligible for a tax refund when you leave the European Union.
Unlike in the US, sales tax (VAT) is already included in the price of items you purchase in Europe. You won’t be able to ask for a “tax-free” product in stores, but you can claim the tax back when you’re at the airport waiting to return to your home country.
Not all purchases are eligible for a tax refund. Only physical products (not services) are eligible, and the minimum amount you need to spend at a store varies by country. When you’re shopping, let the cashier know that you’ll be claiming a tax refund, and they’ll help you with the necessary paperwork. Then, when you’re at the airport to leave the EU (not just when crossing borders between countries), go to the tax refund kiosk with your items, receipts, and passport to start the process.
The UK stopped offering tax refunds at the beginning of 2021, so you’ll need to plan your purchases accordingly. If the UK is your first stop on your trip, hold off on shopping until later. If you’re visiting the EU first, go ahead and shop during your time there, and claim your VAT before flying to the UK. The exception is if you’re looking for British brands or hard-to-find items, in which case you may have better luck shopping in places like London.
Best countries to shop in Europe
Without a doubt, the best countries to shop in Europe are France and the UK. They have most of the brands and products I mentioned in this post, and the stores are conveniently located near popular attractions.
The downside of shopping in the UK is that you won’t be able to claim a tax refund. Additionally, while the US dollar is worth more than the Euro, it’s not worth more than the British pound. So, if you have to choose, France is probably the better option, especially if you’re shopping for luxury items. That tax refund can make a big difference in the end!
Spain and Italy also have many of the brands featured in this post, so they’re also good choices when it comes to shopping in Europe.
Any other questions about what to buy in Europe or where to shop? Let me know in the comments!