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 someone who is used to shopping in America, I have to tell you: it’s not that simple to find things worth buying in Europe.
First of all, a lot of the popular brands are American. I’m talking Apple, Sony, Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Tiffany & Co., Nike, Adidas… the list is endless.
Even brands such as Nintendo and Samsung, which are Asian and not from the USA, are cheaper if you compare their prices in the US against European retailers.
So if you are American and want to shop in Europe, you can’t just shop on a whim without a plan. Otherwise, you will probably spend more than you would back home.
What you should focus on is buying European brands. As you might expect, buying them on their home continent is cheaper. But what are the best European brands? What should you buy from them? Are there any cheap stores worth visiting?
That is what you will find out in this post about what to buy in Europe. We will talk about products, brands, stores, tax returns, what you should not spend your money on when you are abroad, and much more.
But first, let’s get something all of the way…
If you are not American
You are in for a treat if you are not from the United States but from South and Central America or even from Asia.
And that is because even if the prices are slightly higher than what you would find in the US, they are still significantly lower than what you will find back in your home country.
Let’s use Brazil as an example. An iPhone 13 Pro starts at R$9.176, around US$1700 or €1685 on today’s exchange rate. If you buy the same iPhone in the US, you will pay US$999, while in Europe, you will pay €1179. So even though it’s more expensive to buy the iPhone in Europe than in the US, it is still way cheaper to buy it in a European country than in Brazil.
That is the case for most electronics, clothes, beauty items, accessories, baby stuff… So you can go crazy. You barely need to do any research on what is worth buying – you will save money buying whatever you want abroad.
This guide mainly focuses on what is worth buying in Europe compared to the United States. So, if you are looking for general recommendations on what to buy abroad, I recommend you read my guide on what to purchase in the US. Everything there will be worth it, whether you are visiting Europe or the USA.
If you are from the US
You already live in a shopping paradise, but you can still find some good shopping opportunities in Europe. Focus more on fashion and beauty, especially high-end and luxury stores, and you will strike gold.
The only reason to consider buying electronics during your trip abroad is if something happens to the ones you bought back home. They are more expensive in Europe, with the only exception I found so far being the Dyson Airwrap.
If you buy any electronics, ensure they will work in the USA. Remember, Europe is a 220V continent, while the United States operates on a 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:
Think fast fashion, and then cut the prices in half. That’s Primark for you.
I didn’t put Primark in the fashion category because they sell so much more than that. Sure, you can find the latest trends in clothes, accessories, and shoes, but they also have home decor and their beauty line. They even sell some off-brand products, such as the Batiste dry shampoo.
As you might expect, the products do not have the best quality, but everything is so cheap, it doesn’t matter. They also have cute collections, such as Disney, Peanuts, Friends, and Harry Potter, so you will want to buy it all, even if it only lasts for one season.
Stores are enormous and packed with tourists daily, so organize your schedule accordingly. If you are serious about shopping and want to look at everything and try things on, you will spend at least one hour there. Go at the beginning of the day if you want to beat the crowds and find everything in place.
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 honest: food in Europe is much better than in the US. Don’t blame me; that’s just how it is! Unfortunately, you can not bring home every different cheese or homemade delicacy. You can’t put produce or fruits in your suitcase, and if it’s not in a bottle or package, it might also not pass through customs.
You should absolutely splurge on two things that you can bring back with you in your checked bag: wine and olive oil. I guarantee you, it’s way cheaper than buying it anywhere else in the world, and the taste is unique.
For wine, try the original Champagne, Bordeaux, and Piedmont. For olive oil, you better look at the ones produced in Portugal and Greece.
If you do not live in Europe, you might be eligible for a TAX refund when you leave the European Union.
Unlike in the US, tax is already included in the price whenever you buy something in Europe. You can not ask for a “tax-free” product in stores, but you can claim the tax (VAT) back when you are at the airport waiting to return to your home country.
Not every purchase is tax refundable. Only products (not services) and the minimal amount spent at stores varies from country to country. Tell the cashier you will want your tax back when shopping, and they will help you with the necessary documents. Then, when you get to the airport to leave the EU (it can’t be just crossing borders between countries), go to the tax refund kiosk with your goods, receipts, and passport to start the process.
The UK stopped offering tax refunds at the beginning of 2021, so you better plan your purchases accordingly. If the United Kingdom is your first stop, leave the shopping for later on the trip. On the other hand, if you are visiting the EU first, shop during your time in the European Union and claim your VAT before flying to the UK. The exception is, of course, if you are planning to shop British brands or are looking for hard-to-find items. In that case, you might get better luck in places like London.
Best countries to shop in Europe
Without a doubt, the best countries to shop in Europe are France and UK. They have most of the brands and products I mentioned in this post, and the stores are close to popular attractions.
The downside of shopping in the United Kingdom is that you will get no tax refund. Also, while the US dollar is worth more than the Euro, it’s not worth more than UK pound. So if you have to choose, France is probably the best option, especially if you are shopping for luxury. That tax refund will make a big difference at the end of the day!
Spain and Italy also sell many of the brands featured in this post, so they are also a good choice when we talk about shopping in Europe.
Any other questions about what to buy in Europe or where to shop? Let me know in the comments!