Edinburgh doesn't have quite the shopping options that are available in Glasgow, but it has a combination of traditional department stores, such as the classic Jenners and newfangled boutiques. With the recent addition of the fashionista's favourite, Harvey Nichols, Edinburgh is challenging the more style-conscious city to the west. New Town's Princes Street is the main shopping artery in the Scottish capital, with leading department stores, whether the homegrown Jenners or the British staple, Marks & Spencer. But for the posher shops, such as Cruise or Laura Ashley, George Street tops the lot. For tourists, Old Town's Royal Mile can present the mother lode of Scottish souvenirs, whether it is tartan or trinkets.
While you may find a bargain at the tourist-oriented shops along the Royal Mile, unique gifts are perhaps best found at the shops in the city's various national galleries or the one in the Museum of Scotland.
After London, the capital of Great Britain and a city at least ten times the size of Glasgow, Scotland's second city apparently has the second most retail space in all of the UK. It is a shopping mecca for everyone in the west of the country and apparently a reason for people to visit from northern England, too, as it is not as far away as the shops of London's Soho. The main area for retail therapy is defined by the pedestrian malls of Argyle Street, Buchanan Street and Sauchiehall Street, which join together and form a Z shape right in the heart of the city. But for more unique shops and fashions, it pays to venture to the Merchant City and the West End. And perhaps the city's most unique shopping experience is at the flea-market-like stalls at the weekend Barras market in the East End of Glasgow.
Among the few retail goods that are high quality and priced competitively are fine wool knits, particularly cashmere scarves and sweaters – or as the Scots prefer, "jumpers." Anything produced within the country (with the exception of whisky, which is taxed as heavily as all alcoholic products) should be less expensive than at home: from smoked salmon and shortbread to Caithness glass, those beguiling clear paper weights with swirling, colourful designs. Second-hand shops, often run by charities such as Oxfam, are also potential gold mines for bargain hunters. Finally, given the number of artists in the country, getting an original piece of art to bring home might represent the most value for money.
Princes Square, Buchanan Street, is the city's most stylish and upmarket shopping centre. Within a modernized and renovated Victorian building, the mall has many specialty stores, men's and women's fashion outlets as well as restaurants, cafes and bars.
Nearby, between Argyle Street and the River Clyde, is the St. Enoch Shopping Centre, whose merchandise is less expensive and a lot less posh than what you'll find at Princes Square. It resembles a fairly conventional mall with a couple major department stores and a food court at one end.
If you're after a fancy watch or gold ring, go to the Argyll Arcade, the main entrance to which is at 30 Buchanan Street. Even if the year of its construction (1827) wasn't posted above the entrance, you'd still know that this collection of shops beneath a curved glass ceiling is historic. The L-shaped arcade contains one of the largest concentrations of retail jewellers, both antique and modern, in all of Europe. It's considered lucky to purchase a wedding band here.
The latest contribution to mall shopping in the city centre is the Buchanan Galleries, at the top of Buchanan Street. Completed in 1999, this mammoth development is hardly ground-breaking but it does include the rightfully respected John Lewis department store.
On the western outskirts of town, the Braehead Shopping Centre, opened most recently and somewhat controversially as it appears to be taking people away from the city centre. Its major draw is a sprawling Ikea store.
The Barras, held Saturday and Sunday 9am to 5pm, takes place about 0.5km ( 1/4 mile) east of Glasgow Cross. This century-old market has traders selling their wares in stalls and shops. You can not only browse for that special treasure, but you can also become a part of Glasgow life. The nearby Paddy's Market, by the rail arches on Shipbank Lane, operates daily if you'd like to see an old-fashioned slice of Glaswegian street vending.