SHOP TALK: First, ignore the images that might spring to mind when you think “outlet shopping.” The nine Chic Outlet Shopping villages sprinkled across Europe are something else entirely. They’re located outside Milan, Paris, Brussels, London, Barcelona, Madrid, Frankfurt, Munich, and Dublin. Each offers discounts of up to 60 percent on designer labels. Think Salvatore Ferragamo, Celine, Burberry, and many more. And these aren’t strip malls. They are beautifully constructed villages with upscale restaurants, paved streets, and courtyards. Worth a trip overseas? We think so.
FIRST STOP, PARIS: The La Vallée Village is located about 30 minutes outside of Paris, on the same road that takes you to the Champagne region (more on that later). Shops include Givenchy, Burberry, and M. Missoni.
HAUTE HOTEL: The gorgeous Hôtel Daniel in the eighth arrondissement of Paris is a Relais & Châteaux property. The small hotel is lavishly decorated in the French XVIII style, with heavy Asian influences. Located in the lobby, Restaurant Daniel is a cozy spot for coffee, tea, fresh pastries from Ladurée, baguettes from Kayser boulangerie, and other treats.
DINNER WITH A VIEW: Georges Restaurant, in the modern art museum Centre Pompidou, is a stunning place for dinner. The restaurant offers a panoramic view of Paris, futuristic design, and delicious food, like duck with caramel sauce and vegetarian spring rolls.
SECOND STOP, MILAN: Outlet shopping in Italy happens at Fidenza Village, just an hour outside of Milan, in Parma. Valentino, Versace, Missoni, and D&G are a few of the brands offered.
HAM IT UP: It would be a foodie sin to miss eating Parma ham while in the city where it is made. Barlumeria, located within the village, is a great place for a light lunch or a glass of wine after shopping.
ITALIAN DREAMS: Spend the night in luxury at Milan’s Carlton Hotel Baglioni, right in the center of the city, just steps away from the shops on Via della Spiga. The gorgeous duomo and the historic Teatro alla Scala are close by as well.
LAST STOP, BRUSSELS: Maasmechelen Village, an hour outside of Brussels, features cobblestone streets and stores such as Versace, Furla, and Pringle of Scotland.
MODERN REST: Maastricht, Netherlands, is just 20 minutes from the village, and it’s a fun-filled European town. An overnight stay at the Eden Designhotel Maastricht is ideal for a modern traveler. The minimally designed rooms boast large pieces of pop art, hardwood floors, and a black, white, and red color palette.
STAR CHEF: For a Michelin-starred meal, head to Restaurant-Hostellerie Vivendum, 30 minutes outside Maastricht. Chef Alex Clevers and his team cook exquisite meals in a house built in the 1700s, complete with a quaint garden in back. The cuisine is as fresh as can be, and the menu changes almost daily.
Popping the Cork
Sparkling wine lovers visiting La Vallée Village in France won’t want to miss a side trip to the Champagne region. The trip will take about two hours, so we recommend breaking it up with lunch at L’Auberge de la Brie. This small restaurant, located in a cottage right off the highway, has pretty views of the restaurant’s garden and superior service and food. Dishes include seasonal specialties like foie gras with asparagus, roasted squab with fava bean stew, and rack of lamb with rosemary jus. The best part? Even if you don’t order dessert, martini glasses full of house-made candies (marshmallows, gelees, chocolates) are brought to the table for a sweet ending to the meal. Full and happy, you’ll enjoy the gorgeous drive through the countryside. Les Caves de Moët & Chandon, located in the town of Épernay, is a great place to learn about how Champagne is made. Tours of the caves (which date back to the 1700s) are followed by samples of the delicious bubbly. A trip to the gift shop, stocked with Champagne and other goodies, is the perfect way to say au revoir.