You may think you know London. You’ve been to Buckingham Palace and spent afternoons at the British Museum. You may have had tea at Fortnum & Mason and know where the royals like to go. But do you know Bicester Village?
It’s one of England’s most popular tourist attractions, receiving 6.4 million visitors last year — more than Stonehenge, the Tower of London and the Tate Modern. But it's relatively unknown to western tourists.
Bicester Village is basically a giant, charming outlet mall about 45 minutes outside of London.
There are 160 different shops in the village, including Prada, Gucci, Armani, Versace and Valentino, alongside Barbour, Clarks and Lululemon. The village boasts that once inside, customers can shop for up to 60 percent off normal retail price.
About 60 percent of the people traveling to the outlet are foreign tourists, with the most visitors coming from China, Hong Kong, Kuwait, India, and Malaysia, according to The Telegraph. They come not only for the designer discounts but the onsite tax refund service and currency exchange.
Travelers can arrive at the Bicester Village train station directly from London Marylebone in 46 minutes, with two trains every hour. There’s also a shuttle that takes visitors directly from their central London hotels to the mall.
When they descend at the outlet mall, visitors are greeted by workers in red bellboy caps and cloaks. Potted plants and small, walkable streets give the shopping center the feel of a real village — complete with telephone booths decorated by Liberty London.
It’s no wonder that tourists seem to forget they’re actually in a shopping center.