A (shopping) day out at Bicester Village designer outlet shopping centre
Bicester Village – the designer outlet shopping centre in the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside – is home to more than 160 boutiques of world-famous brands from Alexander McQueen to Zadig & Voltaire – and every alphabet in-between. Together with a selection of restaurants and cafés, Bicester Village offers a rather interesting place for a fun shopping day out – and not just for tourists.
On paper, Bicester Village may seem like a bargain-hunting ground, but for those not interested in luxury binge shopping, just strolling around the shops (read window-shopping) presents a fantastic people-watching experience. And if you’re visiting with friends, here are some interesting facts to help steer the conversation away from just the discounts.
- At 1.2 miles, the high street of Bicester Village is the same length as Oxford Street in London – the stretch running from Marble Arch to Tottenham Court Road.
- From end to end, the high street at the designer outlet shopping centre is also, coincidentally, the same length as the Champs-Élysées.
- With 6.4 million visitors last year, this high-end artificial high street is one of the UK’s most popular attractions.
- Its popularity remains strongest among foreign visitors from the Middle East and China, looking for designer bargains.
- Only Buckingham Palace receives more visits from Chinese tourists, and such is the number of visitors that Chiltern Railways services to Bicester Village are announced in Mandarin and English.
- Unusually the village is not designed to be quintessentially British, but rather its clean wooden-panelled shops are loosely based on American colonial architecture.
- Bicester Village is a one of 11 “villages” in the Bicester Village Shopping Collection. Value Retail – the owners of this designer outlet shopping centre – also own eight other “villages” in Europe and two in China – each hosting a spectrum of international and niche luxury brands.
Most people travelling by car to Bicester Village from Oxford will instinctively use a combination of the A34 and A40. However, there is a more scenic route via Kidlington, Bletchingdon, Kirtlington, and Chesterton if you prefer travelling through the Oxfordshire countryside.
If, like me, it has been a while since you last visited, then here are some handy tips
- Get there early on a weekday, say between 9.00am and 10.00am and aim to get out before 2.00pm. It gets busy around lunchtime and you really don’t want to be there when it starts to heave.
- It’s well worth a visit during the summer sale season, but also consider visiting during major tourist holidays like the very beginning of Eid (for Middle East visitors) and the Chinese New Year holidays.
- Do put on a pair of sensible shoes. There’s plenty of parking around the village, but there’s also plenty of cars, which means you might have to park a good distance away. Alternatively, you can use the valet parking services.
- Bicester village is unashamedly a designer outlet shopping centre. It’s surprising how people often forget this and expect the brand experience to be the same as in a flagship store in London’s West End. It isn’t.
- The Farmshop restaurant & cafe is good, and so is the recently opened Wolseley café. But you should also look at culinary options well away from the village. Afternoon tea at the Manor Hotel in nearby Weston-on-the-Green (otherwise known as the Weston Manor) is a good choice.
With over 6 million visitors, Bicester Village is a remarkable example of how to use the power of marketing to get people to visit a location they might not otherwise give a second thought to (no disrespect to Bicester, it is a lovely place).
Visit the Bicester Village website.