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Discerning shoppers, walk this way

From the Champs Elysees in Paris to Milan's Golden Square. If you love shopping, just pick a European city and let us direct you to the most elegant streets, where top designers and the most prestigious boutiques come together.

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Take a trip to Milan to visit the monumental Gothic cathedral; admire Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, the Last Supper, in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, stroll around the Vittorio Emanuele galleries where some of the city's best-known cafes and shops are to be found, or watch an opera at the Gran Teatro La Scala. Or simply visit to discover the most exclusive shops in the city of fashion.

Hop on the first plane to the capital of Lombardy and step off with your credit card at the ready. Just make your way to the area the locals know as the Quadrilatero d'Oro, where the shopaholics' dreams come true. The area, comprised of the streets Montenapoleone, Della Spiga, Sant'Andrea and Manzini, is home to the most prestigious boutiques and showrooms in the world as well as shops selling the most luxurious accessories and magnificent jewellery. It's a spectacular display that seems designed to leave mere mortals drooling.

Via Montenapoleone is the main street of the Golden Square; here, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Tanino Crisci, Valentino, Salvatore Ferragamon and Cartier all open their doors to the public. The Via della Spiga is favoured by other major labels including Sergio Rossi, D&G, Krizia, Gianfranco Ferre, Tod's, Genny, Bottega Veneta, Prada, Chopard and Bulgari. Armani is king in the Via Manzini, with a multi-concept store that includes a luxury Japanese restaurant, a show room and a cafe. And on the Via Sant'Andrea you'll find more famous names including Armani, Chanel, Fendi, Kenzo, Moschino, Hermes and Trussardi.

A tour of the Square is a must, even if you're only window shopping. Those with shallower pockets can be reassured that there are more affordable and popular stores nearby, such as H & M, Footlocker and Zara, spread around another four main streets:Corso Vittorio Emanuele, Corso Buenos Aires, Via Torino and Corso di Porta Ticinese . And there's always the option of leaving Milan's old town and heading to the numerous designer outlets stores where you'll find garments from last season on sale at bargain prices. Another alternative is to drop by one of the street markets, particularly the market on Painiano Via, the largest in the city, where some stalls offer secondhand clothes from major labels.

The most exclusive Italian fashion boutiques also find a home on Rome's most elegant streets. Condotti, Borgognona and Frattina, three parallel roads that lead from the Piazza di Spagna to Via del Corso, are the site of unleashed consumer passions. Of these, Condotti is the most elegant, with luxury names, such as Bulgari, whose workshop has been located here since 1905, Hermes, Cartier, Ferragamo and Battistoni, the historical men's tailor, a favorite of the Duke of Windsor. In Via Borgognona, you'll find, among others, Ferre, Fendi, Laura Biagiotti - queen of cashmere - and the city's young designer, Gai Mattiolo; Tiffany, Versace and Byblos are among the famous names to be found on Via Frattina.

Outside Italy, almost all major European cities have elegant and exclusive shopping districts. In Paris, it's the Avenue Montaigne, between the Champs Elysees and the Alma bridge, where high-class haute couture labels have their homes in magnificent historical buildings. Take a walk down Zurich's prestigious Bahnhofstrasse, which is lined with such exclusive shops as the Apple Store, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, Dior and Salvatorre Ferragamo, all the way to Paradeplatz, near Lake Zurich, one of the most famous squares in Switzerland, and the perfect place to buy real Swiss chocolate at the Sprüngli confectionery shop.

In Geneva, head for Rue du Rhone, Hoofstraat in Amsterdam, and in Prague try Parizska. Or why not take a trip to Spain? In the capital, you'll find Serrano and Ortega y Gasset as part of Madrid's Golden Mile, or Paseo de Gracia in Barcelona. Closer to home, and with the chance of bumping into a local celebrity in London's exclusive Mayfair, there's always Bond Street.

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