The big Bicester obsession: Why is the designer outlet village such a tourist hot spot?

Bicester Village, in Oxfordshire, is the designer outlet you need to know about [Photo: Bicester Village]

There’s a chance you’ve never heard of Bicester Village. So it may surprise you to hear that the designer outlet village, located in a quiet, Oxfordshire town, is as popular with Chinese tourists as Buckingham Palace is.

In 2016, a whopping 6.4 million shopped the artificial high street, putting the Tate Modern’s equally impressive 5.8 admissions to shame.

And things are only getting better for Bicester Village. A rail connection was added in October 2015 – the first new railway line to link London to another British city in 100 years.

Two years on, in October 2017, the village expanded its offering bringing the total number of boutiques to 160.

British designer Anya Hindmarch has a shop in Bicester [Photo: Bictester Village]
London Fashion Week designer Christopher Kane’s shop [Photo: Bicester Village]

London Fashion Week labels Roksanda and Christopher Kane set up shop, offering bargain hunters the chance to afford pieces from two British labels the Duchess of Cambridge herself has in her wardrobe.

It’s easy to see the appeal. Shoppers can spend as long as they like wandering around Alexander McQueen, Paul Smith, Belstaff, Dolce & Gabbana, Céline, Vivienne Westwood and more without feeling like they don’t belong.

After all, with around 60% off the price, there’s a strong chance you’ll leave with a purchase. How often does that happen on Bond Street?

Add Gucci, Marni, Valentino, Givenchy, Prada and Dior to the mix and you can see why Bicester Village is something of a style mecca – and a regular haunt for fashion followers with a penchant for a bargain.

Because does anyone really care that they’re wearing last season’s gear, anymore?

Luxury lifestyle brand Bamford’s Bicester Village shop [Photo: Bicester Village]

It’s not all Fashion Week labels, though.

Timberland is a great stop-off if you’re hankering after a new pair of boots at two thirds of the original price and Jack Wills is always bursting with students thanks to its heavy discounts.

Polo Ralph Lauren’s worth braving the queue for and we guarantee you’ll leave The White Company or Bamford with at least one candle/linen set/bathrobe you don’t need.

Molton Brown, Clarks, Calvin Klein, Emma Bridgewater, L’Occitane and Le Creuset are other popular haunts in the village. It really does cater to men, women and children in one fell swoop.

The Farm Shop at Bicester Village [Photo: Bicester Village]

The dining options will entice you to make a day of it. The gorgeous smells wafting out of Crêperie Angélie had us drooling and we can’t recommend a spot of breakfast at the Farmshop Restaurant & Cafe enough.

Le Pain Quotidien, ITSU and Pret A Manger are just some of the other places you can re-fuel at.

Parking’s a doddle, whatever time you arrive, thanks to the multiple large car parks, but we advise you arrive early before the coach loads of tourists arrive and swarm the village.

Where to stay

We turned our Bicester trip into a weekend getaway and checked into the historic Hartwell House & Spa a 30-minute drive away in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.

Set in 90 acres, and complete with a lake and chapel, the stately home would be an ideal set for a Jane Austin adaption. Who knows, perhaps it’s already starred in one.

Hartwell House, 30 mins away by car, is an ideal stop-over [Photo: Hartwell House]

Boasting both Jacobean and Georgian features, the decorative ceilings, Gothic hall and staircase and exquisite furnishings will have you adding to your Instagram Story every few minutes. But, tear yourself away from your phone to really revel in the awe-factor.

If he’s available, speak to Mr Matthew Johnson, the hotel’s general manager. about the building’s remarkable history. Its most famous resident was the exiled King of France, Louis XVIII.

The hotel boasts a number of wow-factor communal spaces [Photo: Hartwell House]
Spacious and decadent, you’re guaranteed a good night’s sleep in one of the hotel’s 48 rooms and suites [Photo: Hartwell House]

The hotel boasts a restaurant (complete with a live piano soundtrack) and your evening rate will include a delicious breakfast spread, but our highlight was a post-dinner digestif in front of the blazing fire. Not much beats that on a miserable winter evening.

Finally, make sure you save some time for the spa. Including a sauna, steam room, jacuzzi and pool (all housed in a building modelled on an orangery), it’s the perfect respite after a hard day shopping.

Until 29 March 2018, Hartwell House is offering a ‘shop and stay’ package with Bicester Village, which starts from £199 per room. Breakfast, full use of the spa and one night’s accommodation is included as well as a number of other incentives. 

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