Set in the sapphire seas of the Caribbean, Antigua is well known for it’s white-sanded, sun-bleached beaches and stunning climate. However, while there are plenty of sights to see, and superb restaurants to enjoy, shopping in Antigua can be one of the best ways to spend an afternoon.
You’ll find everything from sleek and contemporary shopping malls, to bustling rustic markets, packed with unique and handcrafted items. Whether you want your Antigua shopping experience to be high-end or bargain-basement, the island has retail therapy options for everyone.
The best shopping areas
While there are places to shop all over Antigua, there are certain areas that offer more than offers. The main Antigua shopping streets are St Mary’s Street and High Street. Both of these are located in the St John’s district, offering everything from sprawling department stores and independent, boutique shops, to souvenir shops and street-side stalls. The chances are that, whatever you’re looking for while shopping in Antigua, you’ll find it on one of these streets.
However, if you’d like something less commercial and a bit more arts-and-craftsy, then head south to Redcliff Quay. This makeshift Antigua shopping plaza is housed in a former warehouse, offering around 40 indoor shops. If you’re looking for something handmade, such as pottery, jewellery, ceramics or linen, this is the place to go. You’ll also find some superb bars and restaurants tucked away in the surrounding courtyards.
Antigua shopping malls
If you’d rather avoid the hustle and bustle of the city, head for Friar’s Hill Road, on the outskirts. Here, you’ll find the Royal Palm Place Shopping Mall. If you’re going under your own steam, there’s plenty of parking and the mall is one of the few places with an ATM on hand. With a variety of restaurants and all the high-end shops you could want, it’s an easy way to turn your shopping in Antigua into a day out.
While it might not be quite as contemporary, the Vendor’s Mall, located close to Redcliff Quay, has just as much to offer. The lower level is packed with linens, sarongs and handmade souvenirs, while the upper level is a paradise for music lovers, offering hard-to-find CDs, vinyls and upmarket stereo and entertainment systems.
Markets in Antigua
While shops and malls make shopping in Antigua quick and convenient, there’s nothing to beat the sights, sounds or smells of shopping in one of the local markets. Whether you’re looking for one-off creations, fresh produce or fancy rummaging through bric-a-brac for the occasional unexpected treasure, a visit to a market is the ultimate Antigua shopping trip. If you want to shop as the locals do, look out for Heritage Market, which takes place every Saturday. Set just across from the West Street Bus Station, it offers local fruit and vegetables, such as mangos, dasheen and soursap. You’ll also find a smaller market, just next door, where you can browse arts and crafts, made by locals.
If you’re a foodie, be sure to check out the farmers’ market held on Friars Hill every Tuesday and Friday morning. In addition to fruit, fish, meat and vegetables, you can sample and buy homemade delicacies such as ackee and saltfish, traditional fungi and sweet ducana dumplings.
Shopping tips for shopping trips
The larger shops and shopping malls tend to be the only places that accept major credit cards. If you’re shopping in smaller shops or in the markets, it’s best to have cash on you. You can get Eastern Caribbean Dollars from ATMs, which you tend to find around the city’s central plaza.
However, if you’d rather, you can go into one of the banks they are attached to and pick up the local currency, from a teller. Banks charge next to nothing for exchange services, while ATMs do tend to add a hefty fee for the transaction.
If you’re heading to a market, be sure to take notes of lower denomination and plenty of change. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll find anyone willing to take a card here, and waving large notes around in public is never a good idea.
Haggling is part of Antigua shopping in markets, so put your bargain-hunting head on and give it a go. Stall-holders might appear to get a little hot under the collar, but this is all part of the experience. If it looks as though you’re not going to get the price you want, walk away.
Should the stall-holder you’re haggling with decide that they’re going to relent, they’ll call you back. Keep your bargaining polite and cheery and you should end up with the item you want, and at the price you’re prepared to pay.