Culture Whisper's new and improved Bicester Village guide
It’s had a 30-shop expansion and Charlotte Tilbury has moved in. Here’s why Bicester Village shopping is better than ever, and how you can get the best deals when you go
Visiting Bicester Village is often a surreal experience as the street itself resembles suburban East-coast America. Like most outlets, it's in the middle of nowhere. The site is totally open to the elements. Designer shops are in diminutive, one-storey buildings with white clapboard exteriors. It's eerily clean and there are flowers everywhere. Nikki Tibbles, of London florist Wild at Heart, has kept the street in bloom all year.
It’s very different from the cavernous Westfield centre. It’s very different again from the small town of Bicester ten minutes down the road, its namesake, which gets the occasional lost shopper. And it's often disastrously busy.
In recent years, this fashion hotspot has become a victim of its own success. Visitors flock in record numbers. The coaches come every day, tourists dragging their wheelie suitcases behind them. The village receive complaints about long queues just to enter tiny shops like Pandora and Michael Kors. The car park overflows, and the limited restaurants – including a packed-out Pret-a-Manger – simply cannot cope.
It’s great news, then, that Bicester Village has just expanded by over 30%, welcoming 30 new shops and a fleet of classy food vans this October. Our favourite new openings include Charlotte Tilbury, See by Chloé, and of course, Charlotte Olympia, as soon as she opens for business in November (there's no business like shoe business). Old stores like Bicester stalwart Ralph Lauren have had a facelift and the new interior designs are looking very chic indeed.The new Secret Garden Cafe is an essential pitstop for weary shoppers.
But will expansion ease the crowds? With Black Friday just around the corner, it seems unlikely. Bicester is looking like a more attractive proposition than ever. The international appetite for British clothing is still strong, and Bicester’s list of Brit brands is envy-inducing: Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, Mulberry and Burberry have all had outposts here for years. This month they’re joined by Rocksanda, Charlotte Tilbury, Emma Bridgewater, Christopher Kane and Joseph.
Not only this, but Bicester has launched The British Collective for Christmas, a pop-up shop of up-and-coming designers. They’re hoping you’ll gift your friends with printed Lily and Lionel scarves, Chinti and Parker cashmere and sequinned jumpers from Markus Lupfer. Designed as an ‘imagined English country house’ by Luke Edward Hall, it’s very… red.
Our favourite steals? Ortigia candles, some New Balance trainers for £30, and Luke Edward Hall’s jumper design for Smedley which is sold exclusively at Bicester Village (seen on the rail, above).
Then again, you'll never know what you'll find when you get there.
Bicester Village guide
- Use the park and ride, or take the train. The car park fills up fast (though it has just been expanded). Circling looking for a space is a waste of shopping time. Bicester is 45 minutes from Marylebone Station by train and the park and ride is very frequent.
- Get there early. Coaches from London arrive around 11am, but the shops are open at 9am. This two hour window will be quieter – and you’ll get the best stock before it sells out.
- Go on Thursday. The shops are open until 9pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and restock in the retail world normally happens on Thursday morning.
- Be nice to staff. Assistants here are excellent, professional, and have to deal with a lot of hassle from tourists. Courtesy will get you far.
- You’re better off buying some Calvin Klein underwear, some quality winter tights or socks from Falke, or investing in a Burberry trench than splashing out on an Oscar de la Renta gown in a difficult colour.
- Have a quick look online before you spend. It’s easy to get swept up in the deals, especially when the original price looks astronomical. Shops know this. Check the actual RRP online. There’s free WiFi across the village to make this easier.
- Lunch at farmshop. The restaurant and cafe is run by Soho House, so you know it's good.
- Download the app when you get there for further discounts and freebies.
- If you do buy clothes, whatever they cost, try them on first. A bargain is only a bargain if you’ll wear it.
Monday 09.00 - 20.00
Tuesday 09.00 - 20.00
Wednesday 09.00 - 20.00
Thursday 09.00 - 21.00
Friday 09.00 - 21.00
Saturday 09.00 - 21.00
Sunday 10.00 - 19.00 - please note that some shops will closer earlier than stated on a Sunday.