Shopping in Dorset covers a broad range of venues and activities. Probably most people's initial thoughts when thinking of shopping are large, busy shopping streets which can usually be found in most major towns. Bournemouth's shopping areas are largely pedestrianised, and comprise an eclectic mix of larger, 'big-name' high street stores sitting comfortably alongside smaller, individual boutiques. Most of the larger countrywide chains have a presence here. The shopping centre is varied, with wide sweeping streets such as Old Christchurch Road contrasting nicely with picturesque arcades of specialist shops.
Bournemouth has its very own department store in the form of Beales. Dating back to 1881, the store's roots are firmly entrenched in Bournemouth, although the brand has extended its presence to other towns throughout the South of England. Beales is a very large store with over 20 departments, a cafe and a restaurant, and is an excellent focal point for a day of shopping.
Away from the town centre to the North, Bournemouth has a new out-of-town shopping park. Castlepoint Shopping Centre has over 40 stores, including big names such as Marks and Spencer, Next and Gap. There is parking for over 3,000 cars.
Of course, shopping in Dorset is not confined to just one city. Weymouth too has a thriving shopping centre, and with the conversion of the old brewery in the Old Harbour area, a new indoor shopping experience has been created in the form of Brewer's Quay. A selection of craft, collectibles, gifts and specialist food and drink shops sit side by side with relaxed bars, cafes and a restaurant. Dorset has a number of thriving market towns of which Dorchester is a fine example. Blandford Forum too is a delightful area for shopping, with the market place firmly at the hub of the town's activities.
Shopping in Dorset is not just about large towns. Any of the small or medium-sized towns and villages will have their own speciality shops. And its here that you will likely find the unusual - unique or hard to find foodstuffs perhaps, a locally produced delicacy, or some handcrafted furniture. Shaftesbury for example hosts regular book and flea markets. Wimborne boasts the largest open and covered markets in the south of England.
Town and village markets are a great way of discovering the unusual. Many towns will host a market every month, or perhaps once or twice each week. Some that are worth seeking out are:
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