MADRID: A village from The Bicester Collection, a family of eleven luxury shopping destinations across Europe and China, is on most shoppers’ must visit lists when traveling — and it seems that discerning Saudi tourists are no different.
Given tailor-made services for Arab consumers, including Arabic-speaking concierge services and halal options at Bicester Collection outposts in Milan and Madrid, it is not surprising that the European villages have witnessed a surge in shoppers from the GCC in recent years, according to internal data. Las Rozas Village, located just outside of Madrid, reported a 48 percent growth in visits from Saudi Arabia since 2019. Meanwhile, at Milan’s Fidenza Village, the Kingdom ranks 14th as a stand-alone country from where visitors hail.
The 90-minute drive to Milan’s Fidenza Village is not for the faint of heart, but once you arrive you can expect both shopping and gastronomic heaven.
Las Rozas, set at the foot of Madrid’s Sierra Norte mountains, is a little less daunting to reach, at only 30 minutes from the city center. There are multiple options to get there – bus, train, taxi, car and a chauffeur service that can be booked directly from the village’s website. Additionally, the villages have plenty of free parking should you choose to drive.
At Las Rozas, guests can treat themselves to multiple high-end fashion brands, including Loewe and Etro. Visitors can also shop other categories like home and lifestyle, with offerings from Villeroy & Boch and Le Creuset’s cookware and bakeware. However, in busy seasons like the summer, queues outside the boutiques can be extensive, so it’s best to explore the website to plan ahead regarding which stores you want to visit to save time.
Each open-air village features a quaint setting and was designed to resemble various architectural styles. For instance, Fidenza village is reminiscent of an Italian Piazza, while Las Rozas’ design was inspired by the story of a Spanish prince alongside referencing iconic buildings worldwide. Each destination also boasts ‘The Apartment’ – an invitation-only private space for VIP clients. Here, guests can try on their purchases in privacy, and even opt for their personal shopping service. Furthermore, each apartment resembles a stylish private home with artwork, books, and luxury furnishings. At Fidenza, the space was imagined by designer David Thomas and features vintage chairs upholstered with Etro fabrics, Fornasetti wallpapers, intricate murals by a local artist, Armani Home linen curtains and Art Deco collectibles.
Architecture and décor aside, the dining spots offer local cuisine alongside international flavors and quick bite options. In Las Rozas, at renowned chef Cristina Oria’s restaurant, foodies can enjoy various dishes, including roast beef toast, Spanish potato tortilla with eggplant and truffle, and prawns with red curry or sip on a coffee alfresco while admiring a view of the neighboring mountains. For the pasta lovers, Milan’s Fidenza doesn’t disappoint either: The village is located in the Parma province, a gastronomic haven, so expect to eat some incredible food. And cheese lovers can take back blocks of 24 months and 36 months aged parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar from Parma Menu. For something sweet, Venchi’s gelato and hot chocolate don’t disappoint.
The concierge service in the villages are also helpful. From booking a chauffeur drive, taxi, wheelchair, and stroller to getting tourist information – this is the first place to contact for any information.
Fidenza allows guests to file their tax refunds via the Instant Tax-Free Kiosk. The Bicester Collection has also partnered with multiple Middle Eastern airlines, including Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad, so shoppers can earn miles, which can be claimed via the concierge service. With Emirates Skywards, customers can earn one mile for every euro spent.
The Bicester Collection has also launched a virtual retail experience for the winter holiday season. Designed to represent each of the villages’ physical environments, the new virtual experience brings together Bicester Village (UK), La Roca Village (Spain), La Vallée Village (France), and Fidenza Village (Italy). From the comfort of their own homes, guests can virtually walk around and explore each village alongside pre-booking services like hands-free shopping and virtual personal shopping appointments. The service will also help visitors prepare for an in-person visit in an immersive way.