Basingstoke is a largish city in the South of England, popular due to it's short train journey to London, and at it's heart is a great shopping mall, lying just beside the main shopping street. The whole complex itself is comprised of a large outdoor (covered) area housing shops, restaurants and a fantastic cinema, and the main enclosed mall is a spacious, two-story centre.
Upon entering the main mall, you are hit with a great sense of space. The upper level forms a donut around the edge of the ground floor, so what you see initially is a massive open space, used for shows, promotions and great installations around holiday times. The mall then forks off; you can go down the slope towards stores, the cinema and restaurants, or you can go on the level towards more stores and banks. All of the major retail venues, such as Waterstones, Next and the Apple store, are represented here- all satellites around anchor store Debenhams. There are also some quirky stores around which keep the mall interesting. There is a Chinese curio store, an art shop displaying and selling local art pieces and even a huge two-story musical instrument store. Things like these are quite rare among middle-sized malls and are all welcomed additions.
The main inside area is large and bright without you having to see what the weather is like outside. The layout is intersting so you never feel a sameness, unlike some malls which are merely two-floor rectangles. There are some nice nooks and crannies that remain quiet even if the main sections are packed. There is also plenty of seating around so you can take a few restive breaks between shopping. In the main large space, there is a coffee shop with outdoor seating. This is ideal if you like to get there early and ease into the mall experience. It's great to take a seat, sip a coffee, read a paper or or just watch other shoppers arrive.
The space-age, now-covered restaurant/cinema area
Just as you walk into the main entrance, you are presented with a wonderful open space
Upon exiting the indoor section there is a lovely covered outdoor area, ideal for drizzly English days. There is a seating area almost completely inhabited by smokers, but from the benches you can look at the lovely Japanese plants and (between smokers) smell the lovely paella wafting from the Festival Street Kitchen. This is the restaurant area, including steakhouses, Italian and pan-Asian restaurants, burger places and peri-peri chicken restaurant. There is a great selection of eateries. A little further on is a massive 11-screen cinema. There are also a couple of restaurants inside he mall if you don't wish to venture out.
If you start your day early enough, it is a nice and relaxed morning mall experience. However, it can grow mighty busy towards the afternoon. We suggest you get there early and have a nice sup of coffee while you wait for the stores to open. Once opened, you can have a nice browse at the HMV record store or videogame store, check out some fashion at River Island, Next or Primark, check out some local art or fiddle with some beautiful musical instruments. If you get peckish you can snack on a delicious soft pretzel or get a nice fresh juice blend. You can also buy some jewelry if you wish, or if you need a few groceries you can check out M&S or Sainsburys. Later you can have dinner or see a movie; there is plenty to keep you enetertained here for an entire day.
One of the walkways just off the main entrance. Spacious and plenty of seating
Although only two levels, there are plenty of side areas to keep your interest
If for any reason you grow bored of the mall, a short walk away you will find more shops and a theatre just outside on the main walking street. It's a little dull, run down and sparse but there are a few interesting shops and it can be a quiet escape if the mall gets crowded at its peak time, but I would suggest if that is the case, you would be better off going to see a movie at the awesome cinema. Until recently, only one side of the mall had escalators to access the upper level. The other side had only a spiral staircase, but this has been addressed by the addition of an extra set of escalators where the stairs used to be. This is great because everyone knows that the more escalators a mall has the more fun it is!
Outside of the London area, there are not so many great malls around (perhaps this is why they always tend to be a little packed at busy times) but this mall is a gem in the south of England. It also feels more mall-like than most others around it. One also gets the sense that the centre's management are constantly looking for ways to develop the mall and keep it fresh. There is a good impression that there is always something new on-the-go. Most recently, some benches were set up in a quadrangle between shops in one of the outdoor areas with a giant flatscreen television, which gives it a futuristic feel and can also be used to show special events. Basingstoke is also not the prettiest city in the world, but if you are nearby and feel like a good day out, please check out this mall. Also, if you are a local and haven't been in a while, do check it out again, we promise you will find something new there!
Address: Basingstoke, Hampshire, RG21 7LJ
Contact: 01256 326 022
Number of Stores: Over 200
Number of Levels: 2
Opening Times: Monday 09h00 to 18h00, Tuesday - Wednesday & Saturday 09h00 to 19h00, Thursday - Friday 09h00 to 20h00, Sunday 11h00 to 17h00