Inverness has long been the service centre for the whole of the north and west Highlands.    

Most visitors are likely to find interesting and unusual things to buy in the city centre, and specifically in the Old Town.  This is a very compact area that takes no more than five minutes to cross on foot.   Within the Old Town, or within easy reach of it, are small shops where you can find great Scottish souvenirs (a kilt for your brother, perhaps?), Scottish crafts, jewellery and local artwork, as well as different places to stop for a bite to eat or a pint.  Highlights include Leakey's wonderful second-hand bookshop (the largest antiquarian book shop in Scotland) in a converted church at the bottom of Church Street, where you can browse for hours and have some coffee or a snack.  In winter, the place is warmed by a huge log fire.  Across from Leakey's is a Polish delicatessen; a second delicatessen is situated at the other end of Church Street.  For really special women's shoes, bags and accessories, have a look at the superb designer selection in Helen Bateman, now within McEwan's of Perth towards the High Street end of Church Street. 

 On Union Street, Oil & Vinegar  is a surprising emporium that stocks an array of delicous foods from around the world, many of which you are free to taste in store.  You can buy Olive Oils and Vinegars, Fresh Olives and herbs and spices to liven up your mealtimes and take home  some unusual foodie gifts wrapped for you in store. Back on Church Street - there are more delicious things in the Old Town Deli, which also does light meals, teas and coffees..  

At the heart of the Old Town lies the Victorian Market, in the block bounded by Academy Street, Union Street, Church Street, and Queensgate.  It's home to a traditional butchery, fishmonger, florist, barber shops, and tea shops, as well as places selling all manner of odds and ends: jewellery, joke and fancy dress items, clothes (including kilts), needlecraft, herbalist, souvenirs and much else.  A new addition is Aravelle, a gift shop selling high quality homeware and fine gifts (many locally made).

On Castle Street, the Castle Gallery is always worth a visit.  They have a remarkable selection of interesting art, ceramics, glassware, sculpture and jewellery, spread over two floors, much of which is very affordable.   Also on Castle Street is Hazel Passmore's Studio, with a stunning range of top quality jewellery from this leading designer.   J Graham & Co (37 Castle Street) is a highly regarded fishing and shooting outfitter and also has a wide selection of gifts with a highland/outdoor theme.

The Riverside Gallery (Bank Street) has a good range of original and limited edition art works.

Most chain stores are to be found on the High Street and in the Eastgate Centre.  Eastgate includes Marks & Spencer, Monsoon, Next, Debenhams, French Connection, Zara, Boots the Chemist, Body Shop, Waterstone's, H & M, East, Schuh, Miss Selfridge, Thorntons Chocolates, and HMV Music among many others.  The High Street has a woollens shop, 2 whisky shops, Highland House of Fraser, WH Smith books and stationery, Currys Digital, Lush, mountaineering/outdoor shops (Tiso's, Millets), and a clutch of shoe, clothes, jewellery and mobile phone shops.

Over the last thirty years, the town has grown substantially and, as in most places, there's been a growth in out-of-town shopping; these places are unlikely to hold much interest for the holiday visitor, but they do provide a useful service for people from around the Highlands.  The largest of these centres is on the A96 Nairn road, a couple of miles east of the city centre.  It has branches of many chain stores such as Boots, Borders and Next, a very large Tesco supermarket , Maplin, Pets at Home and Homebase.  It's also where you'll find the city's mainstream cinema, the seven-screen Vue, and a private sports centre.  On the other side of town, on the Beauly road, another major retail park has the likes of PC World, Curry's and the usual selection of carpet and furniture outlets.  There are assorted retail outlets on the Longman Estate, mostly specialising in DIY.  They include B&Q, Wickes, Buildbase and a host of smaller firms specialising in such things as tiles, soft furnishings, lighting and equipment hire.  But that area is dominated by the city's car sales outlets, almost all of which are there.