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First opening its doors in 1999, this strikingly unique building rises out of the chalk cliffs surrounding it; set in North Kent, the site is landscaped with lakes, wild meadows and parkland, encouraging wildlife into the area, and perfect for a picnic. The forth largest shopping centre in the UK, Bluewater covers 240 acres - 154,000 m2 occupied by the two storey sales floors, and is roughly triangular in shape with flagship stores situated at the points. It boasts 300 stores and over 60 bars, restaurants and cafes.
Visitors a week : 27M
Whilst Bluewater has no supermarkets as such, except for the department store food halls, there are so many places to eat, catering for every taste. Coffee shops, patisseries, and even cocktail bars to give you a break from shopping, burgers and snack bars if you fancy something more, and restaurants serving international cuisine for an evening meal. Counters offer made to order smoothies and ice cream, and confectioners are packed with chocolate bars and sweets from around the globe. Jamie’s Italian, Jamie Oliver’s award winning restaurant, creates delicious freshly cooked meals all day until 11pm, and Tapas Revolution and Wagamama serve gorgeous food that’s great value. There are also many food related events, from book signings, cooking demonstrations to monthly wine tastings.
There is lots to do at Bluewater, whatever your age; a multi screen IMAX cinema which is a fantastic heart pounding experience, a Sega XD Theatre, go karting, the Pirate Cove Adventure Park with rides, galleons and two 18 hole adventure golf courses are all available with pubs and cocktail bars for a more sophisticated experience. Christmas means ice skating on the new full size rink (lessons available), and Santa’s Grotto, including a walk through puzzle game. You can even Breakfast with Santa, waited on by his ever faithful elves.
Lots of high end boutiques and designer shops attracts a wealthier clientele, however there are also the high street stores such as H&M, Coast and Gap. The East India Company has an unusual treasure trove of gifts and gourmet delights from the Asian continent, whilst The Queen's corsetiere, Rigby & Peller, L.K. Bennett and Zara cater for the luxury end of the clothing market. Flagship stores include M&S, and John Lewis, and many shops sell Bluewater exclusives – unavailable anywhere else.
Obviously school holidays and weekends tend to be very busy, but during the week, and late shopping nights – Thursdays until 10 pm, it is much clearer. Christmas Late Opening Hours start from the 10th November and Bluewater stays open until 10pm every night. It tries and succeeds to make the whole shopping experience a pleasure; highlight areas are clearly signposted, and there are many quieter areas for shoppers to sit and watch the world go by.
As you’d expect, Bluewater has a huge range of services, and there are plenty of concierge desks and friendly staff around.
For mothers: there are changing and feeding facilities, child and baby care, child safe zones and wristbands.
Disabled people: are made to feel comfortable with over 300 dedicated parking spaces, numerous lifts, wide, smooth malls, disabled toilets, and a High Dependency Unit. Shop Mobility provides a wide range of vehicles and there is a Place of Quiet for peaceful contemplation away from the hustle and bustle, which is open to everyone.
The public: have access to free WiFi, electric car charging, mobile chargeboxes, post offices and pharmacy/optician/hearing facilities. The centre has all the high street banks, cash points and several Bureau De Changes. Plus there are car washing/valeting services, MOT’s and vehicle servicing available.
For children: Splat is a colourful soft play and fun zone, and there are Kiddies Karts for a really fun driving experience.
Bluewater has over 13,000 free parking spaces, arranged within easy access of the shopping centre and all spaces are 25% bigger for ‘shopping bag room’! Cycle bars and bays, mortorhome/van spaces, and parent & child spaces are conveniently located around the site, and security appears to be very visible.
Bluewater is just a short distance from the A2, M2, M25 and M20; it has an excellent bus network, which also frequently runs between Greenhythe - the nearest station, and Bluewater. The postcode for sat navs is DA9 9ST Located south of the river Thames, near the Dartford Crossing, and within an old chalk quarry, there is very little around Bluewater.
The police report that Bluewater is safe place to visit, and a spokesperson for the shopping centre says "We are proud to work closely with Kent Police to ensure that Bluewater is an enjoyable place for our guests to visit’. Incidents of theft and other illegal activities are very low, and it feels safe and relaxed to walk around. My tips would be to get there early, especially in school holidays, allow plenty of time – this place is huge, and take lots of coffee breaks! Christmas shopping at Bluewater holds none of the usual panic for me; I know I can get unusual gifts for everyone there – just never forget the shopping list!