Charlotte Foster

Travel Tips

The world’s greatest department stores

The world’s greatest department stores

Galeries Lafayette, Paris

A Paris institution, Galeries Lafayette houses cutting-edge fashion, jewellery and accessories, home decor and cosmetics, as well as a renowned food section that will have gourmands salivating.

But beyond the shopping, the store is known for its Belle Époque architecture; sign up for a free guided tour of the neo-Byzantine coloured glass dome, rooftop terrace and Art Nouveau staircase.

Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele, Milan

Designed in 1860 and built between 1865 and 1877, the Galleria consists of two intersecting covered streets in the centre of Milan, joined by an octagonal space topped with a glass dome connecting the Duomo and Teatro Alla Scala.

Home to some of the city’s oldest shops and restaurants, this predecessor of modern shopping malls is worth a visit for the people watching alone.

Le Bon Marche, Paris

The oldest department store in Paris and, some say, the first in the world, Le Bon Marché was designed by Gustav Eiffel (yes, that Eiffel) and opened in 1852.

The food department, La grande épicerie de Paris, stocks more than 5,000 local and global products – think French artisanal jams, Spanish ham and Welsh mineral water – for the discerning picnicker.

Detsky Mir, Moscow

Famous since Soviet times, “Children’s World” was Europe’s largest children’s department store when it opened in 1957, and the dream destination of countless Russian children for its endless selection of toys and games, plus a working carousel.

Closed for extensive renovations between 2008 and 2014, the fully refurbished store is once again open for business.

Selfridges, London

At 4 hectares, Selfridges’ Oxford Street flagship store is the second-largest shop in England (beaten for the top spot by Harrods) and has the stock to show for it.

Be sure to check out the famous window displays, which have been photographed and featured in magazines including Vogue and Dwell, and take a break from endless shopping to check out the Art Deco main entrance and in-store art exhibitions.

Takashimaya, Kyoto

With roots that can be traced back to a Kyoto kimono shop that opened in 1831, the Takashimaya chain operates stores in Japan, Taiwan and Singapore.

Western brands are well represented but you won’t want to miss the collections of Japanese ceramics, new and recycled kimonos and Kyoto souvenirs.

Head to the basement for the food section, where you’ll find beautiful sweet and savoury Japanese delicacies to admire and enjoy.

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La Rinascente, Florence

Among the best-known stores in Florence, this six-floor department store houses everything you’d expect from a luxury shopping centre, plus traditional Tuscan goods including terra cotta, olive oils and wrought iron (just try getting that railing in your suitcase).

Don’t miss the rooftop terrace for a cappuccino, an Italian pastry and a fantastic view of the city, including the world-famous Duomo.

Isetan, Tokyo

Reflecting the lives of its more than 30 million customers a year, the historic Isetan shop hosts Western and Japanese designer brands alongside kimonos and accessories.

Some of the world’s most famous pastry chefs are represented in the basement food hall, which also houses a huge chocolate section. English-speaking assistance is available for visiting shoppers and the rooftop gardens are a must-visit.

El Corte Ingles, Lisbon, Madrid and Barcelona

Europe’s biggest department store chain, El Corte Inglés – the name translates as “the English cut” – has its flagship store in Madrid with an outpost, its largest store, in Lisbon.

The latter spreads across nine floors and includes restaurants and a 14-screen movie theatre – the perfect place to while away a rainy day on holiday.

Shop here for Spanish and Portuguese souvenirs including flamenco dolls and embroidered shawls.

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Harrods, London

With more than 90,000 square metres of selling space spread over 300-plus departments, you’d be hard pressed not to find something to buy in Harrods, the world’s most iconic department store.

Got cash to burn? Book a personal shopper to help you navigate the aisles and zero-in on that perfect find.

From cream tea to tapas, the restaurant selection in this iconic London attraction will leave you satisfied; reviewers rave about the ice cream and the Fresh Fish Market.

Image credits: Getty Images

This article originally appeared on Reader's Digest.