While most malls (outside of Asia) tend to have a reputation for being uninspired and cookie-cutter, the truth is, there are some remarkably impressive malls out there. We break it down into three categories of shopping hotspots that you should definitely visit when you get a chance to.
The historic stalwarts
Harrods (London, UK)
Anyone visiting London is sure to conjure up images of the Queen, red double-decker buses, and of course, Harrods.
Harrods is almost a requisite whenever visiting London, and it’s not hard to see why being the largest department store in Europe. The site covers 5 acres, has a million square feet of retail space, and over 330 different departments.
On top of the countless shelves and racks that stocks all sorts of luxury fashion items from Tom Ford tuxedos to Christian Louboutin shoes, Harrods is also renowned for their impressively abundant food hall.
There’s also the iconic Egyptian Escalator, with elaborate ancient Egyptian designs and idols, that leads to a memorial fountain dedicated to the late Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed.
Le Printemps (Paris, France)
Founded in 1865, Le Printemps is one of the most iconic department stores in Paris, along with Galeries Lafayette and Le Bon Marché.
Stocking an extensive collection of designer brands and other precious fine items, its flagship location on Boulevard Haussmann comprises 3 buildings, housing womenswear, menswear, as well as beauty (the largest in the world!) and homewares.
The store is also remarkably beautiful with ornate finishings throughout and its famous stained-glass dome, making it far more elegant and luxurious than Galeries Lafayette and classic but not dated like Le Bon Marché. The flagship location also has a rooftop restaurant that offers stunning unblocked views of the city of Paris, including views of the Eiffel Tower.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (Milan, Italy)
The oldest shopping mall in Italy, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, is nicknamed “il salotto di Milano,” or Milan’s drawing-room. The mall is famous for housing high fashion stores – including the original Prada boutique – and authentic and iconic restaurants like the Ristorante Galleria.
Being flanked by the Duomo and the Teatro Alla Scala, and being an attraction in its own right, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is constantly packed with tourists and locals alike during the day.
For a less hectic experience, come early in the morning or in the evening, where you could revel in the beauty of the architecture, including the spectacular iron and glass roofing.
The outlandish beauties
The Grand Canal Shoppes (Las Vegas, USA)
Located in a city that oozes over-the-top grandiosity and mammoth-scaled everything, you can find the Venetian, a Las Vegas casino resort that seeks out to mimic the Italian city of Venice. It houses the famous Grand Canal Shoppes, the shopping complex of the resort, which very outlandishly mirrors the floating city.
It comes complete with Gondola rides, cobblestone streets, and even entertainment like jugglers and soprano singers amusing guests as they shop. The stores themselves are all tucked behind facades of replica Venetian buildings, and, unlike the ones in Italy, is responsible to visit as you wouldn’t be contributing to the sinking of the historic city.
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands (Singapore)
Think of Marina Bay Sands as the modern, cutting-edge cousin of the Venetian. Equally over-the-top and outlandish, the project – designed by Canadian architect Moshe Safdie – is perhaps best known for its boat-shaped rooftop complex, where the SkyPark, several high-end restaurants, a spa, and the overly Instagrammed infinity pool.
The Shoppes themselves also have a canal, offering sampan (a type of boat in the region) rides that circles around the rain oculus, a collaborative art installation by artist Ned Kahn and Moshe Safdie.
With over half a dozen celebrity restaurants – two of which hold one and two Michelin Stars – an entire Louis Vuitton Island Maison that even has its own art gallery, a state-of-the-art museum, and sprawling duplex and triplex stores occupied by the likes of Chanel and Prada, this is undoubtedly the most opulent mall in the region.
ICONSIAM (Bangkok, Thailand)
Located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, ICONSIAM is a complex that includes a megamall separated into ICONSIAM and ICONLUXE, two residential towers – the Mandarin Oriental Residences and Thailand’s tallest building, Magnolias Waterfront Residences – and a Hilton Garden Inn in the ICS Building extension. The mall also boasts Thailand’s first Apple store and Takashimaya department store.
There’s almost everything for everyone here, with high fashion to high street stores, themed dining zones, and even an indoor floating market in the mall, SOOK Siam, selling traditional Thai food and souvenirs. To fully exploit the experience of this mall, take the free shuttle boat from Sathorn/Central pier, where you can catch some terrific river views on the way.
The Behemothic Giants
The Dubai Mall (Dubai, UAE)
The world’s largest mall by land area: The Dubai Mall. This mall is so large and so comprehensive, you would probably need a few days to cover every inch of this place. It has over a thousand shops, an ice rink, an aquarium, a gocart track, a virtual reality theme park, a haunted house, and even a real Diplodocus fossil on display at The Souk Dome.
This is also easily a shopper’s paradise, with not one, but two department stores – Galeries Lafayette and the first Bloomingdale’s to open outside of the US. Located just outside the mall is the Dubai Fountain, the largest performing fountain in the world, where you can watch a beautiful light and water show against the magnificence of the Burj Khalifa in the background.
Mall of America (Minnesota, USA)
Everything’s bigger and better in America, and the Mall of America certainly proves it. On top of the regular stores and restaurants, there’s a whole full-sized theme park – the Nickelodeon Universe – which has 28 rides, including two rollercoasters. The entertainment doesn’t stop there, there’s also a zipline within the mall itself and an 18-hole mini-golf course.
The mall also boasts Minnesota’s largest aquarium, where you’d be able to go snorkeling and get up close and personal with the fishes, as well as feed the adorable rays in the Ray Lagoon. With so many attractions and even a wedding chapel, it’s perfect that there’s a luxuriously appointed JW Marriott connected directly to the mall – ideal for a short getaway or quick honeymoon perhaps.
West Edmonton Mall (Edmonton, Canada)
Built by the same people who built the Mall of America – the Triple Five Group, owned by the Ghermezian family – the West Edmonton Mall takes the title of the largest mall in North America. Just like MOA, this mall also has an indoor theme park, Galaxyland, and not one but two 18-hole mini-golf courses. There’s also the second-largest indoor waterpark in the world here, World Waterpark.
Sure to make kids happy too are the to-scale replica of Christopher Columbus’ Santa Maria ship, a pop-up petting zoo every Sunday, and an aquarium featuring penguins and sea lions. Meanwhile, older kids and grownups could kill their time at the bowling alley, ice skating at the Mayfield Toyota Ice Palace, or cracking their heads at an escape room.