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World’s coolest department stores

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(CNN)Imagine a shop where you can buy everything…

OK, OK, yes we’ve heard of the Internet, but we were thinking of an actual real-life shop.
    Because there’s something about a physical store that online shopping just can’t replace.
    And nothing beats a classic department store.
    In addition to selling stacks of different merchandise and brands, these extravagantly designed stores-within-stores offer something else — an experience.
    “Historically the big downtown department stores were almost like city centers,” says Jan Whitaker, a department store historian who’s penned two books on these emporiums of commerce.
    “They offered so many services in addition to all the latest products and fashions that they were really more than just stores.”
    Here are 14 city-like department stores that are worth the trip, even for non-shoppers.

    Le Bon Marche, Paris

    GUM

    Moscow’s national department store GUM on Red Square has a rich and mysterious history that few can rival.
    It’s survived more than a century of tumult after opening in 1890.
    The 242-meter-long, three-story structure escaped the bulldozer three times.
    And it became Joseph Stalin’s office in the 1920s.
    Its lavish toilets were shut down for being a bourgeois luxury in 1918.
    One of them — branded Historic Toilet — has now been restored to its pre-revolutionary grandeur, and is open to anyone willing to spend $1.30 (or $7.50 for shower room with bathrobe, towels and slippers for ladies).
    Its Communist era hasn’t been forgotten — there are two Soviet-themed cafes, Festivalnoe and Stolovaya No 57.
    An ice rink opens each winter.

    Illums Bolighus, Copenhagen

    The 75-year-old Illums Bolighus in Copenhagen is a four-story heaven for design fanatics.
    With six other stores around Denmark, Norway and Sweden, Illums Bolighus aims to showcase the best of Scandinavian minimalist design.
    It also carries international brands that match its sleek style.
    The store stocks everything home-related, from kitchen equipment to furniture to bed and bath products from Nordic and international brands.
    Products from famed Danish designers Arne Jacobsen, Finn Juhl, Borge Mogensen and Hans J. Wegner have been featured in the store since the 1950s.
    Obsessed with Danish lamps?
    Well who isn’t? The third floor is where the magic’s at.

    Isetan, Tokyo

    Generating the highest sales of any department store in Japan, Isetan‘s flagship store in Shinjuku is a massive nine-floor shopping maze.
    Plus there’s a roof garden.
    Standing behind it is Isetan Men’s — another mind-boggling 10-floor department store dedicated, unsurprisingly, to men.
    The two buildings are connected by a bridge on the third and sixth floor.
    Isetan Men’s houses a golf school on its roof.
    Like most department stores in Japan, Isetan has an impressive food market in the basement, especially for exquisite-looking desserts.
    Its promotional hall and a kimono department are on the top floor.

    Galeries Lafayette, Paris

    Golden art nouveau interior.
    Balconies inspired by the Paris Opera House.
    A magnificent glass dome ceiling.
    Galeries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussmann in Paris is the epitome of the golden age of department stores.
    Not just a retail space for upscale merchandise, the glamorous store is such a dazzling spectacle it’s a top tourist attraction in its own right.
    A free 45-minute tour of the Haussmann store is available upon request for parties between 10 to 20 people.
    Its rooftop terrace offers great views of the French capital.

    Harrods, London

    In

    Mainly known for its book-selling business, Eslite Spectrum doesn’t fit the usual department store profile.
    The 27-year-old alternative store sells various lifestyle products, including specialty foods and handicrafts from Taiwan.
    “From its very beginning, Eslite has developed a comprehensive business model centered on culture, creativity and cares for humanity,” director of Eslite’s public affairs division Sheersong Tseng tells CNN.
    The lifestyle brand now owns more than 40 stores around Taiwan and Hong Kong, as well as one in China.
    “The space, services and events are all designed according to the traits of the city in which the store is located,” says Tseng.
    “Therefore no two Eslite Spectrum stores are alike.”
    Our favorite is Eslite Spectrum in Songyan, a former tobacco factory turned creative park.
    The new building, designed by Japanese architect Toyo Ito, houses two interesting sub-sections.
    Axes features edgy street apparels from 36 Taiwanese designers.
    Expo is a platform for creative lifestyle products by hundreds of brands.
    “Visitors can also participate in handicraft classes such as pottery, glass, wood, metalwork, hand-crafted music boxes and paper art,” says Tseng.

    Barneys New York

    Just to prove department stores will prevail in the era of online retail, here’s one that’s freshly opened in 2016.
    OK, so the original Barneys originally opened close to this 7th Avenue spot in 1923, but this is a new incarnation of the chic fashion store.
    The 5,388-square-meter new premises was designed by New York-based Steven Harris Architects firm.
    The interior is decked out in cool muted colors, with touches of brass.
    Its five floors are connected by a four-story atrium and an elegant spiral staircase — a concept inspired by the old store.
    “I think if you ask anyone who remembers the original store, the thing that everyone recalls is the stair,” Steven Harris tells Barneys’ blog The Window.
    “That was the thing that was the most beautiful, but it was also about display and an element of performance — being watched as you descended the stairs.
    “It was truly the center of the space and the most dramatic element.”

    Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi Main Store, Tokyo

    Japan’s oldest department store chain had an unusual hire last year — a kimono-wearing android.
    Aiko Chihira, the Toshiba-developed robot is in charge of the information desk at Mitsukoshi department store in Nihonbashi, Tokyo.
    Chihira, pretty and aged 32, can’t answer inquiries yet but can offer directions by running through a pre-recorded message in Japanese.
    Mitsukoshi’s main store in Nihonbashi may not be Tokyo’s most fashion-forward store — that honor goes to Laforet Harajuku — but the century-old store has a renowned gentleman’s department.
    Need a color analyst to pick out a tie that matches your skin? Seeking a new tailored suit? This is the right place.

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/26/travel/best-department-stores/index.html

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