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10 of The Most Historic Shopping Arcades in Europe


The Odessa Passage arcade in Odessa, Ukraine.
Hi, I'm Lauren!

Lauren is a Mexico City–based writer, editor, and translator from Yorkshire with bylines at CNN, BBC Travel, and Al Jazeera. She’s currently working on her first full-length literary translation in between harassing her cat, drinking smuggled Yorkshire Tea, and blogging about Latin American literature at leyendolatam.com.

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Fancier, historic versions of the malls we know and love, shopping arcades proliferated across the European continent—and beyond—in the 18th and 19th centuries. Elaborate in design and typically topped with an impressive glass roof, these arcades were the playground of the middle classes and later, anyone who wanted to escape the rain, really. No longer quite the places to see and be seen, Europe’s historic shopping arcades are ornate testaments to over-the-top design. And, of course, great shopping.


Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert/ Koninklijke Sint-Hubertusgalerijen

The regal Galeries Royales in Brussels, Belgium. Photo: Botond Horvath / Shutterstock

Brussels, Belgium

Comprising three separate arcades—the Galerie du Roi, Galerie de la Reine, and the Galerie des Princes—the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert (or Koninklijke Sint-Hubertusgalerijen in Dutch) deserve their regal title. Opened in 1847, these Belgium arcades are some of the oldest and most beautiful in Europe, known for being a regular haunt of European writers and intellectuals and now a place where visitors can stroll beneath the arched glass-and-wrought iron ceiling and admire the architecture.

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Çiçek Pasaji

The Çiçek Pasaji is a popular place to grab lunch. Photo: Gokhan Bozkaya / Shutterstock

Istanbul, Turkey

Literally translating to “Flower Passage,” Çiçek Pasaji—originally Cité de Péra—is one of the city’s most famous arcades, and is named for the many Russian flower vendors that arrived after the Russian Revolution. Now, you’ll find upscale bars, restaurants, and shops occupy most of the L-shaped Çiçek Pasaji instead, the ideal place for a spot of afternoon people-watching.

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Odessa Passage

The Odessa Passage is a must for architecture fans in Ukraine. Photo: Paranamir / Shutterstock

Odessa, Ukraine

Ukraine’s grand Odessa Passage is a 4-floor edifice flanked by sculptures, stucco detailing, and towering archways. Capped with a peaked glass roof woven together with cobwebby wrought iron frames, this 19th-century architectural highlight of Odessa is a neobaroque and Moorish mash-up of styles, now home to several independent stores. And you don’t just have to pass through and snap a few photos—the top floors of the building are part of the Passage Hotel, so you can even stay here too.

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Leadenhall Market

Harry Potter fans will be charmed by Leadenhall Market. Photo: mikecphoto / Shutterstuck

London, England

Conjure up some Harry Potter magic at London’s Leadenhall Market, the filming location for Diagon Alley and The Leaky Cauldron (which is, rather upsettingly, an opticians rather than a paranormal pub). Alongside movie memories, you can also pick up local pub grub, cheeses, fresh-cut flowers, and more at this historic Victorian covered market which has been a point of trade for more than 600 years. However, it wasn’t until 1881 that cobblestoned Leadenhall got its roof, a vaulted feat of glass panes and golden hues.


Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

What better way to get from Teatro alla Scala to the Duomo? Photo: Olgysha / Shutterstock

Milan, Italy

Ornate window frames, elaborate caryatids, and—of course—that sinuous glass rooftop make the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II as popular now as it was in 1877. The oldest of its kind in Italy and named for the king, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II links the Duomo and the Teatro alla Scala, offers access to the scenic roof walkways, and houses Italian institutions such as the Camparino bar and Bocca bookstore. Before you leave, spin three times atop the tiled bull’s testicles in the central octagon for good luck. Yes, really.

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Victoria Quarter

Victoria Quarter is one of the most scenic shopping destinations in Leeds. Photo: Puripat Lertpunyaroj / Shutterstock

Leeds, England

Now one half of the Victoria Leeds shopping complex alongside Victoria Gate, the Grade II–listed Victoria Quarter was designed by Frank Matcham and is a restored architectural masterpiece in Yorkshire. Notable for its wrought iron detailing along the domed glass ceiling, colorful tiled floors, and marble columns—not to mention the stained glass stretch of ceiling, the largest of its kind in the UK—Victoria Quarter now plays host to a wealth of Leeds’ best shops including Vivienne Westwood and Harvey Nichols.

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GUM (Glavny Universalny Magazin)

One of Moscow’s most historic shopping arcades can be found on the Red Square. Photo: Stock for you / Shutterstock

Moscow, Russia

GUM, or “main department store” in Russian, is one of Moscow’s premier and largest shopping destinations. Inaugurated in 1893, the impressive arched glass ceiling was designed to withstand heavy snowfall and sits atop a truly vast 3-story granite, marble, and limestone edifice on the Red Square. Moscow’s GUM has been put to many uses over the years—at one point even serving as an office space for Stalin—and while the interior is undeniably striking, the exterior is arguably more so. Think: horseshoe arches, elaborate carving, and general ostentation.

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Passage des Panoramas

Stamp collectors need look no further than the historic Passage des Panoramas. Photo: Andersphoto / Shutterstock

Paris, France

It’s no mean feat to be the oldest of something in Paris, but that’s exactly what the Passage des Panoramas is—the oldest covered walkway in the French capital. Built at the close of the 18th century, the Passage des Panoramas is not as grand as other European arcades but what it lacks in size it makes up for in character. Here, you’ll find a wealth of charming chocolatiers, fascinating stamp stores, and the historic Théâtre des Variétés, originally inaugurated in 1807.



Royal Palace & Covered Passages, audioguided tour

Royal Palace & Covered Passages, audioguided tour

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Discover some of the finest shopping arcades from the 1800’s with entertaining fun facts with a passionate guide in your pocket. Now possible with Rewind's App. 200 years ago, Paris had nearly 150 covered passages ! Frozen in time since the 1800s, these glass-roofed & paved arcades were originally created for the nobles to enjoy a stroll and a little shopping, away from the sun and rain. Passage des Panoramas, Galerie Vivienne or Passage Jouffroy. Today, there are only about thirty of left. Put on the boots of a 19th century Parisian to stroll through the most beautiful passages, ancestors of shopping malls and shopping centres for a stroll through the centuries. Visit with your smartphone in your pocket and follow your professional and passionate guide’s commentaries as you stroll through the streets, courtyards and gardens !. The audio commentaries trigger automatically, right where they happened!” The result? A fun and authentic experience with that Rewind spirit and twist!
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  • 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes
  • iconEnglish
  • Free Cancellation
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$10.70
From
$10.70

Castle Arcade

One of seven arcades in Cardiff city center, Castle Arcade is the largest. Photo: TinasDreamworld / Shutterstock

Cardiff, Wales

Known as the “City of Arcades,” the Welsh capital of Cardiff is home to no fewer than seven separate arcades in its compact center. These narrow and historic arcades that once housed apothecaries and fortune tellers are now the place to be for Portuguese baked goods, French cheeses, fancy dress stores, and independent cafés. The 19th-century Castle Arcade with its red-railing balconies is the largest of the lot, dominating Cardiff’s Castle Quarter alongside the Duke Street and High Street arcades.

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Top shopping experiences in Europe

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Hi, I'm Lauren!

Lauren is a Mexico City–based writer, editor, and translator from Yorkshire with bylines at CNN, BBC Travel, and Al Jazeera. She’s currently working on her first full-length literary translation in between harassing her cat, drinking smuggled Yorkshire Tea, and blogging about Latin American literature at leyendolatam.com.

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See all Europe tours
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