The joy of walking into a department store such as Macy’s just before the holidays is indescribable! All the Christmas decorations, music, and overall atmosphere is ecstatic.
I don’t know about you, but I get a warm fuzzy feeling just walking into one, especially at this time of year.
Before we go any further, let’s just explain briefly what department stores are.
What are Department Stores?
They are retail establishments that sell a variety of goods, and consumers can do most of their shopping in one place. They sell items such as clothing, household goods, toys and children products, shoes, home appliances, books, jewelry, electronics, and so much more.
Most upscale department stores have different counters in each department where customers can check out their items. Regular department stores usually direct their customers towards the front of the store for checkout.
Department Stores History
The first department store came around the early 1800s, and the concept originated from flea markets in Paris. People would do their shopping there, and all types of items would be available to them. Although the original stores included second hand items, they eventually changed to solely new products.
In the US, the style was copied and the very first department store opened its doors in New York City in 1825. It operated under the name Arnold Constable until 1857, when it became Marble House.
In Europe the first department store was Le Bon Marché, located in Paris, and it is still operating today.
Great aesthetics, the ability to change with the times and innovation is what sets some of the department stores we will look at apart from others. Customer care and personalised styling, among many other services, are offered at many of the upscale department stores we chose for this article. Draw your own conclusions and let us know if you can think of others we might have missed.
Here are the 30 best high-end department stores in 2023.
30. Macy’s, New York
Considered the largest store for over 85 years, Macy’s in New York is famous not only for the goods they sell, but also the Thanksgiving Day Parade they put on every year. For the Fourth of July they do their firework show, and at Christmas time their windows displays are worth a visit.
They have been a staple in American households since 1858. Located on Herald Square in NYC, the building has eight floors, and it takes up an entire city block. You can find goods ranging from clothing, shoes, accessories, and pretty much all household goods you can think of.
Their regular sales are famous and their competitive prices and frequent Macy’s promo codes make them more mainstream, when compared to many other department stores on our list.
29. John Lewis Oxford Street, London
The flagship store on Oxford street is one of the UK’s most trusted retailers that has been serving customers for many years. The store sells products ranging from clothing, accessories, baby products, as well as all you need for your home. Their partner style of operating offers personalized services that allow for your taste and personality to shine.
They have stylists in every department, and it shows that they really enjoy making people adore their shopping experience. As a customer, it is very important to be given undivided attention and care, and the partners at John Lewis have that nailed down.
28. YME, Oslo
Self-describing itself as a ‘Curated Universe’ of art and design combined with street fashion, YME is a trendy contemporary department store located in the heart of Oslo. Their fourth floor has a very distinctive design that is inspired by the Norse myth. Scandinavian mythology is strong on evoking elements of fire and ice, and the design of this floor depicts that with sculpted wood and blackened metal.
Dedicated to the most directional international collections and of course, the streetwear influenced labels, this place is the one to definitely add to your list. Their bookstore is also a reader’s paradise, so grab a Nordic Noir book while there.
27. De Bijenkorf, Amsterdam
Amsterdam’s leading department store, this upscale multi-brand retailer offers customers double duty. They are the city’s exhibitions, festivals, fashion shows and concerts organiser, and their cultural involvement makes them so much more sought after. Retail-wise, they are well known for offering customers special sales that are definitely worth it during Crazy Days.
For a duration of three days out of the year, they offer some of their most popular products for huge discounts. Try to find out when they are, and if you happen to be visiting at the time make sure to include this stop during your itinerary.
26. Illums Bolighus, Copenhagen
Illum Bolighus is the home side of the famous Illum department store, located in Copenhagen. There, you can find everything and anything that you need for your home, in the effortless Scandinavian style. Products that embrace minimalist aesthetics and great overall designs will enhance your home. The fashion side of Illum is a prestigious department store that brings many different trendy contemporary designs.
Whether you chose to go with the local designers or more broadly known Scandinavian names, you’ve come to the right place. The store occupies a historic 19th century building that comprises a fourth floor cafe and bakery, a must stop. And you can also enjoy cocktails and great views on their rooftop terrace.
25. APROPOS, Hamburg
This luxurious department store is a concept luxury store that includes lifestyle and grooming products into their repertoire. Founded in 1984 by Daniel Riedo and Klaus Ritzenhofer, they have been bringing customers a very unique and special shopping experience.
Emphasis is put on enhancing your style. What customers are known to appreciate is the extra care the store offers them. APROPOS can also be found on FarFetch.com. Make your orders straight from the website, and you can have your package sent to the store for no charge. If by any chance there’s any problem at all they will go above and beyond to help fix it.
24. Nordiska Kompaniet, Stockholm
This one-stop shop located in Stockholm offers customers an unforgettable experience. From the latest fashions to delightful culinary offerings, without forgetting the exceptional service, the NK store has been at the forefront since 1915. Always one step ahead of the game, their innovative ways and ingenuity has gained them a top spot in terms of popularity throughout Europe.
Definitely a must stop if you’re in Stockholm, you never know what you might find. Could be anything from either some of their own Scandinavian brands, or maybe something from their international collection. Whichever it is, you are guaranteed to get noticed.
23. Barneys, New York
Located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, this luxury department store is famous for elaborate and over-the-top holiday displays. Operating since 1923, the store has seen many changes throughout the years. Many factors influenced those changes, but consumers’ habits is probably the most important one.
Management squabbles, overexpansion and astounding debt resulted in Barney’s not being able to replicate the success they had back in the 1970s. At the moment, Perry Capital is the owner, and they took control of the store in 2012. They still offer customers the same high-end offerings they are used to, but they are now operating from the Saks Fifth Ave. flagship store in Manhattan.
22. Nordstrom, Seattle
Another American luxury department store, they are well known for their amazing customer service. The care they offer customers is probably what saved them, since they have been struggling since the recession as well. But their quick thinking and innovating retail strategy has worked in their favor. They have been making some very important partnerships which saved the day.
Being able to purchase items through Instagram and Pinterest links has been one of their ideas, so their E-commerce branch is helping them keep afloat in today’s competitive market.
21. Paris Gallery, Dubai
The flagship store that is located in the Dubai Mall is actually owned by the Paris Gallery Group, a luxury retailer that is a leader in the industry in the Middle East. Opulent offerings in exquisite locales is something of a norm in Dubai, where luxury is a way of life. You can find over 3000 products in this department store, and one of their most prized items is a perfume bottle retailing at $300,000.
Not your average shopping spree, you can feast your eyes on items you will not find at your average store. The Middle Easterners have a reputation for having exquisite taste, and shopping at this mall is proof of that.
20. Harvey Nichols, London
This luxury department store first opened in Knightsbridge in 1831, which makes it one of the oldest department stores in the world. A leader in sourcing the most desirable cutting edge designer brands, it is recognized as the best premier fashion retailer in the UK. They are renowned for their expert eye when it comes to curating premium fashion and beauty products.
Their premium food and wine offerings are also one of a kind. All their stores have a luxury food market within, a café, or brasserie, depending on the location. Overseas, you can find six franchises of the Harvey Nichols conglomerate. Niche fashions and exclusive labels sit alongside everyday wear collections, so you can find something to fit your style and budget for sure.
19. Ludwig Beck, Munich
Shopping at Ludwig Beck is somewhat different from your regular North American style department store. Other than your customary clothing, accessories and fashion items, your senses will be given priority at this store that calls itself “a store of the senses”.
They offer customers personalised and specialised services such as corporate fashion advice, limousine service, brow waxing, as well as Christmas tree decorating before the holidays. You can even get your clothing labelled to your personal taste, and zip adjustments are available on-site.
18. Jelmoli, Zurich
The Swiss know a thing or two about living a luxurious lifestyle, and their famous upscale department store is no exception. Calling itself “House of Brands”, they sell only expensive and well-established designer clothing, shoes and accessories. Although their cost of living is higher than that of North America, their products are surprisingly not as expensive as you’d think.
On the top floor you can find all sports related labels, ranging from clothing, footwear and sporting equipment. And the basement is dedicated to ‘The Gourmet Factory’, a whole floor full of local delicacies, cafes, a sushi bar, among many other varied counters and restaurants.
17. Cave Shepherd, Bridgetown
A staple in the Barbadian community, the department store has a rich heritage. Built in 1906 by two local business men, the store has undergone many upgrades since. Just this past summer, the department store has gone through some needed changes to keep up with the changing times. Indulge in some of the products you can find at many of their duty-free shops, and bring back your loved ones some unique souvenirs.
But like everyone else trying to survive in our days, the organization had to rethink the way they do business and expand to other domains as well. Staples such as local tasty food can be devoured on the top floor of the mall, or if you prefer to stay away, you can do your shopping online.
16. Isetan, Tokyo
If you’re a fashion lover and happen to be visiting Tokyo, you must stop by Isetan. Cutting edge fashions are the norm in this avant-garde city, so don’t be surprised to see some pretty wild styles being displayed at one of their most trendy department stores. You will find lots of pop-up stores and unique collaborations being advertised, as well as a whole floor that is dedicated to up-and-coming Japanese designers. Pretty much all your clothing needs will be fulfilled while shopping there.
They are famous for offering something new to the customers on a regular basis. And while you’re taking a break from all the shopping and enjoying some food, you can do it on the rooftop garden and take in some gorgeous scenery as well.
15. Bloomingdales, New York City
New York is a Mecca of shopping in the Northern hemisphere, and Bloomingdales gained its rightful place. Been around for more than 150 years, this department store can be seen in many sitcoms/shows/movies that are filmed in New York. Their ‘Big Brown Bags’ are known worldwide, which makes them in a sense a status symbol.
Unfortunately, like everything else in the last few years, Bloomingdales also changed the way they do business. They offer a different shopping experience by doing most of your shopping online now. Their own app, Bloomingdale App is your new digital shopping companion. Customers are loyal to the flagship store that is here to stay.
14. Selfridges, London
The beauty junkies from all over the world adore this place, which is one of the best department stores known for its large beauty department. Whatever new product is available on the market, chances are they carry it. Ironically, this very British department store was founded in 1909 by Harry Selfridge, an American from Wisconsin.
The actual building was planned and designed by the man himself on a corner of famous Oxford Street. Now, it is a staple in the European beauty scene. Their love of innovation and theatrical displays makes it a popular and well respected store that caters to everyone, not only the wealthy.
13. Bergdorf Goodman, New York City
Located on Fifth Avenue, right in the heart of Manhattan, New York, Bergdorf Goodman is an ultra luxurious department store that is a mainstay in the Big Apple. Founded in 1899, it was a small tailor shop in its beginnings. In 1928, it moved to the chic Vanderbilt mansion, which is still its home today. The store features eight floors where you can find pretty much all the designer clothes you can think of, as well as other luxury goods.
You can also take a break at their cafe or restaurant when you want to recharge your batteries. A well-known stop for celebrities and socialites, their dressing rooms that offer views of Central Park are worth a visit. Especially if you’re planning your big day, Bergdorfs is a great place that will assist you with the most important purchase of your life.
12. Neiman Marcus, New York
Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, this chain of luxury department stores is owned by Neiman Marcus Group. The flagship store in New York City is somewhat different from their other franchises. Apart from three floors of beauty, accessories and clothing, they also have a spa, beauty salon and pop-up florist, as well as a kitchen where you can take cooking lessons.
The experiment of diversifying into different categories helped their sinking sales they experienced a few years back. It seems that complementing a traditional luxury shopping experience of a department store and offering services on-site was a good idea. Therefore customers can continue to enjoy the products offered while visiting this store.
11. 10 Corso Como, Milan
Milan is not considered one of the world’s fashion capitals for no reason. They gained their title for the abundance of high end, upscale boutiques and shops. Being one of the fashion capitals of the world comes with certain expectations. And 10 Corso Como delivers. It is a modern concept shop that was introduced by former editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia Carla Sozzani.
She founded the gallery bearing her name in 1990, at this address that became one of the most famous fashion and design stores in the world. Now it houses a bookstore as well, and a city garden cafe restaurant, a rooftop garden, and also a boutique hotel. Certainly different from most department stores, it feels like you’re taking an art gallery tour while shopping there.
10. Takashimaya, Kyoto
Another popular and well-liked fashionista department store in Japan, Takashimaya is where you can find an abundance of stylish local brands. What’s cool about this place is that new names and designs are introduced here before anywhere else in the world. So if you like one-of-a-kind interesting items that no one else has, this is the place for you.
The store dates back to 1831. At the time it was merely a kimono shop, but now it is a futuristic looking department store that has eight floors. You can find fashion, beauty, accessories, travel goods, as well as several cafes and restaurants. And the traditional kimonos and local artwork are still very much available, so make sure you grab one while there.
9. Le Bon Marché, Paris
Vast, well-lit floors upon floors of designer fashions await you at Le Bon Marché. Upon entering, you might think you’ve stepped into the pages of a luxury magazine, not a mere department store. But this is not just a mere department store by far. If you’re looking to discover new talent and nascent trends you have come to the right location. You will find that and more at the Galerie Imaginaire, a unique section that is dedicated to store only available products.
Their online products are different, but for a unique experience shopping in person is best. Their Librairie et Papeterie is humongous and will satisfy all the bookworms needs. And La Grande Épicerie de Paris is a gourmet grocer that carries the freshest and best quality products you can imagine.
8. Shinsegae, Busan
The world’s largest department store is located in Busan, South Korea. Shinsegae, or ‘New World’ is spanning two buildings and over 3 million square feet, and it is part of a massive complex. Not only are the stores upscale and luxurious, but the complex houses an ice rink, an indoor golf range, a huge spa, a rooftop garden, and two mega food courts.
The department store has lots of history behind it for those interested, and it has been around since 1930. You can find pretty much whatever your heart desires at this shopping destination, so try to remain reasonable if you can. It might be hard though, so be forewarned.
7. La Rinascente, Florence
Italy is home to many landmarks, one more famous than the other. La Rinascente high-end department store is located in Florence, Tuscany, home to many artists and one of the most visited cities in Europe. This is their most illustrious department store not only for their exclusive brands they carry, but also their epic rooftop. After a few hours of shopping, head to their cafe on the roof, where you can take in the gorgeous views of the Duomo.
The six floors carry an unrivaled mix of perennial favorites, local lines, as well as many international upstarts. In the basement is where you will find the ‘Made in Italy’ design shop, where chances are you won’t leave empty handed.
6. Central at Central World, Bangkok
This amazing megastore located in one of the largest malls in Thailand has seven levels. Luxurious is not even the right word to describe it. They offer a modern lifestyle that keeps with current trends, and the products they sell portray that. The store is designed to have an industrial edge, in an establishment that is characterized by colorful pop graphics and wallpapered panels.
Each level is dedicated to different items, such as women’s clothing, shoes, beauty, and children’s toys. They even have a huge food court with a modern concept, and they serve varied cuisines from all over the world. If you happen to be in those parts of the world, go and experience a shopping spree like no other.
5. GUM, Moscow
Commissioned by Catherine ll of Russia, this elegant department store was designed by a Neoclassical Italian architect. The store has a stunning glass skylight that looms over three levels, with the roof made entirely of glass panels. GUM, or main department store in Russian, sells very expensive merchandise. That fact and the beautiful aesthetics of the building makes it one of the top department stores in the world.
The facade is almost 800 feet long and was built in the 1890s. Located on the Red Square, a popular Moscow venue, it replaced the Upper Trading Rows that used to do business there. Shop Russian style while in Moscow at this upscale venue.
4. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, Milan
Considered the world’s first mall, Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle is not quite the same as other department stores on this list. The Galleria opened its doors in 1877, and it is an area octagonal in shape that spreads over several covered streets. The area is filled with lots of high-end designer shops, and it is covered by a huge iron and glass dome. Featuring some of Italy’s fashion capital’s best luxurious stores and restaurants, it is quite a tourist attraction.
If you ever get a chance to go to Milan, you must visit this place. Named Milan’s drawing room, it connects two of the most famous piazzas of the city: Piazza Del Duomo and Piazza Di Marino. Strolling through the rooftop walkway makes for a scenic walk that offers stunning views of the city. Insta worthy for sure! Just make sure you bring your camera to capture the iconic scenery.
3. KaWaDe, Berlin
KaWaDe is short for Kaufhaus des Westens, which translates to ‘department store of the west’ in German. The store opened in 1907 in Berlin, Germany, and it is still one of their most popular department stores today. Considered the largest department store in the whole of Europe, it stands at about 645,834 square feet of floor space. They have on average about 180,000 shoppers daily, so just imagine how busy it gets. Designed by German architect Emil Schaud before the second World War, it was mostly destroyed during the war.
They managed to keep the structure in place despite all the destruction and rebuilt slowly. Kaufhaus reopened its doors to the public completely by 1956. But you will not visit KaWaDe for their clothing goods alone. Their Le Buffet food hall alone is worth a trip, with the glass roof that offers gorgeous views of the Berlin skyline.
2. Harrods, London
One of the most famous department stores in the UK, possibly in the world, this is a must visit high-end store while in London. They are a very large upscale store that offers everything you can possibly need at a one-stop shop. In between hopping from their hundreds of departments, you will surely develop an appetite. Thank goodness for their famous food hall or any of their 27 on-site restaurants that are available to give you much needed energy to carry on with your shopping.
Because you will need hours, and possibly days to visit them all. This luxury department store’s motto is: Omnia Omnibus Ubique. That translates to ‘All Things For All People, Everywhere’. Opulent interiors make this true destination store an experience to remember. You can have an exclusive shopping experience that offers many made-to-measure options.
1. Galeries Lafayette, Paris
Shopping at this world famous department store in Paris is on many people’s bucket list. Combining two favorite passions into one is the ultimate dream vacation: culture and shopping. This iconic landmark of Paris was built in 1895, and it features 10 stories of luxury with a stained-glass and steel dome. The staircases are designed in Art Nouveau style, and everywhere you look it feels like an original piece of art.
The details are incredible, and for a moment you will forget that you meant to go visit some boutiques while there. Depending on the day of your visit, you might be lucky and get to witness one of their free weekly fashion shows right there on-site. The shopping experience you will get from Les Galeries Lafayette will remain imprinted on your memory for a lifetime, you can rest assured.
This is our version of the 30 best high-end department stores you can shop at right now. There are lots more throughout the world, and maybe one day we will mention them all. In the meantime, we hope you enjoyed reading about the ones we gathered together here.
- What are Department Stores?
- Department Stores History
- 30. Macy’s, New York
- 29. John Lewis Oxford Street, London
- 28. YME, Oslo
- 27. De Bijenkorf, Amsterdam
- 26. Illums Bolighus, Copenhagen
- 25. APROPOS, Hamburg
- 24. Nordiska Kompaniet, Stockholm
- 23. Barneys, New York
- 22. Nordstrom, Seattle
- 21. Paris Gallery, Dubai
- 20. Harvey Nichols, London
- 19. Ludwig Beck, Munich
- 18. Jelmoli, Zurich
- 17. Cave Shepherd, Bridgetown
- 16. Isetan, Tokyo
- 15. Bloomingdales, New York City
- 14. Selfridges, London
- 13. Bergdorf Goodman, New York City
- 12. Neiman Marcus, New York
- 11. 10 Corso Como, Milan
- 10. Takashimaya, Kyoto
- 9. Le Bon Marché, Paris
- 8. Shinsegae, Busan
- 7. La Rinascente, Florence
- 6. Central at Central World, Bangkok
- 5. GUM, Moscow
- 4. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, Milan
- 3. KaWaDe, Berlin
- 2. Harrods, London
- 1. Galeries Lafayette, Paris