For some, holiday shopping is a chore; for others, it's a welcome challenge. If you fall into the latter camp, you probably skip the ubiquitous online cart in favor of the sensory delights of real Christmas shopping. After all, is it really the holidays if you don't get sidetracked for an hour in the perfumed slice of heaven that is the Diptyque section at Bergdorf? Get lost in the immersive delights of working your way down your gift list at the 10 most over-the-top department stores in the world. Le bonheur de dames, indeed.
The venerable London department store Harrods began as a humble haberdashery, and grew into one of the world's finest department stores, and the largest in Europe. It's particularly spectacular at Christmastime, when the fourth floor Toy Kingdom transforms into a veritable Santa's Workshop.
This elaborate department store is actually a holdover from the Soviet Union. The initials GUM stand for Glavny Universalny Magazin, literally "Main Department Store." There are GUM locations all over the former Bloc, but the most iconic is in Moscow and features a dramatic skylit arcade. During the holidays, the store also hosts an ice rink and Christmas fair.
The glamorous 10 Corso Como isn't necessarily a department store in the typical sense of the word; it's more of a luxury lifestyle experience. The brainchild of Italian fashion editor Carla Sozzani, it features reliable luxury shopping, but also comes complete with a bookstore, a hotel, and an array of fabulous galleries. The twinkling lights are a year-round touch, but during the holidays, they lead shoppers to piles of presents.
The illustrious Fortnum & Mason began life as a small grocery store in 1707, opened by an enterprising footman to Queen Anne. Over time, it grew into prestigious gourmet destination. It is still most famous around the world for its culinary delights, including loose leaf tea and luxury Christmas hampers packed with exquisite delicacies.
The history of the department store is a matter of some debate, but Le Bon Marché in Paris was indisputably among the first. Originally called Au Bon Marché, it numbered among the shopping destinations that inspired Emile Zola's novel Au Bonheur de Dames. Today, it's remains a palatial and indulgent environment to do a little shopping, and take in the magical Christmas forest that reliably pops up on the shopping floor this time of year.
The iconic New York City department store, located on 5th Avenue just steps from the Plaza Hotel, is traditional department store shopping at its finest. The Christmas windows are legendary for their opulence, and each of Bergdorf's eight floors is its own self-contained wonderland. Wander up the escalators and discover room after room of floor-sweeping ball gowns, or a tiny jewelbox of a room dedicated entirely to bespoke stationary.
Better known as KaDeWe, this Berlin stalwart was opened in the early 20th century. KaDeWe is made up of eight stories, each as lavish as the last and specializing in collections like ready-to-wear and cosmetics. The top two floors comprise an expansive, delicious food hall, capped with a palm-strewn, festive winter garden, perfect for celebrating the crisp holiday weather in comfort.
The Stockholm building that houses Nordiska Kompaniet is a paean to Art Nouveau architecture, and features elegant shopping galleries that wrap around an internal courtyard. The five-story building offer plenty of luxurious fashion and homewares, but also includes an ultra-chic children's section, full of gorgeous toys and fab Polarn O. Pyret and Burberry for your mini-me's to find under the tree this year.