The late 18th and early 19th centuries was an era that was defined by the Industrial Revolution and the fast urbanization of European cities.
Along with this urban development came a new form of structure that served as shopping venues, known today as shopping arcades.
The first of its kind was constructed within the Palais-Royal in Paris. These rows of colonnades featuring shops were constructed between 1781 and 1784 and served as a source of inspiration for similar arcades elsewhere.
The main inspiration can most likely be found in the form of arcades in Florence, Italy, a city where Renaissance architecture developed in the 15th and 16th centuries.
In this article, I have compiled a list of some of the most beautiful shopping arcades in the world.
1. Burlington Arcade – London, United Kingdom
The Burlington Arcade is a historic shopping arcade in the heart of London. It runs for 179 meters (587 feet) from Picadilly to Burlington Gardens, just west of the Royal Academy of London. It has been present for well over 200 years since it was completed and opened to the public in 1819.
The arcade can therefore be described as an influential structure that inspired multiple similar shopping arcades throughout Europe. It was named after the man who commissioned it, George Cavendish, 1st Earl of Burlington, and features a large number of high-end shops today.
2. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – Milan, Italy
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is not only one of the most beautiful shopping arcades in the world but also one of the most famous landmarks in Milan. The southern end borders the Piazza del Duomo near Milan Cathedral, the place that marks the historical heart of the city.
The 4-story arcade is huge and was designed in the shape of a cross with a large dome at the intersection. It took 12 years to build as it was completed between 1865 and 1877. The incredible shopping venue was named for Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of the Kingdom of Italy.
3. Galeries Royales Saint Hubert – Brussels, Belgium
The Galeries Royales Saint Hubert or “Royal Saint Hubert Galeries” is another collection of covered shopping arcades that are some of the best-known buildings in Brussels. I say collection because it actually consists of three separate arcades that aren’t all interconnected with each other.
The Kings Gallery and Queens Gallery are the main arcades and are adjoined by the smaller Princess Gallery. Completed in 1847, these are all located just northeast of the Grand Place of Brussels, the magnificent square in the heart of the city, and have a total length of 213 meters (699 feet).
4. Leadenhall Market – London, United Kingdom
Leadenhall Market is another historic shopping arcade that is quite special on this list. That’s because a covered market has existed in this location on Gracechurch Street in the heart of the City of London since the 14th century. Yes, this was actually a medieval commercial hotspot one day.
This series of arcades was modernized in the 19th century and completely renovated once again in the early 1990s. The shops look pretty stunning today and primarily sell fresh food. Remarkably, the history of this place goes back even further as this was once the heart of Roman London or “Londinium.”
5. Galleria Umberto I – Naples, Italy
Galleria Umberto I is an astounding shopping arcade in Naples, a major city in southern Italy, and one of its most popular landmarks. It’s hard to deny that the building looks very similar to its equally impressive brother in Milan and that’s because it was built between 1887 and 1890, just over a decade later.
The amazing building was part of the Risanamento (making healthy) of Naples, one of many construction projects in Italian cities that took place following the reunification of the country. Named after King Umberto I, it was one of the most important projects of this urban redevelopment and remains a popular attraction in the city today.
6. The Strand Arcade – Sydney, Australia
The Strand Arcade is a historic shopping mall located on Pitt Street in the heart of the Central Business District of Sydney, Australia. It was constructed between 1890 and 1892 and embodies the Victorian Era in the city, especially considering it’s the only arcade of its kind left today.
This popular building in Sydney features the typical cast-iron balustrades and distinctive tiled floors that were popular in the late 19th century. It’s a heritage-listed structure in New South Wales and is located just a few blocks northwest of the Sydney Tower, one of the city’s most prominent landmarks.
7. Cleveland Arcade – Cleveland, United States
The Cleveland Arcade is a historic building in Cleveland, the most populous city in Ohio. It was completed in 1890 which was around the same time as the Strand Arcade in Sydney and it definitely shows in its design, especially the cast iron elements.
The Arcade, as it’s commonly referred to, features two 9-story buildings that are interconnected by a 5-story shopping mall. The glass ceiling has a length of about 91 meters (300 feet) and covers every part of this arcade. It’s considered to be one of the first covered shopping arcades in the United States.
8. Passage des Panoramas – Paris, France
The Passage des Panoramas is the oldest covered shopping arcade in Paris. By the 1860s, about 167 had been erected but this number gradually decreased during the Haussmann Renovations, a redevelopment project in France’s capital that took place between 1853 and 1870.
Located on the Boulevard Montmartre in the heart of the city, this covered space has a history that goes back to the year 1800. It was one of the first arcades in Europe that had a glass ceiling that allowed natural light to illuminate it, followed by gas lights in 1817.
9. Westminster Arcade – Providence, United States
The Westminster Arcade is arguably one of the most amazing shopping arcades in the United States, and there are several reasons for that. Located in downtown Providence, Rhode Island, it was completed in 1828 and is therefore considered to be the first closed shopping mall in the country.
The arcade is located inside a magnificent Neoclassical building that resembles an ancient Greek Temple. It’s therefore one of the finest examples of a commercial building in this particular architectural style. Today, the building serves both residential and commercial purposes after a renovation that was completed in 2013.
10. Odesa Passage – Odesa, Ukraine
The Odesa Passage is a building in Odesa, Ukraine, that features both a shopping arcade and a hotel. It’s located on Derybasivska Street in the heart of the city and first opened its doors in the late 19th century. It was one of the most stunning structures that were constructed in the city during this era.
This Art Nouveau building features a large number of sculptural elements that give the interior a unique appearance. Just about every part of the upper floors of this 4-story building is decorated. Because of this, it’s one of the most picturesque shopping arcades in the world.