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The 5 Most Iconic Department Stores in the World

Department stores – they offer a simply unbeatable service, in many cases. What’s more, they are among the easiest and more practical destinations to find everything you might ever need. Indeed, packed with different products and countless different niches, it’s clear to see why they’ve become such a popular shopping solution in our busy modern world.

However, not every department store is necessarily created equally – and there are a handful of department stores out there – namely Harrods, Bloomindales, Sakes Fifth Avenue, Barney’s New York, and The Galeries Lafayette – that offer a touch of class above the rest. Today, we’ll be looking at these five incredible and iconic department stores from around the world to help you find out a little more about what they offer. And, hopefully, we’ll help you decide whether they might be just the luxury destination you’ve always dreamed of.

When it comes to luxury and quality, few department stores can rival Harrods. Indeed, regardless of whether you live in the United Kingdom or abroad, chances are, Harrods will still be a household name – and for a good reason. Indeed, it’s one of the most luxurious, expansive, and historic department stores globally, with a sophistication and style that is simply hard to beat. And, with such iconic history and incredible service, it really shouldn’t come as much surprise that we started our list with this leader of department stores.

History of Harrods

Located in Knightsbridge, London, there’s something simply breathtaking about a trip to Harrods. Indeed, this luxurious department store is one of the oldest out there, originally opening in 1849 and continuing to supply the people of London with the finest garments and products ever since. A fire in 1880 threatened to close the store for good, but it was rebuilt to its current design, which it has dominated ever since.

Currently, the store is owned by the Qatari royal family – a fitting testament to this incredible department store’s luxury and class.

What Makes Harrods an Iconic Department Store?

There are a few different reasons why Harrods is often considered one of the most luxurious and iconic department stores in the world – and explaining all of these in one go would undeniably be a little difficult.

However, perhaps the most notable feature that makes Harrods so iconic has to be its wonderfully traditional British charm. With staff waiting at the door to greet every visitor and employees throughout to make the experience unforgettable, you’ll be waited on hand-and-foot with this incredible store.

And, aside from just the experience alone, there genuinely is something for everyone in this incredible store. Indeed, Harrods is perhaps one of the world’s most expansive luxury department stores, with its own in-built restaurant, drybar, bookshop, arcade, etc. It even had its very own, world-famous pet shop until 2014, something that’s definitely a touch outside of the ordinary.

Harrods is the place to go for a luxurious experience and products of a world-renowned quality. It’s worth every pound, and the experience of shopping with this ultra-luxe store is one you won’t forget in a lifetime.

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Located in the heart of New York City, Bloomingdales is only slightly younger than Harrods, and is one of those international department stores that you can count on for a truly exquisite experience. However, unlike Harrods, Bloomingdales has an extra trick up its sleeve. Indeed, it’s actually available throughout the United States, with over fifty stores currently in operation, including a smaller number of outlet stores. As such, there’s something for everyone with Bloomingdales, but it never compromises in terms of quality.

History of Bloomingdales

Bloomingdales was founded by the Bloomingdale brothers in 1872; however, after the brand’s early successes, the store was decided to move to 59th Street and Lexington Avenue – uptown from its earliest location. This move would prove to be hugely influential for the store’s appeal and reach, and by the 1920s, the store had expanded into an entire city block.

During the early years, the Bloomingdales brand invested heavily in marketing to get the word out about the incredible luxury garments on offer. Moreover, in the early 1900s, a drive began to create the store into an experience – it wasn’t something that one could simply view on paper; to genuinely understand the appeal of the store, it was unwaveringly vital to visit in person and take in the wonders on offer. Gala events, fashion shows, and the like were all common in the store, establishing it as so much more than just a department store, but a destination for the rich and famous overall.

What Makes Bloomingdales an Iconic Department Store?

Bloomingdales’ early successes arguably came from their passion for stocking a wide variety of different clothing garments, something that was almost unheard of. However, as the years passed by, the sore began to grow and became renowned as being so much more than just a shop, but rather, a destination for fashion lovers to discover the most refined and luxurious designs on the market.

This is something that has always remained of the utmost importance for the brand, and even in the modern-day, Bloomingdales strives to stock a wide collection of the most luxurious designer clothes and garments.

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Saks Fifth Avenue has long been considered one of the world’s most luxurious department stores, and is adored by the rich and famous in particular for its incredible elegance and sophistication. Indeed, if you’ve been looking to make a bold statement, shopping with Saks Fifth Avenue could be the ideal solution.

This incredible store is so much more than just a clothing brand. Indeed, every moment gives a taste of opulence that’s so hard to find, and this luxury – coupled with the brand’s determination for quality experiences for every customer – help ensure that it remains one of the world’s most adored luxury department stores to this day.

History of Saks Fifth Avenue

The Saks Fifth Avenue is one of the newer luxury department stores on this list, but that doesn’t make it any less iconic than the others; indeed, its rapid growth since its creation during the early 1900s undeniably contributed to its fame, overall.

While many other luxury department stores fell into their fame gradually, the goal for Saks Fifth Avenue was always clear-cut and well established throughout its history. The first store was launched by Horace Saks and Bernard Gimbel, both of whom had experience in managing independent retail stores to create a world-renowned destination for fashion and graciousness. The pair purchased their first property, which had previously been owned by the Buckingham luxury hotel and the Democratic Club, and would undeniably put the space to good use during the development of their luxurious brand.

What Makes Saks Fifth Avenue an Iconic Department Store?

There are countless factors that make Saks Fifth Avenue so iconic, but the most prominent have to be the store’s unwavering determination to provide quality, reliable, and luxurious clothing, coupled with their passion for customer service.

Indeed, when visiting Saks Fifth Avenue, you can always be confident of an exceptional experience, and nothing is ever too much to ask. It’s something that sets Saks Fifth Avenue apart, and has undeniably contributed substantially to the store’s modern appeal and sophistication overall.

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The Galeries Lafayette, Paris

When it comes to grandeur and style, the Galeries Lafayette doesn’t spare any expense – and, with earnings of more than €5 billion, it’s easy to see why it’s such a massive success with so many high-end shoppers and fans. Much like Harrods, the store offers a little of everything, and it’s truly an icon of Paris for many visitors to the city.

History of The Galeries Lafayette, Paris

The Galeries Lafayette in Paris was first envisioned on the corner of Rue La Fayette as a novelty gifts store. However, as time went by, the company grew and eventually purchased many stores along Boulevard Haussmann and rue de la Chaussee d’Antin, expanding its reach and appeal. The stunning art deco renovation in 1932 would further enhance the store’s luxury and overarching appeal, while the changing trends towards premium, luxury fashion would go on to continually enhance the store’s appeal overall.

What Makes The Galeries Lafayette, Paris an Iconic Department Store?

As with Harrods in London, perhaps the best selling point of the stunning Galeries Lafayette store in Paris is its grandeur, sophistication, and style. The store has also played host to countless ceremonies and events during its history and its main offerings. Predominantly, the store identifies itself as a luxury fashion retailer, but it also specializes in providing a wide range of exquisitely prepared artisan French foods, international produce, cultural spaces, and more.

The breathtaking light shows that the store puts on as the night falls have also helped contribute to its immense success and appeal, and this is something that undeniably sets it apart from so many other department stores around the world. After all, very few people can claim not to have seen the Galeries Lafayette’s breathtaking design at some point during their lives – even if they’ve never been quite lucky enough to visit this wondrous department store in person.

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Barney’s, New York

Barney’s New York was one of the world’s most well-known and adored department stores, and there’s no doubt that any list of the best department stores in the world would be incomplete without this history-changing icon. Indeed, the store – previously located on Madison Avenue – was globally known as being the leading destination for movie stars and celebrities alike.

History of Barney’s, New York

Barney’s, New York was launched in New York by Barney Pressman in 1923, although it didn’t always have plans for grandeur; in fact, the store was originally opened as a men’s discount clothing store, and funds for the lease were raised by selling off the founder’s wife’s engagement ring.

Nevertheless, this bold step would go on to set the store up for success, and during the 1960s, the brand began its transition to become a luxury retailer rather than a discount store with help from the founder’s son, Fred Pressman.

What Makes Barney’s, New York an Iconic Department Store?

The Barney’s department store has always been well known for its elegance and extravagance, and this is something that comes through clearly in the store’s stunning designs and quality garments. However, a critical part of its charm and fame had to be its iconic department store design, featuring a breathtaking cracked marble wall and eye-catching, bold designs that only a luxury brand could pull off effectively.

However, the fame of Barney’s, New York seems to have only grown following its untimely closure in 2019; nevertheless, hopes still remain high that the store may return, with a new owner striving to revive the store to its former glory (and hopefully then some). After all, this truly iconic store was so widely adored, and as a result, it seems irrefutable that we will all be waiting with bated breath for the day that Barney’s, New York reopens under its new management team.

Nevertheless, Barney’s clothing is still available through the iconic Saks Fifth Avenue. So, if you’d like to discover some of the magic of this historic and iconic department store, Saks Fifth Avenue could be just the place to start your search in the meantime.

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There’s no doubt that department stores offer the epitome of fast-paced, modern-day shopping. However, just because they’re there for convenience doesn’t mean they can’t be glamorous. With this in mind, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t dream of splashing the cash in these ultra-luxurious department stores – and, if this is an experience you’ve been looking for, we hope we may have inspired you to give them a try.

After all, with such phenomenal quality on offer, it’s undoubtable that these five iconic global department stores are well-known for a reason; now, it’s up to you to decide what you’d like to buy. There’s a little of everything on offer, so take your pick!


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