Women are always accused of being shopping maniacs. Shopping is thought to be their therapy against stress and broken hearts. Men get irritated when their partners, representatives of the fair sex, spend the whole weekend wandering in modern shopping malls wasting the family budget for fashion clothes and jewelry instead of standing near the oven cooking for the whole family. But, actually, shopping in general is needed and there is no doubt that it’s as ancient as the oldest profession (if you understand me well 🙂 ). And do you know why? … Because shopping malls have existed ever since.
In ancient Roman times people had Mercati di Traiano (Trajan’s Market) in Caput Mundi. Actually, this is the first-ever shopping mall. It was constructed on multi levels where shops and apartments were placed. A great variety of goods and grocery items were sold at that market including dormice and weird and exotic food like flamingo, for example, for the rich.
Markets and malls evolved through the centuries and turned into true art galleries whose purpose wasn’t to exhibit and deal in with artworks but to sell expensive items in some-storey shops arranged along long and narrow corridors under glazed and cast-iron roofs. Yes, today such shopping areas are either called galleries or passages, or arcades and could be found in any capital or big city in the world. Because the examples are too many, I will limit them to only five galleries. By the way, during our shopping journey, men can feel free to stay at home and do some housework. 😀 And you, ladies, get ready and let’s get started… 😀
The most notable European shopping arcades were built mostly in the 19th century. One of the European passages is The Burlington Arcade opened in 1819. Its straight walkway was originally lined with about 72 two-storey shops selling accessory and luxury items, fashion clothing and footwear. The number of shops housed under the marvelous glazed roof of the upmarket arcade in London has been reduced to about 40 but the variety of high fashion items and designer clothing and jewelry has never changed.
The world’s fashion capital is proud of its luxurious shops especially on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. But before their fame grew, the French capital possessed covered passages like the Galerie Vivienne. It was built in 1823 and inaugurated in 1826 and its unique location was extremely beneficial at that time. Lots of tailors and cobblers had shops there competing with wine shops and restaurants, bookstores and print-sellers and so on and so forth. In present times the historical monument also attracts visitors who could indulge in shopping in the numerous ready-to-wear boutiques along the 176-metre mosaic walkway sheltered by a splendid glass dome.
If you are in Brussels, the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert is a must-visit. Although it was built earlier than la Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II in Milan, this covered arcade from 1847 has the spirit of Italy since it is in an Italianate Cinquecento style. The narrow street-like walkway is housed under a glazed, cast-iron roof and it is lined with numerous upmarket shops and restaurants separated with arches and pilasters from one another. Nowadays its two major sections (the King’s Gallery and the Queen’s Gallery) as well as the Gallery of the Princes are visited by crowds of tourists and locals alike.
The Russian Passage (Пассаж, i.e. Passazh) is supposed to be one of the first shopping malls and centres in Europe and in the world. It is situated between the Nevsky Avenue and Italianskaya Street and it has always been the trade centre of Saint Petersburg since the foundation of the city. The 3-storey most fashionable shop (with a glass-and-steel roof) of the Russian Empire was opened in 1848 and it contained everything starting from luxurious shops (for jewelry and clothing) and coffee-houses to museums (wax and anatomical) and a concert hall for literary readings and even a zoo. Today The Passage is a modern shopping mall that consists of department stores offering renowned international brands and coffee-shops and restaurants with awe-inspiring views of the Nevsky Prospect.
And finally, la Galleria Vittori Emmanuele II in Milan is considered one of the oldest shopping malls in the world although it was built relatively late (between 1865 – 1877). The street connecting the city’s two landmarks (il Duomo and La Scala) is covered by glazed arcades that intersect in an octagon. The glass and cast iron roof is splendid and the central space is topped with a marvelous dome of glass beneath which there are mosaics describing the Coat of Arms of Milan and of the 3 capitals (Turin, Florence and Rome) of the Kingdom of Italy. Turin’s Coat of Arms is a very interesting one because it will bring you much luck if you follow the traditions of spinning around on the genitals of the bull. But you should do it on your heel and three times. 😀
Unfortunately, it’s high time we came back home after this short, imaginary trip around the shopping arcades. Please, assure your beloved husbands or boyfriends it was just an innocent journey around the glorious European passages. Ah, yes. Also don’t miss to make a wish for your next birthday, i.e. to make a shopping tour in one of them. 😉