The concept of an indoor shopping mall was slower to catch on in post-war Europe than in America. In the U.S., enclosed climate-controlled malls took seed in the 1950s and blossomed in the early 1960s. While the world’s biggest shopping malls are primarily in Asia, there are several large ones in Western Europe that attract millions of visitors and shoppers every year. In Eastern Europe, megamalls are found in Moscow, Russia and Zagreb, Croatia.
Home to over 340 stores under one roof, Intu Metrocentre in Gateshead, England, is Europe’s largest mall with 194,400 square meters (2.1 million square feet) of retail space. The shopping center, 280 miles north of London, is England’s first megamall. Opened in 1986, it draws 21 million visitors annually. Gateshead is a town in northeast England on the Tyne River across from Newcastle, a university city. The mall houses modern eateries, an Odeon IMAX cinema and a Qube leisure center that links its two shopping areas. Platinum Mall is an upscale section for high-end designer brands. Parking at the Metrocentre is free all day, and there are almost 10,000 parking spaces in four color-coded areas. Moving the car from one area to another is not a bad idea, as it’s estimated that a walk through the entire mall would take over an hour and cover 3.5 miles.
Trafford Centre, U.K.
About 200 miles northwest of London, Intu Trafford Centre in Greater Manchester, England, has been a fixture on the U.K. shopping scene since 1998. Today, visitor traffic tops out at 31 million a year. The mall contains 280 stores, including the only Selfridges outside London as its anchor department store over three floors. There’s no shortage of stylish dining as well; weary shoppers can pop into 360 Champagne and Cocktails for a break.
A good deal more in leisure activities makes Trafford Centre into a destination where tour buses pull up regularly year-round. Namco Funscape has 18 bowling lanes, arcade games, bumper cars and pool tables. Paradise Island Adventure Golf has an 18-hole miniature course and The Rock is a climbing center that includes a high-ropes adventure course. There’s a Legoland discovery center for kids and a 20-screen Odeon cinema for everybody.
Puerto Venecia, Spain
The pleasant climate in Zaragoza, Spain, means that Europe’s second-largest shopping mall, also an Intu center, is an indoor/outdoor lifestyle experience with more than 200 stores. Located 200 miles from Madrid, Spain, in the northeastern part of the country’s Aragon region, the mall has a waterfront setting. Puerto Venecia is a popular family shopping destination with a mix of retail plus entertainment-oriented activities. There’s an outdoor ice skating rink, indoor and outdoor climbing center and a 400-foot-long zip line over a man-made lagoon. Restaurants, cafes and bars are on both the lakefront and canal sides, and a multiscreen cinema complex adds to the appeal for more than 19 million visitors a year.