Shoppers at the food hall at the Takashimaya Times Square in Toyko, Japan.

World's Best Department Store Food Halls

Gourmet Food Halls: London, Paris, Tokyo & More
By Beth Collins

In the U.S., grabbing a bite to eat while shopping usually means heading to the food court and choosing between greasy hamburgers and even greasier pizza. But throughout the rest of the world, department stores pride themselves on their food halls, offering gourmet fare that's a far cry from your standard fast food.

Whether high-end and sophisticated or affordable and buzzing with energy, these halls all share a reverence for food that makes them as much of a destination as the department stores they're attached to.

Photo Caption: Shoppers browse in the food hall at Takashimaya Times Square in Toyko, Japan.
Marcarons at Ladurée at the Food Hall at Harrods in London, England.
Loren Javier
Harrods, London
When Harrods opened its doors in 1834, it was a wholesale grocery specializing in tea. Nearly two centuries later, clothing may dominate the retail space, but food is still a major draw. In fact, the department store's food hall is arguably the most famous in the world.

The space is positively gleaming, with ornate display cases and painted ceilings. There are a few low-end offerings (you can order a hot dog if you must), but most of the fare suits its surroundings: 18 departments offering the best chocolates, cheeses, charcuterie, pastries, coffee, tea, and wines.

Don't bother trying to find a bargain here; you'll miss out on the fun. Instead, let yourself enjoy the experience with abandon: slurp raw oysters in the seafood room, bite into an impossibly airy macaron from the French bakery Ladurée (pictured), and pick up a round of salty caviar for the road.

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The food hall at Fortnum & Mason in London, England.
Elisabeth Blanchet
Fortnum & Mason, London
Harrods may be London's most well-known food hall among tourists, but Fortnum & Mason is the go-to spot for many locals. Perhaps it has something to do with the unabashed emphasis on all things culinary. Unlike most food halls, which occupy one floor of a department store, Fortnum & Mason devotes three of its five floors to food. Two of those make up the food hall, with the basement dedicated to grocery items and the ground floor for specialty foods and gifts.

As with Harrods, you know the moment you step into Fortnum & Mason that this is no place for bargain hunters. The hall takes upscale to a whole new level, with chandeliers, a fancy spiral staircase, and an actual art collection.

And then there are the displays—specialty foods are artfully arranged on cherry-wood stands with brass accents. Caviar and truffles are housed in a humidity-controlled cabinet, while Scottish beef ages in dry-curing cabinets.

The hall is especially known for its extensive selection of teas and coffees (the supremely knowledgeable staff can help you navigate the options), its gift foods like marmalades and chocolates, and—the ultimate gift—its "hampers," wicker picnic baskets filled with various high-end snacks.

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Photo Caption: Browse the food hall at Fortnum & Mason in London, England.
Le Grande Epicerie at the Au Bon Marche in Paris, France.
La Grande Épicerie de Paris, France
There is perhaps no country as obsessed with food as France, so it's no surprise that Paris is home to one of the world's most spectacular food halls. La Grande Épicerie de Paris, in Le Bon Marché, is a foodie's paradise. French fare gets top billing, with all the madeleines, macarons, and pastries you could want. But other countries get their 15 minutes, too: Spanish ham, British shortbread, Italian tomato sauce, and American, uh, Marshmallow Fluff.

In addition to the grocery area, a butcher, and a seafood counter, there's an impressive spice section, a foie gras "island," and departments devoted solely to butter and truffles. And, this being France, you'll also find a fromagerie and a wine cellar.

If you're in a rush, go for the prepared quiches and pasta dishes and take a seat in Le Comptoir Picnic, a small dining area. If you have time to spare, grab a baguette, some ham and cheese, and a bottle of wine and walk a few blocks to the Jardin du Luxembourg for a proper picnic.

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Eclairs at the high-end pastry shop Fauchon at the Takashimaya Times Square in Toyko, Japan.
Takashimaya Times Square, Tokyo
It's easy to work up an appetite in Takashimaya Times Square, in Tokyo's Shinjuku district. The location isn't the chain's flagship—that's in the city's Nihonbashi district—but, at 14 stories high, it's by far the largest. Although the top two stories are devoted to restaurants, diners flock instead to the food hall in the basement of the massive shopping complex. The fare, like the fashion in the clothing stores above it, ranges from trendy (the "hot" item changes practically weekly) to established high-end (Fauchon, the confectionary equivalent of an Hermès Birkin bag, is a popular hotspot).

With 130 stations, the range of options is dizzying. Japanese food is well-represented, with everything from sushi to tempura to noodles, and Chinese cuisine gets its own section. Bakeries are also big, both local (light-as-air Japanese cakes and countless types of mochi) and imported (French pastries are something of an obsession in Japan). There's also a grocery department; exhibition kitchens; and a liquor and beer section.

Can't make up your mind what to eat? Start with the first thing that appeals, and then head upstairs to browse the endless shops. With that much ground to cover, you'll be hungry again in no time.

The food hall at the Myeong-dong branch of the Lotte Department Store in Seoul, South Korea.
Lotte Department Store, Seoul
The Lotte stores dominate the department-store scene in South Korea, with 19 stores throughout the country and six locations in Seoul alone. For the ultimate food hall experience, head to the store's main branch (pictured), in the city's Myeong-dong fashion district. Part supermarket and part food court, the hall has something for everyone who comes through its doors (and that's no small feat -- more than 2 million people visit the Myeong-dong district each day, many of them wandering into Lotte at some point).

There's a wide range of Korean fare, including mandu (dumplings filled with meat or veggies), noodle dishes galore, and an impressive array of kimchi. But there's also Chinese (dim sum), Japanese (sushi), French (pastries), Italian (pasta dishes), Thai (curry dishes), and Vietnamese (more noodles). The space gets packed during the lunch hour. You're better off going in mid- to late-afternoon or after 6pm when many stalls begin to discount their fare.

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The Gourmet Market at the Siam Paragon Centre in Bangkok, Thailand.
Scott Christian
Siam Paragon Centre, Bangkok
It's easy to feel overwhelmed when you first step into the food hall in Bangkok's Siam Paragon Centre. The space covers more than 26,000 square feet, it's constantly bustling with people, and it's full of food most Westerners have never tried. But don't let that deter you. Rather than shrink away from the action and take refuge in McDonald's or KFC (both of which, strangely, you can find here), take a chance on the unfamiliar fare.

Start your journey by buying a card with a set amount of money on it (whatever you don't spend will be refunded at the end). Then let yourself wander, handing over your card whenever you pass something that appeals, whether it's Thai noodles, fish soup, or one of the thousands of sweets in the section devoted entirely to desserts. Unlike so many of the other major food halls, the prices here are almost laughably low, so you can afford to experiment a bit.

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The main food hall at the KaDeWe department store in Berlin, Germany.
KaDeWe, Berlin
KaDeWe is short for Kaufhaus des Westens, which translates to Department Store of the West—a fitting name for what's believed to be the largest department store in continental Europe. The entire sixth and seventh floors are dedicated to food, with the main food hall on Floor 6 and the "winter garden" eating area, with windowed walls looking out over the city, on Floor 7.

As the advertisements boast, the hall has more than two football fields of space (that's European football, soccer to us). That means about 23,000 square feet of fresh produce, cheese, meats, sweets, chocolates, coffee, and breads. KeDeWe is known for its huge selection of local cheeses, meats, and—perhaps most fun of all—sausages from each region of Germany.

When you've had your fill of currywurst, eisenbock wurst, and Rostbratwurst, finish off with a trip to the room devoted entirely to chocolate truffles.

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The Delicatessa Globus at the Globus department store in Balexert, Switzerland.
R. Steck, Wädenswil
Globus, Switzerland
With its upscale merchandise and 14 locations throughout Switzerland, the Globus chain of department stores could easily feel cold and impersonal. But thanks to the food halls, known as Delicatessa Globus to locals, they manage to be warm and inviting instead. In fact, if you're not careful, you can while away the afternoon getting lost in the aisles.

The international offerings—sushi, tapas, stir-fry, pizza, pastries—are fun to peruse, but the local specialties are the real draw. Expect to find countless types of sausages, more types of Gruyère than you could eat in a month, gorgeous Swiss chocolates, rosti (fried rounds of shredded potatoes), just-caught fish from Lake Geneva—and to wash it all down, a nice selection of Swiss-made eau de vie.

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Photo: The Globus department store in Balexert, Switzerland.