James is an ex-theatre London critic who writes about everything that interests him: particularly arts, culture, and travel.
When someone says "grocery store," do you instantly imagine fluorescent-lit, metal-clad buildings with soulless, towering aisles? Doing your grocery shopping is probably the least inspiring thing that you can do.
But what if things were different? What if there were stores somewhere on this planet that would stop in your tracks to look up from your shopping list in awe and wonder? Well, these stores exist!
Here are seven of the most sumptuous supermarkets from around the globe.
1. Trader Joe's, New York, USA
Trader Joe's is a household name for many Americans, with a reputation for selling great food at affordable prices. But this particular branch may well make you forget about the savings you're making; you'll be more impressed by the store itself.
Located inside an old bank in Brooklyn, its large arched windows; high, white, decorated ceiling; and golden crest above the entrance are worth a visit to the supermarket just to gaze up in wonder at them.
2. Harrods, London, United Kingdom
Harrods isn't exactly an unknown name. You usually associate it with only the best designer clothes, perfumes, and more. But did you know it has food halls where you can do your grocery shopping? What's more, these food halls are particularly gorgeous!
Each one is lavishly decorated, from Egyptian whimsy to elegant and picturesque tiles and gilded columns.
If you don't fancy doing your groceries here, but find yourself hungry, some of the food halls have recently been turned into eateries where you can stay a little longer, fill yourself up, and take in the scenery.
3. Biedronka, Krakow, Poland
This medieval Polish city is one of the country's top tourist draws. It has a spectacular castle overlooking the river and is the home of the acclaimed Sukiennice ("Cloth Hall") located in the heart of its historic walled center. While the Sukiennice might be more well known, don't forget to pop into the Biedronka supermarket on the main square whilst you're there.
Though the supermarket chain is associated with very cheap products and less-than-attractive buildings, this particular branch pulled out all the stops to hearken back to an old "delikatessy" that used to be where it's now situated.
So, as well as picking up some bargain bananas, you also get a free trip back in time.
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4. Eliseevsky, Moscow, Russia
If you thought Harrods food halls were grand, wait until you see what's in store for you in this Moscow grocery store. Cascading crystal chandeliers, ornate mirrors, decorated columns, and antique portraits will make you truly feel like a Tsar or Tsarina when picking up your tea-time tidbits.
Don't forget the vodka!
5. Teatro Italia, Venice, Italy
A grocery store could easily be described as a "theatre of food". Ok, so no one would actually ever describe it as that. But that might change when you visit this grocery store located inside an old picture house.
As one of Europe's less glamorous grocery-store chains, Spar (which operates under the name "Despar" in Italy) isn't something you'd associate with high-class arts. However, once you enter through the gothic-arched doors of this particular storefront and pass via the turnstiles betwixt the intricate wrought-iron staircases, you'll be welcomed into a grand space with a beautiful painted ceiling worthy of the Sistine Chapel.
Oh, and you'll see some groceries too.
6. Spar, Budapest, Hungary
Moving onto something more modern, but sticking with the Spar brand, the flagship store for the chain in Hungary is simply something else.
The design, by LAB5 Architects, is as modern and as chic as it comes. If you visit here, you'll quickly find yourself in a futuristic wooden wonderland. It feels like traversing through a space-aged cave, with wooden slats forming arches and tunnels, as well as stands for displaying goods.
This is the best place to shop if you ever find yourself hungry in Hungary!
7. Food Emporium, New York, USA
We feel like we're cheating a bit with this one, because, unfortunately, this particular grocery store has long since closed. But, when it was open, it was one of the grandest and most striking grocery stores the world had ever seen.
Located under the approach to the Queensboro Bridge, Food Emporium operated a bright and astonishing-looking supermarket under the impressive brick-vaulted ceilings of the building. Alas, it closed in 2015.
However, you may soon be able to shop there once more, as the chain Michael's is looking to occupy the space in the near future.
© 2019 James Waygood