The beauty of a city does not always depend on the wealth of its museums and monuments.
Europe is full of creative and colorful storefronts, selling everything from food and drink to souvenirs, music or pharmaceuticals.
Often overlooked, these windows help bring a city to life with their delicate patterns, colorful tiles, hand-painted signs or refined woodwork. They also have a lot to tell us about the cultural history of a place, often representing an artistic movement or a period when a city was flourishing.
Here are some of our favorites, ranging from well-known names to independent stores.
Diagon House, Edinburgh
The upward curve and colorful storefronts of Victoria Street in Edinburgh’s Old Town make it one of the most photographed spots in the city. It is also said to be the inspiration for the cobblestone “Diagon Alley” in the Harry Potter series.
One of the standout shops in the parade is Diagon House, which opened as a Museum Context just in time for the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Selling all sorts of memorabilia from the fictional wizarding world, it’s a must for Potter fans.
At Pérola do Bolhão, Porto
Pérola do Bolhão is one of Porto’s most famous grocery stores. It has been in operation since 1917 and offers its customers a traditional taste of Portugal.
The store’s impressive art nouveau facade has also become a well-known landmark in Porto. The ‘azulejos’, or Portuguese tin-glazed ceramic tiles, depict two goddess-like women carrying café (coffee) and chá (tea) plants.
At the Petit Versailles in the Marais, Paris
The luxurious patisserie resembles a miniature royal palace with frescoes, mirrors and fine pastries combining for an exquisite sensory experience.
Neal’s Yard Remedies, London
Neal’s Yard Remedies opened in 1981, focusing on all-natural and organic health and beauty products. It’s just one of many quirky multicolored shops crammed into a courtyard tucked away on a small side street in Seven Dials, near Covent Garden in the city’s West End.
Drury Buildings, Dublin
Drury Buildings is a contemporary Irish restaurant located in the heart of Dublin’s creative quarter. Its colorful facade, which replicates Berlin’s graffiti scene, is regularly updated so you never know when it might transform again.
‘t Kaaswinkeltje Gouda, Holland
The sunny yellow ‘t Kaaswinkeltje cheese factory in the heart of old Gouda unsurprisingly resembles the product it sells. The original Gouda cheese you will find here is made using traditional methods by farms in the region.
Fish La Boissonerie, Paris
The magnificent storefront is decorated with mosaics of shells, fish and other marine animals.
Originally a fishmonger, its new owners bought La Boissonerie in 1999 and operated it as a wine bar. From now on, the “P” of the Poissonerie has been replaced by a “B” and the shop has become a gourmet restaurant.
Fortnum and Mason, London
One of the oldest department stores still in operation in London, Fortnum & Mason has been around since 1707.
Today it caters to the Queen of England, providing groceries and tea to royalty. The shop also claims to have invented the Scotch Egg in 1738.
Peggy Porschen Cake Company, London
Peggy Porschen’s bright pink boutique bakery is set among a selection of unique craft shops and high-end workshops in the heart of London.
Peggy’s pastry chefs bake cupcakes, cookies and layer cakes using traditional baking methods combined with beautiful designs that match the ornate storefront theme.
Paris Jazz Corner, Paris
Located on the left bank of the city, the bright blue jazz music store sells a wide selection of vinyl records, CDs, books and flyers, making it a favorite of the city’s jazz community.
Trudy & Vinz, St. Gallen, Switzerland
This superb antique shop in northeastern Switzerland is without a doubt one of the classiest storefronts in Europe.
Run by the Schärers, with the help of their Norwich Terrier Lilly, Trudy & Vinz has the look and feel of a traditional French Broconte – complemented by the work of local artisans too.
Moreover, their dog also has his own Instagram account which is well worth a follow for fans of cute animal content.