The magic of Christmas begins when you are young. Perhaps you remember gaping at the giant plush teddy bears in the Harrods Toy Department, or maybe you just admired the windows of the department stores from the outside. Regardless, at Christmastime there is a child inside all of us. This year's window displays and department store decorations will leave you mesmerised as if you've taken a trip right to the North Pole.
Milan: Rinascente Meets Dolce&Gabbana
Step into a traditional Sicilian market at Christmastime without leaving Milan. Recently recognised as the "Best Department Store in the World," Rinascente has been around for over 150 years. It started as a small luxury goods shop in Milan on a side street of Piazza Duomo in 1865. To pay tribute to Italian spirit and tradition, Rinascente has partnered with Dolce&Gabbana this Christmas season as a celebration of life. Glowing lights, bright colours and nostalgic emotions encapsulate the windows of Rinascente - in Milan and Rome - for this unique project that features a "traditional Italian market" inside the store with puppets, lights, rides, and Christmas decorations. Yes, we did say rides. Inspired by Sicilian puppet theatre, the Rinascente window displays showcase two puppets, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, who tell their stories through a series of entertaining episodes featuring daily life, the cinema, the kitchen, and more.
Dolce&Gabbana has also created an exclusive collection of clothing and accessories for Rinascente Milan and Rinascente Rome for the Christmas 2018 collaboration, and we want it all. Exclusive prints featuring the Duomo and the Colosseum surrounded by a heart topped with a crown, representing love and tradition joining together. The magic continues, as kitchen appliances are also part of this special collaboration. To showcase Sicilian design and tradition, special kitchenware has been designed with typical Sicilian decorations and landscapes of Southern Italy, symbolizing the beautiful place that is dear to Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana's hearts. The brand has also created six special candles, each with a different name and fragrance, in hand-painted artisan vases, each holding its own unique story of Italian tradition - and a great gift idea, might we add.
Another aspect of this Christmas collaboration is its encounter between creativity and confectionary art. Teaming up with the historical (and delicious) pastry shop Fiasconaro in Castelbuono, located in the province of Palermo, Dolce&Gabbana has created an exclusive line of panettone called Panettone Fiasconaro, including one with Sicilian pistachio and covered in white chocolate. We heard that if you leave one of these out for Santa, you get extra presents this year.
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Paris: Galeries Lafayette Becomes 'The Dream Factory'
Remember the first time you went to visit Santa and it felt like a dream? Maybe you don't remember, but as soon as you walk into Galeries Lafayette this season, you surely won't forget. Transforming into 'The Dream Factory,' Galeries Lafayette in Paris provides the magic of Christmas throughout its store and in its window displays this year. Children ages 5-10 have the opportunity to create their Christmas hero or heroine, and Galeries Lafayette brings them to life with 15 special Christmas characters in the window displays, around the tree and throughout the store. Beneath the enormous dome sits the bright and beautiful Christmas tree, but the real magic happens when the dome lights are switched off to allow for a constellation of stars to glisten around the tree. You'll feel like a kid again as you gaze up at the "night sky".
As for the window displays, The Dream Factory takes you into a world of imagination from Santa's Village to Christmas dinner, illuminating iconic symbols of the festive season. Get carried away by the children's dreams that Galeries Lafayette has brought to life in these 11 animated window displays. Inside its men's store, Galeries Lafayette is doing something special for Harry Potter fans: a world of wizardry with incredible window displays and magical scenography. Disclaimer: The clothes in the store are unfortunately for Muggles only.
Related article: Where to Shop with Locals in Paris
London: Taste Christmas Magic at Harrods
Did you know Harrods has a 'Department of Surprise and Delight?' This sounds to us like it could be a special name for Santa and his elves, but we'll leave that for you to decide. Experience 'Fantastica' at Harrods this year - the name speaks for itself, as this is a store-wide holiday season celebration. Unexpected moments of joy can be found in every corner of the store, with special activities each day leading up to Christmas, such as exclusive pop-ups, interactive activities, Chanel’s fortune cookie kiosk, Harrods food tastings, and so much more - it's almost like a real-life Advent calendar. Santa's head elf (a.k.a. the Creative Director at Harrods, Alex Wells-Greco) says that Fantastica will "whisk away your imagination."
Equally as magical as inside the store, the Brompton Road window displays follow a concept of Christmas traditions that include holiday rituals of many different cultures, from unwrapping gifts and the Queen's speech to a Christmas feast and a party. Harrods goes above and beyond, continuing the magic of Christmas outside on Hans Crescent with an 8-metre Christmas tree covered with 100 oversized gourmet delights, inspired by the tradition of family feasting and its important role during Christmas. There is even an oversized Christmas dinner plate. If that doesn't get your mouth watering, we don't know what will.
After you've enjoyed viewing all the oversized food items on the tree, you'll probably be hungry. To coincide with Fantastica, Harrods celebrates with the opening of the Fresh Market Hall, the store's newly-redesigned food hall celebrating speciality foods and Christmas goodies. Inside you'll find a rotisserie and a vegetable butcher alongside counters such as cheese and charcuterie, a deli, a butcher and a fishmonger, featuring delicious dishes freshly-prepared by 150 in-house chefs. It sounds to us like Harrods is redefining the magic of Christmas.
For more ideas on Do, Dine and Spend, visit our Destinations page.