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Discover these iconic European shopfronts without spending any money

Victoria Street in Edinburgh is thought to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books.
Victoria Street in Edinburgh is thought to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books.   -   Copyright  Getty via Canva
By Katy Dartford

The beauty of a city is not always down to how ornate its museums and monuments are.

Europe is full of creative and colourful shopfronts, selling anything from food and drink to memorabilia, music, or pharmaceuticals.

Often unnoticed as we walk by, these displays help bring a city to life with their delicate designs, colourful tilework, 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 time period when a city was flourishing. 

Here are some of our favourites, ranging from well-known names to independent stores.

Diagon House, Edinburgh

The uphill curve and colourful shopfronts of Victoria Street in Edinburgh’s Old Town make it one of the most photographed locations in the city. It’s also said to be the inspiration for the cobblestoned ‘Diagon Alley’ in the Harry Potter series.

One of the most notable shops on the parade is Diagon House, which opened as Museum Context just in time for the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Selling all kinds of memorabilia from the fictional wizarding world, it is a must for Potter fans.

A Pérola do Bolhão, Porto

Pérola do Bolhão is one of Porto's most famous grocery stores. It has been in business since 1917 offering customers a traditional taste of Portugal. 

The shop's striking art nouveau facade has also become a well-known landmark in Porto. The ‘azulejos’, or Portuguese tin-glazed ceramic tilework, depict two goddess-like women bearing café (coffee) and chá (tea) plants.

Au Petit Versailles du Marais, Paris

The luxurious pastry shop feels like a miniature royal palace with frescos, mirrors and fine patisserie 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 the many quirky, multi-coloured shops packed into a courtyard tucked away down a tiny side street in Seven Dials, near Covent Garden in the West End of the city. 

Drury Buildings, Dublin

Drury Buildings is a contemporary Irish restaurant located in the heart of Dublin’s Creative Quarter. Its colourful front, which replicates Berlin’s Graffiti scene, is updated regularly so you never know when it might transform again.

‘t Kaaswinkeltje Gouda, Holland

The sunny yellow ‘t Kaaswinkeltje cheese shop in the heart of the old Gouda unsurprisingly looks like the product it sells. The original Gouda cheese you can find there is made according to traditional methods by farms in the local area. 

Fish La Boissonerie, Paris

The magnificent shopfront is adorned with mosaics of shells, fish and other sea life. 

Originally a fishmonger, its new owners bought La Boissonerie in 1999 and ran it as a wine bar. Now the ‘P’ in Poissonerie has been changed to a ‘B’ and the shop has become a gourmet restaurant. 

Fortnum and Mason, London

One of the oldest department stores still operating in London, Fortnum & Mason has been in existence since 1707. 

Today, it supplies 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 located among a selection of unique craft shops and high-end ateliers in the heart of London. 

Pastry chefs at Peggy’s make cupcakes, cookies and layer cakes using traditional baking methods combined with beautiful designs that match the theme of the ornate storefront.

Paris Jazz Corner, Paris

Located on the city’s Left Bank, the bright blue jazz music shop sells a wide selection of LPs, CDs, books and flyers, making it a favourite with the city’s jazz community.

Trudy & Vinz, St Gallen, Switzerland

This stunning antique store in northeast Switzerland is undoubtedly one of the chicest shopfronts 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 - complete with work from local artisans too.

Plus, their dog has an Instagram account of her own too which is well worth a follow for fans of cute animal content.