Today’s mega-malls – or, as we know them in the UK, shopping centres – are staggering structures. They’re often one-stop shops for everything consumers could possibly want. When it comes to the largest shopping centre in the world, the contenders are eye-wateringly big.
Like a great deal of Western civilisation, much of what we know today has its origins in ancient Rome and shopping centres are no exception. The earliest retail centres were the city’s open shopping bazaars, and the world’s oldest shopping centre is believed to be Trajan’s Market on Rome’s Via dei Fori Imperiali.
In Istanbul, the world-famous fifteenth century Grand Bazaar remains one of the biggest covered shopping centres in the world, with over 4,000 retail outlets taking up 60 streets.
In western Europe, covered arcades became fashionable in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and many remain active to this day, such as the Marché des Enfants Rouges and the Passage du Caire in Paris, London’s Burlington Arcade and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan.
However the first purpose-built shopping centres as we’d recognise them opened in the 1950s. Then, like today, they were anchored by one or two large department stores.
The 1980s saw the advent of the mega-mall, which included shops as well as huge food courts and additional facilities such as post offices, medical centres, cinemas and even roller-coasters to draw in the crowds.
In this article, we’re measuring the contenders for biggest mall in the world by GLA, or Gross Leasable Area, i.e. the amount of space available for rent.
Location: Selangor, Malaysia | Opened: 1995 | Size: 203,000 square metres
One of the world’s largest malls, 1 Utama is said to be the biggest shopping centre in Malaysia and more than 700 shops and 14,000 parking spaces tells half the story. Alongside a huge food court, 1 Utama is home to two cinema chains, a rainforest including southeast Asia’s largest rooftop garden, a skydiving wind tunnel, ten-pin bowling, baseball batting cages, Asia’s largest indoor rock climbing centre, rooftop futsal and a surfing pool. Their strapline ‘It’s All In One’ really is true!
Location: London, UK | Opened: 2008 | Size: 240,000 square metres
Spread over five floors, Westfield London is the largest shopping centre in the UK and one of the world’s largest malls. It was built at a cost of around £1.6 billion and there are over 300 shops, around 100 places to eat and drink and 5,500 parking spaces. In 2010, a 17-screen multiplex opened with seating for almost 3,000 people. The centre also includes meeting rooms, play areas for kids, mini-golf, ten-pin bowling and events ranging from make-up lessons to cooking masterclasses.
West Edmonton Mall
Location: Alberta, Canada | Opened: 1981 | Size: 350,000 square metres
Canada’s largest shopping mall is home to over 800 shops and restaurants. Throughout the 1980s and 90s it was the biggest shopping mall in the world. The WEM hosts over 30 million visitors a year and boasts the world’s tallest indoor roller coaster, the world’s largest indoor lake and the world’s biggest car park – with space for over 20,000 cars, including a 10,000-space overflow.
Location: Panama City, Panama | Opened: 2002 | Size: 380,000 square metres
The Albrook Mall opened in 2002 on the site of the former Albrook US Air Force Base. It is the second largest mall in the Americas and one of the world’s biggest malls. There are around 700 shops and services, including almost 80 places to eat. Approximately 10,000 people work at the mall and it welcomes around 50,000 visitors a day.
Mall of America
Location: Minnesota, USA | Opened: 1992 | Size: 520,000 square metres
The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, is the biggest shopping centre in the USA and a contender for the largest shopping centre in the world. Over 500 stores and more than 50 restaurants attract over 40 million visitors a year. If visitors are tired of shopping and eating, there’s a comedy club, an aquarium, adventure golf and a 1,700 square metre esports and gaming studio.
Golden Resources Mall
Location: Beijing, China | Opened: 2004 | Size: 557,000 square metres
Nicknamed ‘The Great Mall of China’, the Golden Resources Mall on the outskirts of the Chinese capital city was, for a year after it opened, the biggest mall in the world. It is believed to have over 1,000 stores, restaurants and services.
SM Mall of Asia
Location: Pasay, Philippines | Opened: 2006 | Size: 590,000 square metres
With almost 450 shops and over 200 places to eat, the Mall of Asia is the biggest in the Philippines and one of the world’s largest malls. There are over 8,000 parking spaces and the mall includes an Olympic-sized ice skating rink, sixteen cinemas and one of the world’s biggest IMAX screens.