With Apple opening not one but two Apple stores this week in India, including the stunning BKC store in Mumbai, what better time to take a whistlestop tour of some of Apple’s most iconic retail venues throughout the world?
During her tenure as Apple’s president of retail, Angela Ahrendts would often tell employees internally that Apple stores were the company’s most important products, a value reflected in the astonishing amount of time, resource, and effort that Apple pours into its brick-and-mortar offerings. Each is a symphony of outrageous design, where steel, glass, sandstone, and wood collide to create breathtaking spaces that many a rival have tried to emulate, yet none have achieved.
From the fashionable heights of Milan to the adorned marble of the eternal city, the waters of Singapore, and the deserts of Dubai, here are some of the most impressive Apple stores you can visit today.
Apple Via del Corso, Rome
According to the ancient historian Suetonius, Rome’s first emperor, Augustus, boasted that he found Rome a city of brick, but left it a city of marble. The original home that holds the Via Del Corso store wasn’t built for another 1,800 years, but the stunning Carrara marble interior of this Apple store would have sent Augustus wild with delight. Featuring the original staircase from 1888, its very own courtyard, and a hand-painted ceiling, Apple Via del Corso is basically a tourist attraction in Rome these days.
Apple Piazza Liberty, Milan
Given Italy is synonymous with brilliant architecture and design flair, it’s no surprise that there are two Italian stores on this list. Less surprising still is that the second hails from the pulsating fashion capital of the world, Milan. A far cry from the homage to Italy’s antiquity and past in Rome, Milan’s Piazza Liberty is a sleek modern store resting in the shadow of its gargantuan cathedral and boasts one of Apple’s most iconic store frontages. The plaza steps and a fountain point to the store's iconic glass entrance, hiding stairs to the delights below.
Apple Tower Theater, LA
Once a historic theater in downtown LA, the Tower Theater was originally built in 1927 by S. Charles Lee. The Apple store it now houses retains many of its original features including the huge illuminated sign, marquee, red-carpeted staircase, and an absolutely stunning stained glass window. There’s also a painted sky in the dome and even theater seating!
Apple Fifth Avenue, NYC
Apple’s Fifth Avenue store in NYC is the perfect epitome of Apple store design thanks to its epic glass cube that has become an iconic architectural feature of retail. The store is famous amongst other things for the huge queues that used to form outside in the run-up to the launch of exciting products. A vertigo-inspiring glass staircase whisks visitors down to an equally impressive interior.
Apple Sanlitun, Beijing
A 2020 reboot of Apple’s Sanlitun location, the new Apple Sanlitun square features mind-bending 33-foot glass panels adorned with an artistic floral design. The store’s impressive frontage is flanked by two monumental staircases, and its cantilever roof is home to a vast array of solar panels. Other highlights include a viewing gallery and a staircase that wouldn’t look out of place in Dune… the reboot with Zendaya of course, not that 1984 monstrosity.
Apple Champs-Élysées sits in a Haussmann-era (1850s-1870) apartment building with an ingenious design that houses Apple’s Forum in the courtyard of the block. An Apple store on what is arguably one of the world’s most famous streets deserves grandeur, and this store delivers in bucketloads. Most notably thanks to a Kaléidoscope solar roof light that includes mirrored pyramids to help reflect sunlight into the space below. There’s also an incredible staircase made from wood and marble and some immense suspended walkways.
Apple Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Apple Marina Bay Sands might well be the world’s most unique Apple store. This 30-meter dome sits on the waters of Singapore’s iconic Marina Bay, connected to the mainland by a small bridge. Its dome is made from 112 pieces of glass with integrated solar shading and features an oculus designed to mimic Rome’s famous Pantheon. The store also extends underwater and ground through a 45-meter tunnel connecting it to the nearby shopping mall.
Apple Dubai Mall, Dubai
Apple’s mall stores, by and large, are hilariously generic thanks to their metal interior shells and glass fronts. Thankfully, Apple Dubai Mall pushed the boat out just a bit. Featuring a huge sweeping terrace nearly 60 meters in length and 18 feet deep, it also has some iconic Solar Wings that can be opened or closed to provide either shade or a view of the adjacent promenade.
Apple Central World, Bangkok
Apple Central World is an absolute marvel. Its circular design houses a conical wooden support made of wood, and well, just look at it! There’s also a mightily impressive staircase, with each step a milled block of solid stainless steel cantilevered from the center structure, the only kind of staircase I want to climb.
Apple Zorlua, Istanbul
Inside, Apple Zorlu Center sports the retro look you’ll know from Apple stores of old, with stainless steel walls and wooden tables. Downstairs the store is anything but spectacular, but it makes this list purely because of that incredible illuminated “glass lantern” set in a pool of water. It looks like a Mac mini, if the Mac mini was made of glass and had sides 10 meters long. Incredibly, each glass panel is held to the next without mechanical fixings or visible joins, so maybe don’t lean on it too hard. Besides, you wouldn’t want to get fingerprints on it anyway!
Apple Regent Street, London
I went back and forth between this and the Covent Garden store, which I love for its exposed brick interior. However, Regent Street is an iconic Apple Store, featuring more of those Dune staircases, huge ceilings, arched glass windows, and an ornate facade.
Apple Aventura, Miami
Miami’s Aventura store features an undulating vaulted roof inspired by Art Deco styling that looks an awful lot like the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock stadium. There’s an outdoor Genius Grove to take in that spectacular weather and a video wall in the forum that’s mirrored on the other side.
Apple Michigan Avenue, Chicago
This stunning Chicago store has an enormous glass facade that encompasses the entire building. Built into the steps of the Chicago River bank, it has large indoor-outdoor staircases and a huge carbon fiber roof that looks like the clamshell cover of an old MacBook. Delightful.
Apple Carnegie Library, Washington DC
Stripping the books out of a library is a crime in my book, but I’ll let Apple off given the stunning job it has done turning this 1903 building into one of the U.S.’ most iconic Apple retail locations. Inside it features white walls and marble floors, and Vermont marble also adorns the facades. The store has not one but two spectacular entrances, and it’s honestly difficult to pick which one is best.
Apple Downtown Brooklyn
Apple Downtown Brooklyn does not get enough credit for looking like the menacing prow of a battleship from the not-too-distant future. That soaring canopy reachers 30 feet above street level, and is supported by a mixture of glass and pillars.
Apple Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi
The Al Maryah Island store sits atop a majestic stepped waterfall which is definitely the highlight of the show here. The store also features a rather unique dark granite floor, some excellent trees, and another MacBook clamshell-esque roof!
Apple BKC, Mumbai
Apple BKC inspired this list and deserves a shout-out in its own right. The intricate roof of this store features 450,000 thousand different pieces of timber and a mind-blowing solar panel array. The store features three immense columns in the center and a hefty staircase that takes you up to the second floor.
Apple Grand Central, New York
It’s an Apple store inside one of the world’s most iconic train stations, do I need to say anything else? This stunning store sits etched into the architecture of the station itself, boasting incredible walls, floors, and staircases.
So there you have it, 18 of the most impressive Apple retail stores you can visit right now. There are bound to be some fantastic stores of the future, but right now this represents some of the best Apple has to offer, a superb combination of modern design and heritage. Online stores be damned, nothing beats heading to your local Apple store in search of the next best iPhone.
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Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.
Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9
What a great list! I doubt I'll be able to see them all, but there are many on this list that are doable. It would be so much fun if Apple had t-shirts or other memorabilia for each store like the Hard Rock cafe.Reply