The World's 9 Best Toy Shops

Taking you on a tour of the world's biggest and boldest toy shops, where children never go home empty handed, and parents always go home empty-walleted.
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Taking you on a tour of the world's biggest and boldest toy shops, where children never go home empty handed, and parents always go home empty-walleted.

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FAO Schwarz: a great place to take acid

FAO Schwarz, New York City, USA

If you can’t have fun here, you may not have a pulse. This 5th Avenue megastore was made famous by the movie Big, in which Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia dance on the giant floor piano keyboard. The keyboard is still here and can be yours for a mere $250,000. Other fantastic features of the FAO Schwartz flagship store are a huge stuffed animal zoo, a doll adoption centre and the FAO Schweetz candy shop.

Toys ‘R’ Us, New York City, USA

The Toys ‘R’ Us store in Times Square is way cool. It is the largest toy store in the world. And by large, we mean massive. Inside the store find a working ferris wheel that’s 60 feet (18m) high. There’s also a two-story, human-sized Barbie doll house, a giant LEGO T-Rex dinosaur (complete with roaring noises) and an interactive Thomas the Tank Engine set.

Hamleys, London, UK

There are several Hamleys around the world but the best of them is on Regent Street in London. The seven floors here are densely packed with nearly every toy imaginable. The staff often dress up in costumes, but the best part is the hands-on toy demonstrations that take place on every floor.

LEGO Stores, Berlin, Germany

There are nearly 50 LEGOretail establishmentsscattered across the planet, and as a group, they form arguably the world’s coolest chain of toy stores. The Berlin flagship store on Tauentzienstraße has the best design of any LEGO retail establishment. It also includes building and educational classes for the entire family.

Charles Ro Supply Company, Malden, Massachusetts USA

The largest toy train shop in the United States (and quite possibly the world), occupies a massive building in the suburbs of Boston that resembles an old railway station. The very best time to visit the Charles Ro Supply Company is on Saturdays between 10am and 4pm. That’s when the store runs the whole of its electric train network, spread across three floors and six different tracks.

Displaying its countless dolls over six floors,the Shanghai Barbie store is traversed via a spiral staircase or an LED-lit escalator

Doll Hospital 1830, Lisbon, Portugal

There are a surprising number of establishments billing themselves as “Doll Hospitals.” There’s even a Doll Doctors’ Association (and, for all we know, a network of doll lawyers chasing around doll ambulances). But among the world’s doll hospitals, the oldest and best is the one inconspicuously tucked away on a side street of the Portuguese capital. The only external sign of its existence is a small plaque which reads: Doll Hospital 1830 (1830 being the year it opened). Inside there’s an emergency room, several operating tables and shelves and drawers full of dolls and doll parts. Repairs cost anywhere from $5 for a basic procedure to more than $1,000 for a complicated surgery - unless, of course, you have doll health insurance.

Gashapon, Japan

Technically, Gashapon is not the name of a Japanese toy store; it is the word for a toy that comes from a vending machine. A typical gashapon would be a sticker book, or plastic action figure or Hello Kitty charm. Gashapon stores contain isles of vending machines, each of which contains a different toy. Usually translated into English as “capsule toy”, in fact, the word is a Japanese onomatopoeia: “gacha” is the sound of the turning of a crank on a toy vending machine, “pon” is the sound of the toy capsule dropping into the receptacle. Nearly every large urban center in Japan has at least one gashapon store. The best places to look for them are Tokyo’s Akihabara district and Nipponbashi in Osaka.

Lark Toys, Kellogg, Minnesota, USA

Lark Toysmust be the best unknown toy store in the United States. This place is like a section of 1950’s Coney Island boardwalk transported to middle America. The prime attraction is the hand-carved carousel. If that’s not enough to captivate your kids, try the 18-hole mini golf course (look for it by the Kool-Aid waterfall), the gourmet fudge and ice cream shop, the vintage toy museum, the huge children’s book selection, the llama petting zoo, the puppet shows, the trick mirrors or the selection of gag gifts.

Barbie Store, Shanghai, China

The world’s biggest Barbie storeis predictably pink. It’s also, unpredictably, high-design for a toy store. Displaying its countless dolls over six floors,the Shanghai store is traversed via a spiral staircase or an LED-lit escalator. But the best part is the fourth floor cocktail lounge where pink, fruity drinks are served in pink glasses.

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