In Buenos Aires, Verónica Longoni sells hand-stitched dolls, robots, and zoo animals with button eyes and lopsided faces. It’s the kind of toy store that inspires a childlike wonder in visitors of all ages—and stocks a DIY kit with mixing and matching limbs for your own fantastical creations.
Longoni’s Sopa de Principe is a refreshing counterexample at a time when faceless mega-chains and online retailers have muscled many independent stores out of business. Increasingly, children in New York City, Hong Kong, Paris, and Dubai seem to be playing the same video games and laughing at the same cartoons.
Thankfully, adventurous travelers can still find humble mom-and-pop shops, designer boutiques, and stately department stores that reflect the playful id of a country’s people. Some, like London’s Hamleys—a favorite of both commoners and queens—have served the local community for generation after generation.
From the marionettes of Prague to the cutesy kawaii characters of Tokyo, toys are not only a memorable travel souvenir, but also a window into what makes a society tick, laugh, and smile. And you’ll discover them at these one-of-a-kind toy stores.