There's a lot of great shopping out there, but this mall takes the cake.
Biggest Mall in the World
Credit: Iain Masterton/Getty Images

When you show up at a place that bills itself as the largest shopping mall in the world, you’d be right to expect more than just designer brands and a fancy food court. After all, this is no meager claim. Right here in this country, we have access to large-scale megaplex shopping centers (think: the Mall of America) with everything from standard storefronts to a seven-story Ferris wheel, a wedding chapel, and a roller coaster.

Yet even this 400-store behemoth can't compete with the Dubai Mall. Recognized with five international awards since its 2008 opening (yes malls can win awards), Dubai's enormous mall is like the Beyoncé of recreational shopping, forcing every other mall to bow down.

If the mall's 1,200 stores aren't enough to occupy you, check out the four-story waterfall—adorned with fiberglass sculptures of diving humans—that courses down the center of an enormous glass-sided passageway. And several of the mall’s restaurants have outdoor areas that face a 30-acre manmade lake, complete with fountain jets that propel water 450-feet into the air, all accompanied by music and synchronized laser shows.

Lacking a beach or lush green parks (the heat is too intense) like in other cities, Dubai uses its blockbuster mall as a gathering place. Here, local Emiratis come to unwind and have fun. Families in particular make use of the A380 flight simulator, SEGA theme park, and 22-screen cinema scattered across the mall’s 12 million-square-feet of space.

And in the Arabic-themed Souk retail area, an 80-foot-long dinosaur skeleton (Diplodocus longus) hangs from the ceiling. Because why not?

Amid all the distractions and entertainment features, just coming here to shop requires Zen-level focus. Instead, show up with an open mind. There are local jewelers and sweet shops specializing in Middle Eastern treats, as well as international brands (Bottega Veneta, Molton Brown, and Cole Haan) and department stores like Bloomingdale's. Stroll the galleries, or take a detour to the aquarium downstairs. You can even go ice skating. It’s all part of the experience.