In recent years, I’ve developed a special appreciation for indoor spaces. I find them fascinating and even comforting, particularly during inclement weather. I had plenty of time to contemplate this newfound affection during two sadistically cold weeks last winter when I voluntarily confined myself to the Minneapolis Skyway System as a livability experiment for an article I was working on.
I’ve since started a list of singular, practical indoors spaces (traveloguebookdealforthewin!), which now includes the following:
Minneapolis Skyway System
This is the largest continuous skyway system in the world, connecting what may be the largest contiguous indoor space anywhere. (Calgary’s +15 skyway system is cumulatively more extensive, but they aren’t all connected.) This above ground, environmentally controlled series of bridges connects over 70 blocks of downtown Minneapolis, allowing access to innumerable businesses, government offices, shopping, restaurants, bars, hotels, theaters and entertainment without even momentary exposure to rain, snow, cold, heat, locusts or whatever your least favorite elements may be. Largely unnecessary in summer, but priceless in winter.
Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
What started out as a small warehouse in the mid-15th century has swelled into a spectacular labyrinth of 4,000 shops where escape in less than two hours without at least two bags of carefully haggled plunder is considered a modern miracle. Istanbul’s Kapalı Çarşı (Grand Bazaar), one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, is said to receive between 250,000 and 500,000 visitors each day. Every nook and cranny has been turned into shop space, some the size of a phone booth, with goods displayed on every possible square inch of surface area. The overwhelming shopping options include jewelry, leather, wood crafts, clothing, porcelain, fabrics, ceramics, tea, and of course, a sea of carpets.
Burj Khalifa, Dubai
Currently, and resoundingly, the tallest structure in the world, the Burj Khalifa is replete with superlatives and fun amazingness. It has the highest occupied floor (the 160th floor), the world’s fastest elevators (40 mph), the world’s highest restaurant and nightclub (122nd and 114th respectively) and the world’s highest swimming pool (76th floor). There’s also a hotel, shopping and a decidedly swanky residential space, which is currently going for US$3500 per square foot if you’re thinking of buying.
Grand Central Terminal (aka Grand Central Station), New York City
This historic train station, first opened in 1871, has the most platforms of any station in the world - 44 split between two levels. Its proper name has been ‘Grand Central Terminal’ since 1913, though people continue to refer to it as ‘Grand Central Station,’ which is in fact the name of the nearby post office and frequently the subject of ‘gotcha’ trivia questions. The 48-acre structure also contains a large variety of dining and shopping, a fresh food market, an annex of the New York Transit Museum and access to a number of subway lines. There are audio tours available for train station geeks unconcerned with looking like rubes.
West Edmonton Mall, Edmonton, Canada
Love them or openly despise them, megamalls are breathtaking indoor spaces. Opened in 1981, West Edmonton Mall is the original megamall and is still the largest mall in North America. In addition to 800 stores, there’s a wave pool, a skating rink, a 13-screen movie/IMAX theater, the world’s largest indoor amusement park, a hotel, a casino, and numerous dining and nightlife options.
Underground City, Montréal
The subterranean counterpart to Minneapolis’ Skyway, Montréal’s Underground City (aka ‘RÉSO’) has blossomed from a lone underground shopping center in 1962 to the largest underground complex in the world. The 20 miles (32 kilometers) of tunnels connect 10 metro stations, 2 bus terminals, roughly 3,200 stores and business offices, 200 restaurants, residential units, banks, movie theatres, museums, hotels, two university campuses, and much more.
St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
St Peter’s is considered to be the greatest church in Christendom and though it is neither the Pope's official seat nor the primary basilica of Rome, it’s the principal church for Papal ceremonies. St Peter’s was consecrated in November 1626 after 120 years of construction and, with an area of 5.7 acres, has the largest interior of any Christian church. This extraordinary edifice is augmented by its sumptuous decorations and its dome which is, even now, one of the largest in the world and a primary feature of the Rome cityscape. St Peter’s contains a variety of remarkable sculptures, including Michelangelo's Pieta and the elaborate tombs of popes and other notable people, most notably, evidence suggests, the tomb of Saint Peter himself, located below the altar.
The Queen Mary 2
The largest ocean liner ever built is also currently the only regularly scheduled transatlantic ocean liner (New York to Southampton). The QM2 is 1,132 feet (345m) long, with 17 decks (13 are passenger decks), and carries up to 3,056 passengers and 1,253 crew. Among its many features, the QM2 has 15 restaurants/bars, five pools (one of them indoors), a casino, a ballroom, a theatre, and the world’s first on-ship planetarium. The QM2 moonlights in winter as a cruise ship, circumnavigating South America and, occasionally, the globe - an 81-day journey.