"Temples of luxury"

Berlin (dpa) - A visit to Europe's major cities means for many travellers a chance to at least rub elbows with the world of luxury - in the form of a department store. For many, it is the luxury store with its caviar and jewellery and fashions that makes a visit memorable.

Here are four "temples of luxury" that go beyond the mall experience and shouldn't be missed:

KaDeWe: Its strange arrangement of letters stands in German for "Department Store of the West" and the KaDeWe is indeed a landmark of the western part of Berlin, dating back to the old imperial days of Kaiser Wilhelm.

It remains a major attraction for Berliners and out-of-towners alike. The array of luxuries on display speaks for itself - all the world's top designers and labels under one roof, from Gucci to Escada, Davidoff to Hermes, Cartier to Chloe, and many more.

The building has seen its better days and in fact, almost unnoticed by shoppers, is now undergoing a thorough renovation costing hundreds of millions. KaDeWe's slogan for its renovation effort: "Cities change - so do we."

HARRODS: Whether it be a box of hand-made chocolates costing over 10,000 dollars or a baby elephant like late US President Ronald Reagan once ordered for a convention of his Republican Party - the London department store Harrod's can make almost any wish come true.

Well, it no longer sells exotic animals, but its huge range of exclusive articles serves as a magnet for about 300,000 shoppers every day. In keeping with its Latin motto: Omnia, Omnibus, Ubique - Everything, for Everyone, Everywhere.

LA RINASCENTE: At La Rinascente in the European fashion capital of Milan, not surprisingly great emphasis is placed on elegance.

With its superb location - the piazza where Milan's famous cathedral is also located - the flagship department store of the La Rinascente group of 10 stores around Italy is a magnet for locals and tourists alike.

Behind a simple facade are located 14 levels featuring every luxury that the heart can desire. A gourmet supermarket, clothing from top Italian and international fashion designers, and the cosmetic articles and apparel accessories that dreams are made of.

GALERIES LAFAYETTE: Despite repeated terror attacks in France, visitors still throng to the Galeries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussmann in Paris. Management bases its planning on an expected 180,000 customers - per day. Expect high security inside.

The group, looking back on more than 120 years' tradition, remains family-owned. The founders were two cousins, Theophile Bader and Alphonse Kahn, who started a smaller haberdashery store in Rue La Fayette, then relocated it.