One of the earliest examples of public shopping areas comes from ancient Rome, in forums where shopping markets were located. One of the earliest public shopping centers is Trajan's Market in Rome located in Trajan's Forum. Trajan's Market was probably built around 100-110 CE by Apollodorus of Damascus, and it is thought to be the world's oldest shopping center – a forerunner of today's shopping mall. The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul was built in the 15th century and is still one of the largest covered shopping centers in the world, with more than 58 streets and 4,000 shops. Numerous other covered shopping arcades, such as the 19th-century Al-Hamidiyah Souq in Damascus, Syria, might also be considered as precursors to the present-day shopping mall.
Isfahan's Grand Bazaar, which is largely covered, dates from the 10th century. The 10-kilometer-long, covered Tehran's Grand Bazaar also has a lengthy history. The oldest continuously occupied shopping mall in the world is likely to be the Chester Rows. Dating back at least to the 13th century, these covered walkways housed shops, with storage and accommodation for traders on various levels. Different rows specialized in different goods, such as 'Bakers Row' or 'Fleshmongers Row'.
Gostiny Dvor in St. Petersburg, which opened in 1785, may be regarded as one of the first purposely-built mall-type shopping complexes, as it consisted of more than 100 shops covering an area of over 53,000 m2 (570,000 sq ft).
The Marché des Enfants Rouges in Paris opened in 1628 and still runs today. The Oxford Covered Market in Oxford, England opened in 1774 and still runs today.
The Passage du Caire was opened in Paris in 1798.
The Burlington Arcade in London was opened in 1819. The Arcade in Providence, Rhode Island introduced the retail arcade concept to the United States in 1828 and is arguably the oldest "shopping mall" in the country. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, Italy followed in the 1870s and is closer to large modern malls in spaciousness. Other large cities created arcades and shopping centers in the late 19th century and early 20th century, including the Cleveland Arcade, and Moscow's GUM, which opened in 1890. When the Cleveland Arcade opened in 1890, it was among the first indoor shopping arcades in the US, and like its European counterparts, was an architectural triumph. Two sides of the arcade had 1,600 panes of glass set in iron framing and is a prime example of Victorian architecture. Sydney's Queen Victoria Markets Building, opened in 1898, was also an ambitious architectural project.