There are very few better shopping destinations in the world than Paris. It is a city where people come specifically to browse its shopping streets, which are filled with the finest merchandise available anywhere.
Be aware if planning a shopping trip to Paris that shops may close early or not open at all during France’s public holidays.
The guide below will give an idea of some of the main shopping areas and what you can expect to find there:
On the Right Bank (Rive Droite), the poshest areas for shops (as for hotels) are the 1er and 8e arrondissements, above the Louvre and the gardens of the Tuileries and Champs-Elysees. The beautiful Galerie Vivienne is just one of several delightful old-style shopping arcades which are a joy to explore. A couple of other fashionable arcades lie just south of the Place de la Madeleine. Many of the finest food stores are found in the 8e arrondissement. Foodies tend to head for Fauchon on Place de la Madeleine but nearby rival Hediard is just as good; epicures should thoroughly explore both delicatessens. You’ll also find many excellent specialist chocolate stores in the area.
The shops are trendier and quirkier in the Marais (4e) with clusters of specialist clothes and designer boutiques, together with many cutting-edge art galleries, notably around Place des Vosges. The Forum des Halles (1er), sandwiched between the Marais and the Palais-Royal quarters, offers more down-to-earth shopping pleasures; literally, as the stores are hidden below ground level in this lively mall.
On the Left Bank (Rive Gauche), the biggest density of luxury shops is to be found in the 6e and 7e arrondissements. The department store, Au Bon Marche, stretches either side of Rue du Bac, which marks the western frontier of major shopping territory on this side of the Seine. You should make time to check out the fabulous food hall, La Grande Epicerie, as well as the major fashion departments in the store.
For the really smart, individual boutiques, head for the streets around the church of St-Germain-des-Pres. Nowadays fashion beats religion hands down in this quarter and it’s the trendy rather than the pious that walk the streets around the church. A few minutes’ walk from St-Germain-des-Pres station, Rue de Rennes is a shoe lover’s paradise, with a great choice of stylish shoe shops, some more affordable than others. Unsurprisingly, you’ll find a plethora of art galleries showing works from very diverse trends in the streets around the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.
Reaching the Seine’s Southern Quays, Quai Voltaire boasts a very upmarket and expensive array of fine art and antiques dealers. You’ll also always find an array of the bouquinistes above the quays here with their green boxes of secondhand books, magazines and cards. A walk along the Southern Quays will take you to the Latin Quarter, traditionally linked with Paris intellectual life down the centuries, and a place where you’ll find large numbers of bookshops as well as cheaper clothes stores catering to students.
Galeries Lafayette is one of France’s most famous names and an enduring symbol of French style and sophistication. A visit to the venerable Parisian flagship store is a must for any discerning shopper on a trip to the city.
Rival to Lafayette, fashionable Printemps on Boulevard Haussmann in the 9e arrondissement (just above the Opera-Palais Garnier) occupies a particularly elegant building. The store first opened its doors in the 1870s; the 6th floor brasserie seems to hardly have changed since then. The fashionable garments for sale are definitely up to date however. Bon Marche (7e) is a slightly cheaper department store, good if you’re looking for a bargain.
If you enjoy flea markets, head out to some of the so-called Portes or gateways to central Paris. The best-known of these is Les Puces de St-Ouen, held Saturday, Sunday and Monday at Porte de Clignancourt. Another favourite, Les Puces de Montreuil, is held on the same days at Porte de Montreuil.
As to food markets, there are particularly wonderful ones on the Rive Gauche. The Buci market in Saint Germain is excellent even on Sunday, and Mouffetard at the northern end of Rue Mouffetard is well worth checking out. There’s a Marche Biologique or farmers’ organic market on Boulevard Raspail (6e) on Sunday mornings.
Also worth a browse is the daily flower market near Notre Dame Cathedral. Place Louis Lepine, Ile de la Cite (4e). Open: daily 08h00-19h00.
What to Buy:
Paris is fabled as a world fashion centre. On Rue du Faubourg St-Honore you might prefer to go window-shopping at the likes of Hermes, St-Laurent Rive Gauche or Pierre Cardin rather than actually buying. Incomparable Chanel is on Rue Cambon.
For discount high fashion, look out for depots-ventes: Anna Lowe on Avenue Matignon is the best-known name; or try Chercheminippes for family fashion. As with any fashion capital worth its salt, high-class accessories to match the clothes are also available on Paris’s shopping streets. Expensive designer jewellery stores jostle for prime spots around Place Vendome (1er).
Antiques shops and art galleries proliferate in central Paris. Yet again you can find very posh ones around the 8e and the 1er arrondissements, although you won’t secure any bargains. The Louvre des Antiquaires groups many fine antiques dealers together in a grand building just opposite the palatial museum.
French culinary traditions are still alive and well, despite European Union regulations that seem determined to standardise everything. All around the capital you’ll find superb boulangeries for French breads, fromageries for cheese, charcuteries for fabulously prepared pork and meat products, and patisseries for the best cakes in the world.
Everybody knows that wine is what the French do best so look out for caves à vin (wine cellars) throughout the city. Fine wines from Bordeaux, Champagne and any other French region you care to name are available even in Paris at a fraction of the cost that you’ll find them overseas.
Best of them all is fashionable Sephora on the Champs Elysees. A massive store it offers hundreds of top quality perfumes, fragrances and cosmetics at fabulous prices. Seats and magazines at the rear of the shop allow the menfolk to relax while the women browse the massive range available.