Featuring an alluring 19th-century cityscape, Paris is more than a global centre for art, fashion, gastronomy and culture (and home to the Eiffel Tower) – it’s retail heaven like no other!
After museums and monuments, shopping is next on the list for most visitors to Paris. And there is more to shopping in France’s capital than haute couture fashion, expensive perfumes and fine wine. You may also want to explore the old department stores with a long history, the vintage shops, chic boutiques and flea markets, stopping only for a cup of coffee at some of the most famous cafes in town with many of them located along quaint alleys. Follow us as we point you to some of the best shopping districts in the city where things don’t really have to be branded or expensive.
Louvre and Tuileries District
Fans of Paris design and fashion would invariably head to the Faubourg Saint-Honoré district, which is part of the Louvre-Tuileries neighbourhood. Almost all the top brand names can be found here, including Hermes, Miu Miu and Versace, among others. But you can also find smaller concept stores and trendy boutiques too. The boutiques are mostly lined along the arcades of the Palais Royal and some of the interesting items you can find there are art pieces, vintage jewellery, cosmetics, souvenirs and even home furnishings.
Boulevard Haussmann and the Grands Boulevards
Located just a short walk from Faubourg Saint-Honoré are the famous French department stores such as Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. At these stores you will find designer collections for men and women gathered under one roof, gourmet foods, jewellery and home furnishings, among others.
Other famous department stores around the area are Belle-Epoque Paris and the Opera Garnier. The mains streets to explore are Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Rue Saint-Honoré, Rue de la Paix and Place Vendome. During the year-end festive season, all these department stores will be decked out with lights, so don’t miss checking them out during winter.
Around the area, you can also find old alleyways (Les Arcades) such as Galerie Vivienne, Passage Jouffroy and Passage du Grand Cerf. Along these old alleys, you will discover boutique stores, antique and jewellery shops. The main streets to explore are Boulevard Haussmann and Place de la Madeleine.
If you are a fan of fine arts and antiques, head to the Marais historic quarter, especially along Place des Vosges where most of the shops are located. If you prefer cosmetics, jewellery and fragrances, walk along Rue des Francs-Bourgeois. The Marais area is also an ideal place to shop for high-quality French teas, chocolates and gourmet foods. Other items you can find in the area are designer fashions, books and home décor. Merci at the Marais, a trendy three-storey boutique with large spaces and a glass roof, is worth checking out for its wide range of fashionable items. The main streets to explore are Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, Place des Vosges, Rue de Turenne and Rue des Rosiers.
Avenue Montaigne and the Champs-Elysées
Often described as “the world’s most beautiful avenue” and copied around the world, Avenue des Champs-Elysées is a must-see in the city. The iconic avenue stretches two kilometres between the Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe and is lined with restaurants, nightclubs, luxury stores and boutiques featuring names like Guerlain, Louis Vuitton and Mont-Blanc, among many others.
Avenue Montaigne, located within the same area, has even more high fashion labels such as Chanel, Dior and Valentino, as well as jewellers like Bulgari and other upscale establishments. This street is considered the grande dame of French streets for high fashion and accessories, rivalling Saint Honoré.
The Saint-Germain-des-Prés historic quarter is among the swankier neighbourhoods in Paris famous for its book stores and cafés, including Café de Flore, Les Deux Magots, le Procope and the Brasserie Lipp. Located along the Seine River, the area is also an artistic hub with a concentration of some of the city’s most prestigious museums and art galleries, including the famed school of fine arts, École des Beaux-Arts. Main streets to explore in the area are Boulevard St-Germain, Rue de Seine, Rue de Rennes and Rue Bonaparte. If you are a foodie, don’t miss out the Grande Epicerie Gourmet Market at the historical Le Bon Marché department store. The market is a favourite place for famous chefs and wealthy Parisians.
Les Halles and Rue de Rivoli
If you head to the Metro Chatelet-Les Halles train station, you will come across a huge underground mall called “Le Forum des Halles” with 120 stores selling items ranging from clothes and fashion accessories to health and beauty products. Moviegoers will also love the mall because the cinemas there screen more than 30 movies daily. Les Halles (which means “the halls”) was formerly a fresh food market before it was demolished in 1971 and replaced by the shopping mall.
The Les Halles area is also popular among the younger group with many of them gathering at the cafes and restaurants. During summer, you will come across street artists, musicians and skateboarders.
Just a short distance from Les Halles is Rue de Rivoli, a famous shopping street with many shops, restaurants and cafes as well as historic buildings. The street is also very busy at most times and a good place for people-watching. As you walk nearer to the famous Louvre, you will come across art galleries and shops selling antiques. At the nearby Rue Montorgueil area are trendier boutique shops.
Saint-Ouen Flea Market
When you are tired of the luxury malls and chic boutiques, you may want to dig around the capital’s flea markets for some great bargains on antiques, vintage clothes, fashion accessories and other knick-knacks. The most famous and possibly the largest one is the Saint-Ouen flea market, located at the northern end of the city. There are smaller ones elsewhere around the city but do go on weekdays to avoid the crowd.
Parisians are known to dress fashionably while out on the streets and there is no excuse for being shabby even for those on a tight budget. If you are planning on visiting some of the upmarket establishments, luxury shops, cafes and restaurants, do dress up to blend in and avoid wearing casual jeans and tee-shirts to avoid stares or worse, get turned away.
When visiting crowded tourist areas and flea markets, do stay alert. Pickpockets are common and they target mostly tourists. If you need to carry a lot of cash, tuck them away at different places on your body, for example inside a body pouch underneath your shirt. That way, if your wallet is stolen, you will not lose everything. Better still, use credit cards.
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