Time well spent: where to shop in Paris
Shopping in Paris has been a grandiose affair since the 19th century when its famous grands magasins (department stores) opened on the grand boulevards. But what makes it so grand today is its brilliant mix of big stores, markets and boutiques specialising in everything from porcelain cats and delicate parasols to perfumed candles and haute couture hats.
Each arrondissement (neighbourhood) has its own style. Global chains and France’s flagship haute couture fashion houses pack the glitzy Champs-Élysées and chic Triangle d’Or (Golden Triangle) in the 8th arrondissement (8e). Bookshops such as Shakespeare & Company are the essence of the literary Latin Quarter, while flea market fiends swear by northern Paris’ gigantic Marché aux Puces St-Ouen.
Here's our rundown of the best shopping spots to spend your euros.
Casual wear and street fashion are at the heart of shopping in the cool Marais district in the 3e and 4e. Young designers congregate in the northern Marais around rue de Turenne and rue Charlot: secondhand vintage specialists Violette et Léonie and eco-conscious designer Valentine Gauthier are standouts. Fashionistas spend Saturdays strolling the boutiques of rue Vieille du Temple, home to handbag designers Jamin Puech and French Trotters, a multi-brand store known for high-quality fashion manufactured in small workshops, some local. Nearby is contemporary jewellery designer Samuel Coraux. Fashion tours led by handbag designer Kasia Dietz open the door to many more Marais designers.
Worth a lengthy browse are concept stores Broken Arm and Merci. The former is tiny, top end and touts a hipster cafe . The latter, in an old wallpaper factory, donates its profits to a Madagascan children’s charity and mixes eye-catching female fashion with quirky home and lifestyle goods such as mojito glasses and magnetic bicycle lights. A few doors down is Parisian pop fashion brand Leon & Harper.
Canal St-Martin & the 10th arrondissement
Snappy, off-beat boutiques is the new-found forte in these neighbourhoods. Rue Beaurepaire and rue de Marseille are key shopping streets. Bazartherapy is a cool neo-bazaar packed to the rafters – literally – with a mesmerising display of knick-knacks for every age, style and budget. Grab a paper cone and fill it up for one flat price. Fashion designer Liza Korn is here, as is local jeweller Marie Montaud at Medecine Douce, whose delicate bohemian designs in gold include a collection inspired by the street.
Trendy pop-up stores occasionally appear in Espace Beaurepaire. Concept store Centre Commercial is ideal for sustainable French-made fashion for men, women and the home. Its peppermint- and pine-perfumed mug candles, handmade in Paris, make beautiful gifts. Or browse the shelves of stylish homewares crafted by artisans and small producers at La Trésorerie. Down by the water, pillar-box red Artazart is one of the city’s finest art and design bookshops.
Louvre & Les Halles
Shopping in the 1er and 2e is classical and elegant. Mainstream chains and shops jostle for attention on rue de Rivoli, while Paris’ famous bouquinistes (antiquarian book sellers) fringe the river banks with their green box stalls as they did in the 16th century. But what really captivates is the stash of 19th-century covered arcades.
The regal galleries framing Jardin du Palais Royal squirrel away posh art galleries and designer boutiques in their arches: at Didier Ludot you'll find vintage haute couture creations. Nearby, Galerie Vivienne (4 rue des Petits Champs) is a historic passageway dating to 1826 with secondhand bookshops, a toy shop, a couple of clothes shops and a tearoom. Legrand Filles & Fils sells wine and all the accoutrements, and By Khol is a recent French maison for handmade scented candles set in Limoges porcelain.
St-Germain des Près
Across the Seine on the Left Bank, the northern wedge of the 6e and the Carré Rive Gauche in the neighbouring 7e are filled with art galleries and antiques shops. St-Germain’s natural style continues along the western half of bd St-Germain and rue du Bac with contemporary furniture, kitchen and design shops – and the dandiest umbrella shop around, Alexandra Sojfer.
Don't skip Le Bon Marché, Paris’ original department store built by Gustave Eiffel in 1852. Its food hall, La Grande Épicerie de Paris, is sublime and the tasting/making ateliers (workshops) it organises are foodie fabuleux. The same goes for luxury retail-therapy icon Hermès, famed for its signature silk scarves. Its flagship store stuns in a former art deco swimming pool with mosaic tiles and iron balustrades.
Concept store Gab & Jo is another outstanding address for exclusively French-made items from designers such as Marie-Jeanne de Grasse (scented candles), Marius Fabre (Marseille soaps), Germaine-des-Prés (lingerie), MILF (sunglasses) and Monsieur Marcel (t-shirts).
Need to know
- Opening hours: shops generally open between 10am and 7pm Monday to Saturday, with larger stores staying open later Thursday, and shops in defined 'tourist zones' trading on Sunday. Smaller shops often shut all day Monday and sometimes for a couple of hours at lunchtime.
- Les soldes (sales) usher in bargains galore twice a year: from around early January to mid-February (winter) and late June to early August (summer).
- Etiquette: say ‘Bonjour’ when entering a shop and avoid touching items when ‘looking’ - shopkeepers really don’t like it. If you’re happy browsing, tell the sales staff ‘Je regarde’ – ‘I’m just looking’. If you would like your item gift-wrapped, don’t hesitate to ask for ‘un paquet cadeau’ when paying – virtually every shop does it, both beautifully and for free.
- Items are impossible to exchange without the ticket de caisse (receipt).