Paris has it all: broad boulevards lined with international chains, luxury avenues studded with designer fashion houses, famous grands magasins (department stores) and fabulous markets. But the real charm lies in strolling the city's backstreets, where tiny speciality shops and quirky boutiques selling everything from strawberry-scented wellington boots to heavenly fragranced candles are wedged between cafes, galleries and churches.
Fashion shopping is Paris’ forte. Yet although its well-groomed residents make the city at times look and feel like a giant catwalk, fashion here is about style and quality first and foremost, rather than status or brand names.
Although tickets for Paris’ high-profile haute couture and prêt-à-porter fashion shows are like hens' teeth, you can still see some runway action: reserve ahead to attend free fashion shows at Galeries Lafayette.
Dressing for Less
Parisian fashion doesn’t have to break the bank: there are fantastic bargains at secondhand and vintage boutiques (generally, the more upmarket the area, the better quality the cast-offs), along with outlet shops selling previous seasons’ collections, surpluses and seconds by name-brand designers.
Dating from the 19th century, Paris’ glass-roofed passages couverts (covered passages) were the precursors to shopping malls and are treasure chests of small, exquisite boutiques. Beautifully preserved arcades include Paris' oldest, Passage des Panoramas, dating from 1800.
Nowhere encapsulates Paris’ village atmosphere more than its markets. Not simply places to shop, the city’s street markets are social gatherings for the entire neighbourhood, and visiting one will give you a true appreciation of Parisian life.
Nearly every little quarter has its own street market at least once a week (never Monday) where tarpaulin-topped trestle tables bow beneath fresh, cooked and preserved delicacies. Marchés biologiques (organic markets) are increasingly sprouting up across the city. Many street markets also sell clothes, accessories, homewares and more. Markets in Paris' more multicultural neighbourhoods are filled with the flavours and aromas of continents beyond Europe.
Bric-a-brac, antiques, retro clothing, jewellery, cheap brand-name clothing, footwear, African carvings, DVDs and electronic items and much more are laid out at the city’s flea markets. Watch out for pickpockets!
The website https://meslieux.paris.fr/marches lists every market by arrondissement, including speciality markets such as flower markets.
Food, wine and tea shops make for mouthwatering shopping. Pastries might not keep, but items you can take home (customs regulations permitting) include light-as-air macarons, chocolates, jams, preserves and, of course, fabulous French cheeses. Many of the best fromageries (cheese shops) can provide vacuum packing.
Art, Antiques & Homewares
From venerable antique dealers to edgy art galleries, there's a wealth of places in this artistic city to browse and buy one-off conversation pieces and collectibles.
Paris also has a trove of design shops selling colourful, quirky homewares to brighten your living and/or working environment.
Paris has it all: broad boulevards lined with flagship fashion houses and international labels, famous grands magasins (department stores) and fabulous markets. But the real charm of Parisian shopping lies in strolling the backstreets, where tiny speciality shops and quirky boutiques sell everything from strawberry-scented wellington boots to heavenly fragranced candles.
Fashion is Paris’ forte. Browse haute couture creations in the Étoile and Champs-Élysées neighbourhood, particularly within the Triangle d’Or (Golden Triangle). For original street wear and vintage gear, head for Le Marais, particularly the Haut Marais. Small boutiques fill St-Germain’s chic streets. You’ll also find adorable children’s wear and accessories. Parisian fashion doesn’t have to break the bank: there are fantastic bargains at secondhand and vintage boutiques, along with outlet shops selling previous seasons’ collections, surpluses and seconds by top-line designers.
But fashion is just the beginning. Paris is an exquisite treasure chest of gourmet food (including cheeses, macarons and foie gras), wine, tea, books, beautiful stationery, art, art supplies, antiques and collectables. Ask for un paquet cadeau – free (and very beautiful) gift wrapping, offered by most shops.
Unique Shopping Experiences
- Passages couverts Paris’ 19th-century glass-roofed covered passages were the precursors to shopping malls.
- Flea markets Lose yourself in the maze of marchés (markets) at the enormous Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen.
- Street markets Scores of colourful street markets take place every week.
- Grands magasins One-stop department-store shopping in resplendent art nouveau surrounds.
Need to Know
Generally, shops open 10am to 7pm Monday to Saturday. Smaller shops may shut on Monday and/or close from around noon to 2pm for lunch. Larger stores hold nocturnes (late-night shopping), usually on Thursday, until around 10pm. Shops in ZTIs (international tourist zones, eg Le Marais) open late and on Sundays.
Paris’ twice-yearly soldes (sales) generally last five to six weeks, starting around mid-January and again around mid-June.
Non-EU residents may be eligible for a TVA (taxe sur la valeur ajoutée; value-added tax) refund.
Top Shopping Tips
- Ring the bell to access ultraexclusive designer boutiques.
- Head to a cabine d’essayage (fitting room), or check sizes at www.onlineconversion.com/clothing.
- Most shops offer free (and very beautiful) gift wrapping – ask for un paquet cadeau.
- A ticket de caisse (receipt) is essential for returning/exchanging an item (within one month of purchase).
- If you’re happy browsing, tell sales staff ‘Je regarde’ – ‘I’m just looking’.
- Bargaining is only acceptable at flea markets.
- In smaller, exclusive shops, shopkeepers may not appreciate your touching the merchandise until invited to do so.
For authentic distinctive and/or nostalgic souvenirs, visit the City of Paris' Paris Rendez-Vous boutique or online store (http://boutique.paris.fr), which ships worldwide.
At major museums, the Boutiques de Musées (www.boutiquesdemusees.fr) have high-quality replicas and a digital painting-and-frame service: browse masterpieces, choose a frame style and have it mailed to your home.