Paris Shopping – Bonjour retail nirvana!
Forget culinary sojourns in the French countryside, scenic tours of the Seine and crowd-filled tourist traps, you’re in Paris and you’re here to shop. From shoes to books, home wares, fashionable threads and absurdly inane knick-knacks, Paris is a virtual wonderland of retail delight. Whether you’re after an off-the-rack bargain, an organic creation from a local artisan or a one-of-a-kind piece to impress your friends back home, Paris has it all.
3rd & 4th arrondissement
From hipster cafes selling carefully curated clothing and quirky lifestyle items (like handmade cutting boards and design books) to converted factories spruiking anything and everything from vintage furniture to eye-catching fashion and limited-edition local wares, the Marais district is a wondrous melting pot of must-haves.
Fossick for retro bargains and medieval trinkets beneath the arched passageways of the picture-perfect Village St-Paul (a closely guarded secret of antique dealers and collectors), before meandering through the sublime art galleries tucked beneath the arches of the Place des Vosges.
Place des Vosges
If you’re after more practical items, take a trip to BHV for floors and floors of hardware-type stuff from bags of cork for wine making to bibs and bobs like doorknobs and light bulbs. An electronic section downstairs has all types of voltage converters (helpful if you’ve left home without it) and there’s an art supplies section on the first floor if you’re keen to do a spot of impressionist painting whilst abroad.
Heading north, neighbourhoods like Canal St-Martin, herald snappy off-beat boutiques that spring up like irises after a Parisian shower and in key shopping hubs like Rue Beaurepaire and Rue de Marseille you’ll find neo-bazaars packed to the rafters with knick-knacks. Emerging fashion designers and arty types call this neck of the woods home, as do local jewellers offering delicate pieces perfect for the bohemian connoisseur.
Trendy pop-up ‘concept’ stores are also the go here, offering a range of items including sustainable fashion pieces and stylish home wares (like sublimely scented hand-made candles) crafted by local artisans. Head towards the waterfront for some of the city’s finest art and design bookshops, then mosey on over to the Rue de Paradis for a great selection of discount china, crystal and silver.
1st & 2nd arrondissements
Head southwest and an elegant Parisian shopping experience awaits, where antiquarian book sellers and mainstream chains jostle for attention on the Rue Rivoli. A historical passageway dating back to 1826, Galerie Vivienne is a whirlwind of toy stores, tearooms and captivating retailers selling (amongst other things) fine wines and all the accompaniments.
What used to be Paris’ main market selling produce for fine-dining restaurants, Forum des Halles has been transformed into a multi-level shopping centre, featuring large, trendy chains and small boutiques. And if you’ve plans for a perfectly Parisian home-cooked meal, head to the market street of Rue Montorgueil, where’ll you find a haze of bakeries, flower stalls and local businesses offering fresh produce and melt-in-the-mouth cheeses.
Travel to the north of the Tuileries Gardens and you’re in fancy pants territory, with a swathe of fashionable labels emerging before you hit Place Vendôme, which has the city’s highest density of gemstones per square metre. Time for a new rock!
You’ll also find the Passage des Panoramas in the second arrondissement, which intersects with a number of other arcades creating a rabbit warren of bookstores and collector’s shops (coins, stamps and the like). And across the street, Passage Jouffroy is lined with more dusty-cornered establishments filled with dollhouses, figurines and cinema memorabilia.
8th & 9th arrondissements
Further west, stroll around the Place de la Madeleine with its wonderfully neoclassical views and streets lined with elegant outlets, shoe shops and gourmet food halls, then follow Rue Tronchet towards mega department stores, Printemps and Galeries Lafayette, for a metaphorical taste of anything and everything Parisian.
Soldier onto Monoprix (France’s answer to Target) for a massive range of foodie things, skincare, hardware, clothing and household items, then traipse the Champs Elysées for retailers like Zara, Sephora (a French cosmetic chain stocking over 300 brands) and a gaggle at the Louis Vuitton flagship store (even if it’s just to drool).
5th & 6th arrondissements
Heading south, you’ll hit the elegant St-Germain des Prés and the lively Latin Quarter and in these districts you’ll encounter a distinctly avant-garde, younger style. Lined with beautiful Parisian buildings, the Boulevard Saint Germain is full to the brim with fashion outlets, furniture and home décor retailers and gourmet food vendors. Concept stores also abound here, selling everything from T-shirts and sunnies to hand-made soaps and lingerie.
Radiating east, you’ll discover a network of streets, ranging from the bargain-oriented Rue St-Placide to shoe heaven on Rue de Rennes, nestled amid a host of fascinating bookstores. Cheap and cheerful is the name of the game here.
Head for the Left Bank to discover the world’s first department store, Bon Marché, for some cutting edge fashion and if you’re a true-blue gourmand, you can’t miss Le Grande Epicerie, a wonderful smorgasbord of palette-pleasing foods – from French delicacies to exotic fare from all over the world. It’s the perfect place to round up a few souvenirs for the folks back home.
The market street of Rue Cler has dozens of charming charcuteries, fruit sellers and bakeries and Rue de Bac houses hopelessly expensive designer shops (but it’s nice to dream). Here you can practice the French art of ‘faire du leche-vitrine’. That translates to the charmingly accurate phrase of ‘to lick the windows’.
14th & 15th arrondissements
Further out and for a slightly less understated range of retailers, stop off at the Rue du Commerce, for a gander at L’Occitane, Esprit, Zara, H&M, Kookaï, Gap and Marionnaud (great for discount perfumes).
And for decorating buffs, Rue d’Alésia has a variety of antique and furniture consignment stores where you can pick up everything from antique armoires to chandeliers.
And finally, if you aspire to be the next Coco Chanel or Agnès B, make the trek to the Saint Pierre Fabric Market, which is located just below the Sacre Coeur Basilica in Montmartre. One of the world’s largest fabric retailers, this is a veritable Alibaba’s cave for seamsters with five floors (and 2500 square metres) of captivating sewing delights.