Shopping is an inseparable part of Parisian culture. Exploring the city via its vast open-air markets, specialty boutiques and grands magasins allows even the casual tourist to experience Paris as a true flâneur. Wander and admire the artfully crafted displays and indulge if you wish, but don’t feel obligated to make a purchase. Window shopping, or faire du lèche-vitrine (literally, “to go window licking”), is a popular—and affordable! — pastime of residents and visitors alike. Below is our list, far from comprehensive, of various shopping resources and tips for exploring Paris’s retail offerings.
The Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau maintains an extensive Shopping & Fashion section featuring an array of shopping destinations, from haute couture to second-hand sales. If you are visiting Paris in January or July, keep an eye out for les soldes, the semi-annual nationwide sales held to make room for incoming collections.
The Parisian grands magasins offer a seemingly endless variety of wares and can be wonderful places to purchase souvenirs or to spend a rainy day. Clothing, home decor, appliances, cosmetics, sporting goods and more can be found within their impressive walls, and in addition to these departments, most also have restaurants, beauty salons and free public restrooms. The most popular Parisian department stores include Le Bon Marché, Galeries Lafayettes, and Printemps. La Samaritaine, near the Pont Neuf, is scheduled to reopen in 2011. The smaller and less expensive Monoprix, a source of fashion bargains, also sells groceries. For locations and maps, consult the bottom of this page.
Marchés aux Puces
Finding affordable treasure in Paris is possible at the legendary Marchés aux Puces. The New York Times Frugal Traveler blog provides a glimpse into the famous Parisian flea markets and offers valuable insights for the prospective bargain hunter. A comprehensive list of the over 75 neighborhood markets in Paris, arranged by arrondissement, is available on the Mairie de Pariswebsite. A great place to start is the famous—and enormous—Puces de Saint-Ouen complex, located just outside the 18th arrondissement and accessible from either the Porte de Clignancourt (line 4) or Porte de Saint-Ouen (line 13) métro stops. Market hours are Saturday, Sunday and Monday, from approximately 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Serious shoppers should plan to arrive early.
Louvre des Antiquaires
In the Place du Palais Royal, across from the Musée du Louvre, is the Louvre des Antiquaires, a group of 250 antique and jewelry shops owned by individual dealers who offer rare collectables that make for an intriguing browsing experience. The museum-like halls of the Louvre des Antiquaires are open every day of the week, except for Mondays and Sundays in July and August.
Just across the river from the Center in Paris, just south of the Cours Saint-Emilion, Bercy Village is a charming network of 19th-Century wine warehouses, now converted into fashionable shops, bars and cafés that line the old cobblestone streets.
Vous cherchez quelque chose à lire? Browse the dark green wooden stalls of les bouquinistes, the now 250 booksellers who line the banks of the Seine in the Latin Quarter. In addition to books both old and new, vendors display vintage posters, records, postcards, stamps and some less desirable tourist trinkets. This centuries old tradition provides an entertaining browsing experience, and the determined shopper can be rewarded with rare finds not available in the major bookstores.
When shopping in Paris…
Keep in mind that while purchases are not obligatory, greeting your shopkeeper with a clear “Bonjour Monsieur” or “Bonjour Madame” and bidding “Au revoir” when leaving is common courtesy.
Remember that a VAT (Value Added Tax, TVA in French) is included in the price of everything sold. The French VAT is currently 19.6%, though the rate was recently reduced to 5.5% at restaurants. If you spend more than 175 euro in any one store, you may be able to apply for a tax refund.
You’ll notice that usual store hours are from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday, though small shops may not open on Monday mornings. On Sundays head to the flea markets; most other stores will be closed. Thursdays are the best bet for late night shopping, with many stores staying open until 10:00 p.m. August is a sleepy time in all of Paris, and many stores are closed for les grandes vacances.
Printemps (65 Blvd Haussman) is a complex that occupies each corner of the intersection of Rue Caumartin and Rue de Provence. The Havre Caumartin metro stop will take you right up to the southwest entrance to the store.
Galleries Lafayette (40 Blvd Haussman) is located just to the Northwest corner of the intersection where Blvd, Haussman, rue La Fayette, Avenue de la Chausséed’Antin, and Rue Halévy converge.
Le Bon Marché (24 Rue de Sèvre) is on the left bank, not far from Montparnasse at the corner of Rue de Sèvres and rue Velpeau, just a hundred meters or so southwest of the Sevre-Babylone Metro station.
Monoprix has dozens of stores throughout Paris, including one just a couple of blocks west of the University of Chicago Center in Paris. Monoprix-Tolbiac is located at the corner of Avenue de France and rue Primo Levi, just outside the elevator entrance to the Bibliothèque metro station. Click here for a map or to search for other Monoprix locations in Paris.