Looking to do some one-stop shopping in Paris? Then look no further than the grands magasins of Paris for beauty, bags, bedding, books and beyond! Paris department stores offer a wide variety of choices under one roof, or sometimes three, as some stores extend into multiple buildings, but this allows you to get all your shopping done in one place. Where to go and why? Here’s a look at the Big 3.
Le Bon Marché
Some say Le Bon Marché is the granddaddy of all Parisian department stores. It’s smaller than the others but high end and oh so chic. Walking in, you’ll be greeted by luxury boutiques from Chanel and Dior, and continuing on you’ll find French names alongside international brands for men, women and children. For a shopping respite, sit down in the library to read a book or pick out your next one, or visit the top floor for a large selection of ribbons and buttons for your own couture project. If you’re looking for a new look from head to toe, enlist the services of an on-site stylist and get a facial or makeover, or have your hair done in the full-service salon.
Le Bon Marché is the only large, upscale store on the posh left bank, and it also tends to be the least crowded, so you have a little more elbow room to do your shopping. The architect responsible for the design of the building is Gustave Eiffel, who also designed the Eiffel Tower. The building was established in 1852 and has a nice mix of modern elegance and old-world charm.
Attached to Le Bon Marché is the food mecca La Grande Epicerie, where you can stock up on many hard-to-get international products as well as simply fabulous French finds. Take a break and have a meal here, or choose from the three other restaurants in Le Bon Marché.
Printemps needs three different buildings in its flagship store on Haussmann to house all the women’s, men’s and home items. With names like Prada, Marc Jacobs and Ladurée, it will feed any need you have. It also boasts the largest beauty department in the world, with every makeup brand and perfume you can whiff. The building dates back to 1865, and the facade is now registered as a historical monument. Printemps offers a lot of services, like a personal shopper and concierge. It will even hold your purchases for you if you want to come back later, or it can arrange to simply drop them off at your hotel for a totally hands-free day.
There are eight places to fuel up on food, including underneath the colorful Art Deco dome at Brasserie Printemps, or you can go to the ninth floor of the home store and enjoy a glass of champagne on the rooftop terrace while admiring the 360-degree view of Paris.
If you live outside the EU, you can also register online before your arrival and receive a 10 percent discount card to use on your purchases. Just remember to bring your card and passport when you’re ready to buy. Also keep in mind that most stores, including these department stores, will give you a 12 percent tax refund when you spend over 175 euros in one day at one of their stores, as long as you’re staying in France for less than six months. Each department store has a reception desk inside that will stamp your receipts and give you the information necessary to receive your refund.
Galeries Lafayette sits next to Printemps on Haussmann, making for a shopping lover’s hamlet. It, too, has three buildings for men, women and home, and it used to be the largest store in Europe, but Berlin just edged it out for top honors. A new shoe department gives you your pick of over 150 brands, from Jimmy Choo to Converse and everything in between. Pop by the in-store travel agency to plan your next trip, and then grab a seat to check out the latest clothing designs at the free fashion show every Friday at 3 p.m., but be sure to reserve a place in advance by sending an e-mail to [email protected] or calling 01 42 82 36 40.
Galeries Lafayette may be the most visually stunning of the three department stores. Its Belle Epoque architecture and multicolored glass-and-steel dome has earned it status as a World Heritage site. It is a must-see even if shopping isn’t on your agenda.
You’ll also find the largest, albeit self-proclaimed, souvenir shop in Paris on the sixth floor, where you can go beyond Eiffel Tower key chains and stock up on more unique items to take home. On the same floor you’ll find 3 of the 13 eateries in which to grab a bite. Foodies should be sure to visit Lafayette Gourmet on the first floor of the men’s store for a full gourmet food shop and extensive wine cellar, where you can sample, eat and drink new delicacies, or get a picnic and head up to the roof to admire the expansive Parisian view and all your new purchases.
A note on the soldes: By law, stores in Paris are only allowed to discount their wares twice a year at designated periods in January and July. The winter 2012 sale started on January 11 and runs until February 14, and if you go, you’ll find big savings but also big crowds. Go early, or go with patience and time and lots of luck, as not everything is on sale and the good stuff goes first.
Le Bon Marché
24, rue de Sèvres, in the 7th. 01 44 39 80 00.
Mon–Wed and Sat, 10 a.m.–8 p.m.; Thurs–Fri, 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; Sun, closed.
Metro: Sèvres–Babylone (lines 10, 12).
La Grande Epicerie
38, rue de Sèvres, in the 7th. 01 44 39 81 00.
Mon–Sat, 8:30 a.m.–9 p.m.
64, blvd Haussmann, in the 9th. 01 42 82 50 00.
Mon–Sat, 9:35 a.m.–8 p.m.; Thurs, 9:35 a.m.–10 p.m.
40, blvd Haussmann, in the 9th. 01 42 82 34 56.
Mon–Sat, 9:30 a.m.–7:30 p.m.; Thurs, 9:30 a.m.–9 p.m.
Metro: Chaussée d’Antin–La Fayette; RER: Auber.
Editor’s note: Try our shop ’til you drop trip of the Marais. Read more about the iPhone app and the downloadable walking trip.