Why does everything – from pastries to clothes, jewelry and home furnishings – just look better in a Paris window?
Parisians have a knack for display and presentation. They’ve been doing it for centuries. Here, appearances are everything, but that’s only one of the reasons why window shopping is practically a national pastime. French people do a great deal of window shopping – it’s a way of comparing styles, quality, and prices before deciding to make a purchase. Some Parisians wait to see which fads become instant flops and which fads integrate well into streetwear. And some keep an eye on a desired item until one of the big sale seasons in Paris.
>> For more about the sale seasons, be sure to read our Guide to the Annual Sale Periods in Paris
But window shopping – and, indeed, actual shopping – isn’t just for the people of Paris. Plenty of visitors show up in Paris each year with an empty (or nearly empty) suitcase, just waiting to be stuffed with treasures purchased along the Champs-Elysees or in the Galeries Lafayette. Whether you’re looking for something in particular or are simply browsing until something fabulous catches your eye, Paris can be a shopper’s dream.
Unfortunately, shopping in Paris can also be an expensive diversion. It doesn’t have to be, but unless you know what to look for you’re likely going to be steered in the same direction as anyone else asking about “Paris shopping” – which are the most high-end shops. Pretty to look at, not so fun when you get your credit card bill.
In this article, you’ll find a few tips about shopping in Paris on a budget, and also some general Paris shopping advice regardless of how much you’re planning to spend.
Souvenir Shopping in Paris
For many people, the only goodies you’re planning to bring home are souvenirs to remind you of your trip to Paris – although you’ll likely indulge in some window shopping along the fancy boulevards (and who can blame you?). So if it’s just a miniature Eiffel Tower or a beret you’re looking for, here are some tips about souvenir shopping in Paris:
- Montmartre‘s Place du Tertre is full of souvenir shops, many of which are open in the evenings and on Sundays, making souvenir shopping easy.
- After touring Notre Dame Cathedral, cross the bridge to Paris’ Left Bank to visit souvenir shops adjacent to the Cathedral.
- Even if you don’t read French, a stroll along the book stands that line both banks of the Seine (“les bouquinistes” in French) might yield a unique and very Parisian souvenir.
- Don’t miss the Champs-Elysees passages which often include souvenir shops (but don’t be surprised if the prices are higher there).
- Looking for that mini-Eiffel Tower? They’re plentiful around – you guessed it – the Eiffel Tower. (Fun side note? There’s even a post office on the Eiffel Tower from which you can send postcards to friends.)
- Monoprix (see “Paris Shopping on a Budget” below for more details) has a small souvenir section, and there’s one on the Champs-Elysees.
- Another department store with a souvenir section is the Galeries Lafayette – it’s located on the 6th floor.
- If it’s children’s clothing or toys you’re after, head for Rue Vavin after a visit to the nearby Luxembourg Gardens.
Shopping in Paris Flea Markets
There are lots of flea markets in Paris, and you don’t have to be an antique-hunter to enjoy browsing through them. You’ll also find all manner of clothing, shoes, household items, and random trinkets that – if they seem Parisian enough to you – might just help you remember your trip once you’ve put it in a place of honor back home.
There are three big flea markets in Paris, all of which are outside the road that circles the city center – so you definitely have to be headed for one of them on purpose. You’re not likely to stumble on one by accident. But anyone who enjoys looking for treasures or finds shopping to be an adventure will surely appreciate the variety (and often the deals) available at Paris flea markets.
>> More information about the flea markets in Paris, including how to get there & shopping tips
Shopping in Paris Food Markets
Food isn’t likely to be something you’re planning to bring home (and if you’re thinking about it, be sure to read up on what you’re legally allowed to bring back into your country – you certainly don’t want to spend hard-earned cash on a beautiful French cheese or sausage only to have it confiscated at customs!), but you can absolutely enjoy shopping in Paris’ food markets and food shops while you’re in the city. Whether it’s just to make a picnic lunch or to pick up a snack, a visit to Paris’ food shops is also a great way to learn about French foods you might want to seek out when you’re at home.
There are big chain supermarkets in France just as there are in other parts of the world, but for a more old-school experience visit specialty shops that sell only one or two things. And for the best prices, find out when and where the open-air food markets in Paris are held.
Paris Shopping Neighborhoods
This is Paris we’re talking about, so you’ll find shopping opportunities just about everywhere. But there are parts of the city that are better-known for their shopping – they’re listed below, along with a few favorite spots worth sharing and the Metro stops you’ll need for each.
Shopping on the Right Bank
- For luxury & designer clothing – Champs Elysees, Avenue Montaigne, Faubourg St. Honore, Rue St. Honore (Metro: Charles de Gaulle Etoile, George V, Franklin Roosevelt, Champs Elysees)
- For designer discounted womens’ wear – Miss Griffes at 15 rue Penthievre (Metro: Miromesnil)
- For great window shopping – Place Vendome, Rue de Rivoli arcade, Rue Cambon (Metro: Concorde)
- For boutiques the locals love – Place Victor Hugo, Boulevard Victor Hugo (Metro: Victor Hugo, Boissier)
- For department stores – Galleries Lafayette, Printemps, Grands Boulevards, north of the Garnier Opera House (Metro: Havre-Caumartin)
- For trendy boutiques, jewelry, & bead shops – Marais neighborhood (Metro: St. Paul)
- For Daum glassware – BHV Bazaar Hotel de Ville (Metro: Hotel de Ville)
- For more upscale shopping – Rue Etienne-Marcel, Place des Victoires, Passage Vivienne (Metro: Bourse)
Shopping on the Left Bank
- For designer shops – Boulevard Saint-Germain, Rue de Grenelle, Rue du Cherche Midi, Rue du Four (Metro: St. Germain des Pres)
- For department stores – Au Bon Marche (Rue du Bac, Rue du Cherche Midi), Galeries Lafayette (Centre Commerciale Gare Montparnasse) (Metro: Montparnasse)
- For chain shops like H&M, Mango, & inexpensive shoe stores – Rue de Rennes (Metro: Montparnasse, Rennes, St. Germain des Pres, St. Sulpice)
- For discount shops like Stock & Degriffe – Rue Alesia (Metro: Alesia)
- For childrens’ clothing – Rue Vavin (near Luxembourg Gardens) (Metro: Vavin) More information on cool French kids’ clothes
Paris Shopping on a Budget
Not all shopping in Paris has to be the kind you’d need a trust fund for. After all, Parisians like a bargain as much as anyone. So if you’re on a limited budget and you still want to be able to smugly say, “Oh, this? I picked it up the last time I was in Paris,” when someone asks where you got that fetching bag, then this is the part to pay attention to.
- For true shoppers, there’s no shopping in Paris without the “Paris Pas Cher,” or “Inexpensive Paris” guidebook.
- Monoprix is roughly the equivalent of Target in the US – it’s an inexpensive chain. But it’s still French.
- You can buy more than a subway ticket in the subway – you can also pick up scarves, handbags, and T-shirts in Metro stations at typically very low prices. Just be aware that you’re usually buying knock-offs, not the real thing.
- Flea markets in Paris (see the point above) are great places to scope out those real “finds” every shopper dreams about. They may take more dedication, but it can be so worth it.
- There are consignment shops (AKA second-hand shops) in Paris, and if you find one in a particularly chic neighborhood you’re more likely to find the cast-offs there are designer labels. They’re not new, but you can sometimes find excellent deals. More information on Parisgirl’s favorite consignment shops in Paris
- There’s a great deal of information on this article about cheap clothing stores in Paris, from what parts of the city to look in to specific store names to seek out.
>> Also don’t forget that there are English bookstores in Paris, too, if you need some reading material for your trip home!
photo by manuel | MC