You name it, you’ll find it at the very best department stores in Paris. Whether you’re after a small gift or souvenir, an all-new outfit, or simply something pretty to spruce up your home, the glamorous likes of the Galeries Lafayette and Printemps can deliver. These brilliant Paris markets may be the place to head for bargains – and fresh food – but for big clothes brands, cosmetics, macaroons and pretty much everything else, nothing beats a grand magasin.
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Best department stores in Paris
The city’s oldest department store, opened in 1848, is also its most swish and user-friendly, thanks to an extensive redesign by LVMH. Luxury boutiques, Dior and Chanel among them, take pride of place on the ground floor; escalators designed by Andrée Putman take you up to the fashion floor, which has an excellent selection of global designer labels, from Lanvin to Claudie Pierlot. Designer names also abound in Balthazar, the prestigious men’s section.
This iconic store has been undergoing a massive renovation programme of late, with the opening of Espace Luxe on the first floor, featuring luxury prêt-à-porter and accessories and nine avant-garde designers. They also unveiled a vast new shoe department in the basement featuring some 150 brands. Overall, you’ll find 3,600 brands on the stands, covering clothes (Louis Vuitton, Dior, Céline, Chloé, APC), gastronomy (Alain Ducasse, Pierre Hermé, Angelina) and spirits (more than 2,500 bottles).
Unless you’re after a space suit or a pair of parabolic skis, you’ll find pretty much everything worth looking for at Le BHV Marais: high fashion, beds, trainers, door knobs, pressure cookers, vintage dresses, Campbell’s soup, oil paint, suitcases, cushions, gluten-free waffles, earrings, toys, hats, laptops, foie gras. (Breathe.) Detergent, foreign novels, coffee, sweets, washing machines, gourmet pastries, postcards, craft beer... You get the gist.
In the magnificently appointed Printemps you’ll find everything you didn’t even know you wanted... plus English-speaking assistants to help you find it. But fashion is where it really excels – in all, there are six floors of men’s and women’s couture, including entire storey dedicated to shoes. The beauty department alone stocks more than 200 brands.
Shoppers queuing in the rain for Marks and Spencer’s? Has the world gone mad? Is George Clooney giving away free luxury hampers? As odd as it may seem to Brits (for whom M&S is as about as exotic as its signature multi-packs of pants) lining up outside is business as usual for M&S since the chain opened its new flagship Paris store a little under a decade ago.
Still after a one-of-a-kind souvenir?
If you’re looking for a classy, time-worn curio to remind you of Paris across oceans and continents, you could do worse than a trip to one of its many brilliant flea markets. And for exquisitely fresh grub – admittedly slightly less transportable – there are also innumerable excellent food markets in Paris that can deliver.