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Centre Pompidou: check. Place des Vosges: been there. Notre-Dame: done it. You may have explored every attraction, nook and cranny of the historical centre of Paris, there’s yet another spot you might want to add to your shortlist: LE BHV MARAIS, a 45 000 square meters Aladdin’s cave, set bang in the heart of the capital, a mere hop away from the city’s Hôtel de Ville. Completely redesigned since summer 2014, the century-old department store now prides itself on being Parisians’ favourite grand magasin - and with reason. Unless you’re after a space suit or a pair of parabolic skis, you will find pretty much anything that can be bought in this nifty yet convenient multi-specialist emporium – from Gucci suits to designer chairs and cans of Campbell’s soup. With 870 different brands and a fierce appetite for pop-up stores, workshops (including cooking classes provided by three-star chef Alain Ducasse’s crew) and events of all shapes and sizes (next on the list: an Independence Day extravaganza*), the spanking new LE BHV MARAIS definitely knows how to translate “shopping spree” into “French art de vivre”.
In other words, gone are the days when Parisians only set foot in the late Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville to grab a light bulb or get their annual fill of DIY equipment. Although LE BHV MARAIS still boasts an impressive range of tools, hardware, kitchenware, tableware and arts & crafts material, interior decoration (Pomax, Cath Kidston, Madura…) and fashion now rank high in the store’s priorities. Only here, in the eight-storey main building of rue de Rivoli, can madame choose from a finely balanced cocktail of brands, ranging from top-notch high-street stuff like ba&sh, The Kooples, Sandro, Sessu’n, MO&CO, Kate Spade, Paul’s Boutique, Freee People or Princesse Tam-Tam, to swanky Armani and Ted Baker apparel and understated classics such as Dhery or Gérard Darel. It’s also the only place in the country where you’ll come across Anthropologie in the flesh, and one of the lucky few Topshop and Urban Outfitters retailers of Paris. And while the missus delves into what’s in and what’s hot, monsieur can do more than babysit coat holders or skim through the towering offer of designer lamps, door knobs, books and delicatessen. Now comfortably set in the hearts and wallets of the fashionista Marais crowd, LE BHV MARAIS has opened a five-storey menswear store on rue de la Verrerie, complete with street wear, footwear, accessories, high-street fashion and a courtyard to relax, sip fresh juices and nibble gluten-free waffles. Four slick boutiques have also sprouted on rue des Archives, housing Gucci, Givenchy, Fendi, Moncler (and Valentino in the near future).
Shoppers overwhelmed by the abundance of design, bib and tucker can refer to a personal shopping service (provided by Tiphaine & Co), which comes with tips from professional stylists and a cosy VIP lounge. Other services and treats include free express deliveries to hotels across Paris, -10% discount cards for foreign visitors and a -12% tax refund for non-Europeans. All the more reason to wander through those Parisian-chic-clad isles, fill up on tarte au citron at La Pâtisserie des Rêves, swallow a sushi or two at Le Paris Tokyo, treat your hands to a manicure at the Kure Bazaar nail bar and head up to the rooftop terrace, to enjoy a glass of rosé afterhours and a view on Hôtel de Ville, the Seine, the Eiffel Tower and Tour Saint-Jacques. Whether you’re just looking for an umbrella as you stroll through the Marais, or whether you’re set on buying a whole new wardrobe, there’s enough here to keep everyone happy. Everyone except, perhaps, your banker.
LE BHV MARAIS
55 rue de la Verrerie, Paris (4th)
Metro Hôtel de Ville (Lines 1 & 11)
Open Mon-Sat 9:30am to 8pm, open until 9pm on Wednesdays