At the Grand Department Stores in Paris You Can Shop till you Drop:
If shopping is your passion, a visit to les Grands Magasins (the grand department stores) of Paris is a must.
Parisians are très chic and the department stores here carry all the latest in the fashion scene. The big stores stock most of the international brand names and there are some really nice designer stuff to be had in the shops.
Outside of the sales period, haute couture is rather outrageously priced, and one dare not even walk into those expensive boutiques along rue du Faubourg St-Honoré and avenue Montaigne in the 8th arrondissement as they are exclusive and make you feel excluded if you’re not armed with a Louis Vuitton bag full of money. This is why going into the department stores is great as here you can look to your heart’s content and not feel out of place.
So, if your desire is to look like a million dollars, but you don’t have the Euros to match, the sales season is a great time to hunt down those shopping bargains. These official sales periods are regulated by the government, and there are two major sales (les soldes) during the year, in January and June.
The big department stores slash 50-70% off many designer items and to compete for the shoppers’ money, other retailers are driven to follow suit. Stores like Printemps, Galeries Lafayette and Le Bon Marché provide tourists with 10% discount cards, and these are valid in the sales as well. In addition to the 10% discount, non-residents of the European Union are entitled to claim back the 19.6% tax you pay on your purchases at major shops (le détaxe), if during the day you spend Euro 175 in one store, which is not hard really. If you have a lot of different things to buy, you are definitely better off shopping in a department store where you can get the tax refund. So, as you can see, the ‘savings’ are building up already!
As you make your way to Boulevard Haussman, all signs point to Les Grands Magasins. Chaussée d’Antin – La Fayette, the station on Line 7 and Line 9 of the Paris Métro takes you right to Galeries Lafayette.
This grand Parisien department store is a must visit. Its history goes back 118 years and it’s the most famous and spectacular of Parisien department stores. Here you’ll find nine floors of brand names like Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Lacroix, Thierry Mugler, Armani, Chanel, John Galliano, Prada, Sonia Rykiel, etc., and if you’re lucky, you might also see some just-as-famous shoppers in the store.
Galaries Lafayette’s main Haussmann store is believed to be just as visited as the Eiffel Tower. With approximately 120 million visitors each year, it is considered to be the leading shopping centre of Europe. Wait till you see its fabulous Art Nouveau glass domes. Looking down at the layers and layers of luxury goods, you get a sense of being in fashion paradise.
La Terrasse Lafayette
Lafayette Gourmet caters for the gastronomical needs of clients and visitors and you’ll find all kinds of gourmet foods here. You can taste the finest foie gras, caviar, pastries and flavours from all over the world. Even if you’re not looking to buy any food, it’s an eye opener and very educational to see the range of mouth-watering goods that can be bought here. If seeing all that food makes you hungry, there are several restaurants on the various floors where you can re-energize. We had a nice lunch at La Terrasse des Galeries, a rooftop cafe with excellent views of the city. Tony had the cheese plate and the cheese was just how the French know to serve cheese – in excellent condition! From here you can also see the famous glass dome.
Down from Lafayette, at No. 64 Boulevard Haussman is Le Printemps, yet another upmarket Parisien department store. You can shop till you drop here, but before you get to that stage, you can refuel at one of the store’s seven catering outlets which offer anything from a quick snack to more substantial fare. Deli-Cieux, a restaurant on the 9th floor offers light and original grilled and stir-fried dishes so you can dine and enjoy the great panoramic views.
C et A
This store is also on Boulevard Haussman, If you don’t find anything that meets your budget in Galeries Lafayette or Printemps, and if you have any energy left, then look in this store which is more in the budget range.