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Paris Shopping: some initial recommendations
How much is your money worth?
Before you start spending your hard-earned cash on Paris goodies, it's a wise plan to get an idea of how much your dollar, pound or whatever is worth to the Euro (€). Use this currency converter to get the latest rate (close the new window to return): Travel Signposts Currency Converter
If you plan on going home wearing the latest French fashions, be sure you know your clothing size (la taille) and your shoe size (la pointure) in the European system. Check out equivalent Clothing
and shoe sizes
If you want a small souvenir of Paris for a workmate or neighbour, check out the bouquinistes along the banks of the Seine near the Pont Neuf (Ile de la Cité). These vendors have been setting up shop every morning both illegally and legally (since 1891) for centuries. There are just 250 licences now, and they lock up their little green stalls every evening.
Why bouquinistes? Because they once were nearly all used book (bouquin) dealers. Nowadays they not only sell antiquarian and used books but other old things, such as maps, stamps, posters and coins. You can also buy the usual tourist stuff: postcards, mini Eiffel Towers, mugs, coasters, key chains, etc., but it's still worth a trip, especially on a warm, sunny day…
Gourmet food has to be the archetypal French purchase or gift. If you're shopping for a gourmet, go to Fauchon (4-26-30 place de la Madeleine, Paris 8ème), where you can get gourmet anything. Or try La Grande Epicerie de Paris at 38 rue de Sèvres, just next to the department store Le Bon Marché (Metro Sèvres-Babylone); their exotic herbal teas and tins of marrons glacés (candied chestnuts) are pretty safe bets.
How about chocolate? Go to a chocolatier (a small artisanal or hand-made-chocolate store) for sinfully delicious chocolate treats, try Charles Chocolatier, 15 rue Montorgeuil (Metro/RER Les Halles). Hand-made, elegant chocolate bars (tablettes) for under 3 euros.
And of course, being France, wine and cheese are virtually compulsory purchases. There are over 400 varieties of French cheese, so drop into any fromagerie and buy a selection, go to a boulangerie for some baguettes, then pick up a nice bottle of red from a marchand du vin and wander off to a park or sit by the Seine and enjoy a picnic - bliss!
If you are in the market for the luxury items for which Paris is best known, then go to the Galeries Lafayette,
Printemps, or one of the other upscale department stores. Perfumes and cosmetics, designer silk scarves, Baccarat crystal or Limoges porcelain are the kind of things you might like to buy. Expect a wide range of prices depending on how expensive your tastes are. See our Shopping in Paris Department Stores page to find out where they are and how to get discounts.
Another inexpensive gift is scented soap (the French are big on perfumed things). Along with bathsalts, you can find them in just about any parapharmacie in Paris. These shops are where you buy all sorts of beauty and health care products, and the perfumed soap comes in a variety of fancy scents such as hazelnut, almond and water lily. Try the Parapharmacie du Forum des Halles, 305 Porte Lescot (Metro/RER Les Halles).
If you are really BCBG (Bon Chic, Bon Genre) in your taste, go to Place Vendôme, rue du Faubourg St-Honoré and avenue Montaigne in the 8th arrondissement to check out Cartier, Chanel, Christian Dior, Celine, Van Cleef & Arpels and Christian Lacroix, among other top houses and boutiques. Yves Saint Laurent (now without him, alas) is located in the 16th arrondissement, but these aren't the only Paris districts where you'll find the labels and luxury items, so don't limit yourself.
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