|Department Stores in Paris, France|
|Paris is known for shopping, fashion, and food, and you can find all three at the wonderful Paris department stores.|
Whether you're looking for something you forgot to bring on your trip or hoping to expand your wardrobe with some Paris fashions, you'll find plenty of shopping opportunities in Paris. In addition to the markets, the covered passageways, and the flea markets, there are several fine department stores to choose from.
The newest addition to the Paris department store scene is the recently re-opened Samaritaine, just off the Pont Neuf on the Right Bank (map). Ernest Cognacq and his wife Marie-Louise Jaÿ (also of the Cognacq-Jay Museum), had run a small store in the area since the early 1870s. In the early 1900s, Cognacq commissioned a large building in the Art Nouveau style. In the 1920s a different architect renovated the building in the Art Deco style, but the lavish Art Nouveau interior remains.
For years Samaritaine shoppers crowded the store, until it was closed for safety reasons in 2005. Acquired by the LVMH (Louis Vuitton-Moêt-Hennessy) group, the building underwent extensive renovations, reopening in 2021. It focuses on the luxury market, with designer names throughout and prices to match. Whether you want to shop there or not, it is well worth a visit to see the beautiful decor, particularly the staircases, the glass dome, and the art nouveau painting and iron works.
Like the other stores, it has a variety of dining options, on the upper level.
Printemps Haussman occupies three buildings, one devoted to women's clothing and accessories, the second focusing on men's wear and food, and the third on children and beauty products. The women's store has lots of trendy clothes and accessories, as well as a huge selection of shoes. The men's store offers designer items as well as casual wear and shoes. Both stores have recently added a swimwear section.
These stores offer much more than shopping, and in particular wonderful eating experiences and some great views of Paris.
In the men's store/Printemps du Goût, you can eat outside on the terrace at the 9th floor Restaurant Perruche. If you don't want to eat at the restaurant, however, it's still worth a trip to the 9th floor to enjoy the views of the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, the Madeleine, and Opéra Garnier, and more. Although the viewing area is quite small, you can usually find a place at the rail.
The 7th and 8th floors of this Printemps building are devoted to food: restaurants, markets, gourmet groceries, wines and spirits, and plenty of things to snack on or take home.
Just down the block is the Galeries Lafayette, another large and well-known department store. Like Printemps, it also has a lovely stained glass dome in the main building, called Lafayette Coupole. You can see it from the ground floor and also from the galeries on the first several floors. (there are several Galeries Lafayette buildings, so be sure to go in the building marked coupole, at the corner of rue de Mogedor or rue de la chaussée d'Antin.)
The Coupole building includes women's fashions and accessories, children's clothing, and shoes, as well as books, jewelry, and cosmetics. The men's building, which is connected via a walkway, has men's clothing and also is home to various food offerings and a gourmet shop.
Galeries Lafayette offers a number of culinary experiences. My favorite is the "cafeteria" on the 6th floor. In this informal setting you can choose from salads and entrées, hot dishes, sandwiches, desserts, and more. You can also have the fun of serving yourself a glass or carafe of wine from the automatic machine ("The wine is always at the perfect temperature," the proud employee told me. And it was!). Food in hand, find yourself a table, preferably one with a view of the Eiffel Tower or other monument.
Galeries Lafayette has also opened up its roof, which provides excellent views of the area. On the roof you'll also find Créatures, which despite its name is a vegetarian restaurant.
Le Bon Marché
Le Bon Marché sits on the Left Bank, on the rue de Sèvres in the 7th arrondissement (map). Like its "cousins" Printemps and Galeries Lafayette, it occupies a lovely 19th century building, this one designed by Gustave Eiffel, he of tower fame. It's worth it to visit just to see the building, which features a number of beautiful glass ceilings and graceful escalators. Decor is important here, and changing themes keep things fresh.
Bon Marché features all the top fashion designers and is a popular shopping spot for those in the nearby area of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. But it is perhaps best known for La Grande Épicerie, or gourmet store. Housed in a separate building accessible by walkway, this foodie's delight has everything from cheeses and meats to chocolates and delicate cookies. You can spend a long time wandering through the various departments and admiring the beautiful presentations of fine French food items. The basement (level -1) houses an extensive wine cellar.
And of course, like the other stores, Bon Marché/La Grande Épicerie offer a variety of restaurants. I enjoyed a delicious lunch at La Table, a French restaurant in the Grande Épicerie building. Other options include an Italian restaurant, a pizzeria, a coffee shop, and the Rose Bakery, a tea room with a long history and excellent reputation.
In the Marais and just across from the Hôtel de Ville on rue de Rivoli, you'll find the large BHV, or Bazar de l'Hôtel de Ville (map). Note that the name was officially changed from BHV to BHV Marais in 2012, following renovations.
BHV offers everything from hardward to clothing, from books to home decoration, from toys to food and kitchen equipment. If you're lacking some travel need, chances are you'll find it here. There are also departments that cater to bricoleurs, or do-it-yourselfers, so if you're looking to repair something, start here.
BHV's character leans more to the practical. You'll find less fancy decor here than in the other stores, and simpler structures and displays. But a lot of useful items, and even some self service check out spots.
And of course if you're hungry, just head to the 5th floor for plenty of options. Big Fernand, Mariette, even Artisan de la Truffe (3rd floor), where everything has truffles. Les Tables Perchées is a large area where you can choose from among fish, meat, or vegetable dishes and take them to your table in an informal atmosphere.
BHV also runs a number of specialty shops in the area.
You may be used to department stores in other countries, but French department stores certainly offer some new experiences. They are also wonderful places to visit at Christmas time, with their lavish decorations.