A Department Store Dilemma: How to Choose?

Shopping in Paris usually conjures up ideas of darling little boutiques and sprawling flea markets, places that afford discovery and personal triumphs such as, “I know this fantastic shop in the 4th that you just have to go to” or “this old thing? I picked it up the last time I was in Paris.” Whereas boutiques make their “discoverers” feel like trendy pioneers, department stores seem like a cultural copout. But then again, where else can you experience the whole spectrum of Parisian goods in one place? Stores like Printemps, Galleries Lafayette, and Le Bon Marché have it all, from caviar to Christian Lacroix, le Creuset cookware to Cartier. You could easily spend three days lapping up luxury at all three stores. But if you simply must choose, pick

Printemps, for luxury threads and luxury home items

© Soma

This 146 year old homage to style has everything from fine linens to Dior gowns. With a 5 story men’s store, a 7 story women’s store, and a 9 story home store, it is safe to say that if it exists and it is fashionable, it’s at Printemps. The lingerie boudoir alone fills an entire floor, with everything from floor length La Perla night gowns to vampy  Agent Provocateur “playsuits” . The artful window displays here (and also at Galleries Lafayette) are worthy of a visit of their own.

Galeries Lafayette, for gourmet delicacies

Located next door to Printemps, at Galleries Lafayette you’ll find cuisine from around the world as well as an extensive wine selection. Shop for artisanal cheeses and fine chocolate, or dine on Petrossian caviar or cured Iberian ham at one of the mini-restaurants scattered throughout the floor. Don’t miss the rainbow of exotic spices on your way out!

Or, le Bon Marché, for a little bit of everything

Founded in 1838 as a small boutique, today le Bon Marché encompasses nearly two blocks on the left bank. The first building houses men and women’s high-end fashion and accessories while the second is home to Le Grand Epicerie de Paris. This department is best known for its wide array of hard-to-find international products and, my personal favorite, foie gras sandwiches. Don’t forget to check out the floor above the Grand Epicerie for a hipper and younger selection of women’s fashion with labels like Étoile by Isabel Marant, Vanessa Bruno Athe, and See by Chloé.

Tip: Get the VAT back! When making a purchase of 175€ or more ask for a special VAT (value added tax) receipt which entitles you to 12% off your purchase to be reimbursed to you upon leaving France. Make sure you bring your passport with you while you’re shopping, as you will have to fill out a short form at the store.


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