An American in Paris part 5: Shopping in the French capital

FIGO's President, Dr Jeanne Conry, lives in Paris, France, six months of every year. An American in Paris is a special blog series from Dr Conry that explores the highlights of Paris as a destination for the FIGO 2023 World Congress. The fifth blog of the series highlights Dr Conry's main suggestions for shopping in Paris.

American in Paris - Part 5

Paris has the most incredible opportunities for shopping and shopping enjoyment so, how can I write a blog series without referencing shopping opportunities? There are the many neighborhoods and are special locations in each Arrondisement. I am going to describe shopping experiences in Paris along three themes:  the flea market (and that term is an extreme misnomer), the incredible Parisian department stores and vintage shops. 

First stop: the Saint Ouen flea market

Les Puces de Saint Ouen are incredible and an unmissable spot for anyone who enjoys furniture, jewelry and antiques. If you can, I recommend taking a taxi to the centre of the market, as this is where the real gems can be found. The Tourist Information Center at 124, rue des Rosiers, 93400 Saint-Ouen is a good place to start your visit. Once in the centre of the market, you will find beautiful furniture, from Napolean era desks and tables to incredible fireplaces. Of course, you may not be able to take these items back with you, but it is really fun to wander.  One of my favorite spots specializes in Chanel jewelry. It is a fun way to spend a couple hours on the weekend.

Discovering iconic Parisian department stores

La Samaritaine is a marvel that reopened in 2021 after years of refurbishing. It was founded in 1870 as a small boutique and eventually became a major shopping destination in Paris. I love its Art Nouveau building: it is worth a visit to enjoy the floral patterns and the unique appearance. It is now home to many of the luxury brands, and is on Rue de Rivoli, near the Louvre and Notre Dame. Often the store will follow particular themes at different times, so it is an enjoyable and new experience every time. You must travel all the way to the top floor just to enjoy the video showing the Seine and surrounding areas—while enjoying shopping on the way up!

The Bazar de l'Hôtel-de-Ville (BHV), in the Marais, is located across the street from the Hotel de Ville, close to Notre Dame. This department store winds gracefully through seven floors, with everything in fashion, food, home needs, and the practicality of home repair! If you are looking for souvenirs to bring back home, they have a great French tourism section. If you want to buy some new styles, you can have a look at the myriad of designers organised across many floors. The BHV has existed for over 160 years, but the upgrades and expansion are great. There is a separate Men’s store just across the street. 

The Printemps and Galeries Lafayette, located on the Boulevard Haussman, are spectacular year round, but cannot be beat with their seasonal decorations and sheer elegance. They are located near Opera Garnier, so consider taking a tour of the Opera and staying for shopping. Even if you are not intending to shop, the breathtaking setting of the “Belle Epoque” architecture in the Galeries Lafayette is worth a visit.  Standing on the first floor looking up at the center Cupola, with its beautiful stained glass, is an exquisite moment. The food choices in these stores are great, and they are both wonderful spots for gifts.

Vintage shopping in Paris

If you encounter a “brocante” (secondhand market) while visiting, it is well worth a look! Brocantes are fun to visit, with outdoor vendors that line several blocks, and locations vary each weekend. If you are lucky, you will find incredible vintage pieces from the best Paris fashion houses: Dior, Hermes and the like.

Remember that Paris is the fashion capital of the world, so it is not surprising that vintage shops would have great fashion!  In every part of Paris, there are vintage stores that deserve a look if you have time. Some websites have lists of “Best Vintage” stores, but I think the wandering and hunting for special pieces is more fun. Just go explore on your own and see what you find!

Some additional suggestions…

Generally, the Marais and Saint Germain are both great neighborhoods with many choices and an opportunity to wander and enjoy a variety of shops. You can easily take a metro, wander and get a nice meal in both of these areas of the city. Saint Germain is upscale, while the Marais is more varied.

Paris is also famous for its perfumery and it is definitely something to look into. Someone once told me that every woman should have a custom perfume from Paris. Personally, I think I am too intimidated and would have no idea where to start with making my own fragrance! However, I have certainly enjoyed the Fragonard Perfume Museum. Maybe one day I will follow the advice of having a personal perfume designed. If you are interested in doing this yourself, there are many options across the city.

So there it is—enjoy your shopping!

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