Paris Shopping Tips: Treat Yourself to a (Mindful) Shopping Spree

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Paris Shopping Tips: Treat Yourself to a (Mindful) Shopping Spree
If you’re traveling to the City of Light, perhaps it’s prime time to re-think the word “souvenir.” In French, it means “memory,” but too often, globe trekkers associate the word solely with “trinket.” Not that there’s a thing wrong with that, says this card-carrying souvenir hunter. It’s Paris after all, where the wooing stops for no one. But why not consider crafting the kind of magic retail moment that really will leave a lasting memory? Like, for example, booking a front row seat at a Galeries Lafayette fashion show? Or buying a pair of gold bellbottoms directly from an indie designer in the shadow of Sacré-Cœur? Or like recharging your inner-boogie with the purchase of a Marie Antoinette bougie at Trudon, the oldest candle company in Paris? The mind squeals at the possibilities. With planning It is possible to have it all: to get that “Made in Paris” treasure you’ve coveted and come home with a story to tell. Focusing not so much on the thing as on the journey, i.e., on the experience of the visit itself, here are a few basic tips for some mindful shopping. And with all budgets covered, no one gets left behind. Note, though: I feature what I, myself, fancy. If I haven’t included your favorite shop, do let me know. I’ll check it out and may keep it in mind for a future piece like this. Feel free to ask questions, too. I’m always happy to help. Now, let’s tally forth.  1. Be prepared First, consider your basic shopping tool kit: fancy day-to-night sneakers, water bottle, pre-cut moleskin, chocolate (for energy), gum, eye drops, Métro tickets, maps with targeted shops circled, and coins for WCs. And don’t forget an oversized bag for your treasures. Most French grocery store chains and department stores sell them for just a few cents. Lightweight and good-looking, they make perfect souvenirs, too. 2. Plan of Action Having a “quest” in mind always helps, since visualization helps narrow your hunt while increasing your chances of actually finding the object of your desire. What’s missing from your closet? Repetto ballet slippers? Trench coat? Both are timeless French classics, and quite souvenir-worthy. Covet nautical wear? Lingerie? Longchamp? Parapluies? Grab a pen, and create a wish list. My two cents Now, during your actual shopping excursion, instead of lots of cheaper items I recommend splurging on a just a few high quality statement pieces (though stay within your budget!) that will last for years. Keep your eyes wide open for those “Made in France” or “Made in Paris” tags. Yes, shop local, and support both up-and-coming and well-established indie designers. I’ll show you how. In fact, this is exactly how I now roll. Recently at Le BHV Marais, I found the love of my life: an over-sized khaki-colored canvas trench coat by designer Quynh Bui and century-old La Redoute. The collaboration was inspired by the 1849 Gold Rush in San Francisco—a city once dubbed the “Paris of the Pacific” due to its large French population. Price? Fifty euros. A lifetime of compliments and boasting? Priceless. 3. Where to start? Shake those jetlag blues away with a gentle browse through one of the 19th century grand magasins. Here you’ll not only find architectural traces from the past, but also comfort lounges, free Wi-Fi, and beaucoup cafés, loos, and rooftops with views. Holly Golightly may have had her breakfast at Tiffany’s, but whenever I need an mood lift, nothing else will do quite like a shiny Paris department store. Here’s the deal: Paris still has four flagship department stores (these in fact, were among the world’s first). Le Bon Marché, Printemps, and Galeries Lafayette are located along the Métro 12 line, while Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville (Le BHV Marais) sits next to the Hôtel de Ville (naturally). While it’s possible to visit all four on one day, try to resist; I insist. It’s better to pick one or two and savor the experience. Remember what I said about enjoying the journey vs. acquiring the thing? Hives of activity Besides being crammed with nearly every desirable object a shopper could possibly want, these palaces offer behind-the-scene tours, art exhibitions, window displays, fitness challenges, cooking classes, DYI workshops, and interactive pop-up ateliers throughout the year. Tip: The events are extremely popular, so register before you leave home. For available program dates and times, visit the store websites. I recommend Galeries Lafayette’s weekly in-store…

Lead photo credit : Why not craft the kind of 24-karat magic retail moment that really will leave a lasting memory? Rooftop at Galeries Lafayette at sunset (Photo by Theadora Brack)

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Theadora is a Paris-based writer who has a regular column, called “My Life in Paris," in France Today magazine.


  • Anne
    2020-02-08 06:09:05
    Hello Theadora - I hope you have found my favourite restaurant in Montmartre, Le Progres. It was featured in the film "Before Sunset' with the wonderful Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. I go there whenever I'm in Montmartre and their pumpkin soup is the best although not always on the menu. Everything else is also tasty modern/traditional French food. Bon apitite, Anne


  • Shilo
    2020-02-01 18:31:34
    Love this! Great inspiration for my trip in March!


  • Ellen A.
    2020-02-01 04:12:28
    Ellen A.
    What a great article! I'm sending a link to all friends who will be visiting Paris this year. Especially appreciate the Montmartre suggestions for smaller boutiques with something special.


  • Hazel Smith
    2020-01-31 16:11:13
    Hazel Smith
    Great ideas. I bought a pair of pink satin sneakers last time I was there. I also like that the model in the top photo is not teeny-tiny.


  • Carrie
    2020-01-31 05:04:37
    Thank you for all this wonderful information. I get stuck at BHV and Galleries. I have loved them for years. I want to support independent designers. And the tips on extracurricular activities is so helpful. I live in England and have many friends who come to visit. I spend as much time in Paris as I can, and so it will be lovely to treat my friends to your finds. I very much like Sept Cinque outside of Les Halles. Small, but Parisian artistes. The customer service is wonderful, especially for a long time customer. I so enjoy your magazine, and if I can’t in the moment be in Paris, besides talking daily on the phone with my friends in Paris, you’re the next best thing. Merci ☮️