Unusual and Under the Radar: Paris Shopping for the Discerning

   2618  
Unusual and Under the Radar: Paris Shopping for the Discerning

Did you know that the post-Christmas sales in Paris have an actual start and end date? In 2023, the winter sale season started at 8 a.m. on January 11 and runs until February 7. Mandated by law and taking place twice a year, les soldes are an extravaganza of deals and bargains. However, if you’re sated from the holiday season and would rather skip the flurry of soldes, these rather obscure Paris shops and emporia will appeal to your esoteric side. Paris is so much more than that cashmere sweater. Browse in any one of these cleverly curated shops and treat yourself to different experience.

Deyrolle

Part of France’s cultural heritage, Deyrolle is a cabinet of curiosities, almost 200 years old, where the inquisitive can buy a stuffed peacock for €3,000, or a butterfly preserved under glass for €70. Found under Deyrolle’s high ceilings is a menagerie of zoological specimens of every sort, for sale and for loan: lions, leopards, monkeys, and birds. Also for sale are fossils, minerals, and meteorites, plus books, educational games, botanical and zoological charts. Depending on your taste, Deyrolle is either awesome or unsettling, but the curious continue to be intrigued by the shop.

46 rue du Bac, 7th

More butterflies and beetles can be purchased at Nature et Passion, a tiny 20th arrondissement shop for in-person shopping only.

2 rue Dupont de l’Eure, 20th

Maison du Pastel

The Maison du Pastel, the oldest pastel manufacturer in the world, dating back to the mid-1700s, is a visual feast. Today their Roché pastels are still made entirely by hand – some bear the finger marks of their maker. Each sample is imbued with history. In their rainbow inventory there are over 1800 luminous, and subtly gradated shades – choose wisely. You’ll be rubbing shoulders  – and oil pastels! – with some of the world’s greatest artist; Degas, Redon, Whistler and Vuillard have all shopped here. The shop is only open late Thursday afternoons, but they have a wonderful website. Good luck. The Maison du Pastel is found in the cobbled courtyard at 20 rue Rambuteau, 3rd.

Tombées du Camion

It’s bric-a-brac to the max at Tombées du Camion, whose name literally translates to “fell off a truck.” Crates of objects come from old pharmacy batches, deadstock, and surplus goods originating from jewelry wholesalers, lighting warehouses, sign makers and toy factories. Their crazy, kaleidoscopic array can be slightly macabre; think rusty pharmaceutical tins, dolls’ heads, and discarded glass eyes. There are 3D letters and XXX posters to create wall art of one’s own. A small trinket can be bought for as little as five or six euros. Located inside the famous Puces de Paris Saint-Ouen, specifically at the Marché de Vernaison, 99 rue Rosiers, Saint Ouen.

L’Objet Qui Parle

The window displays at L’Objet Qui Parle at 86 rue des Martyrs in the 18th arrondissement weave a mid-century fairy tale to draw customers into their teeny-tiny shop. Inside is an inventory of carefully curated contents, which includes wonders such as puppets, wonky art, bottles with pretend magical elixirs, Chinese paper lanterns, wallpaper, birdcages, painted skittles and rolling wooden toys.

Le Petit Prince

At 8, Rue Grégoire de Tours in the 6th is a shop that is completely devoted to Le Petit Prince, a favorite fictional character worldwide. There are collectible figurines, marinières with the Little Prince on the patch pocket, stuffies, games, cups and saucers, and a whole lot more featuring Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s charming and inquisitive boy.

Les Drapeaux de France

For over 70 years, Les Drapeaux de France has been selling small-scale figures and tin-soldiers from their boutique in the gardens of the Palais Royal. They have more than 30,000 items available. It’s one of the largest collections of tin soldiers in the world but they also offer knights, circus performers, and characters from Alice in Wonderland all in miniature.

Place Colette, 1st arrondissement

Ultramod

Nearby, at 4 rue Choiseul in the 2nd, is Ultramod. To my English ear, that means “really new” but it doesn’t mean that at all; Ultramod, dating from 1832, is really old. Today Ultramod’s two shops are located in what was once known as the milliner’s district of Palais Royal. To this day, Ultramod sells a delightful spectrum of notions and accessories for sewing and embroidery. Among the silk and velvet ribbon is a selection of passementerie to trim and swag just about anything, from hats, drapes and clothes. They have an inventory of over 30,000 buttons. Its décor remains largely unchanged. Display cases once belonging to the Cartier-Bresson family are still utilized by the shop.

Pour Vos Beaux Yeux

AKA, For Your Eyes Only. Pour Vos Beaux Yeux, located in one of Paris’s covered passageways, is an optician with a difference. They have a selection of vintage designer never-before-worn glasses frames and sunglasses ranging from 1900 to Elton John’s heyday. They have an ever-changing inventory, so you should drop in for a look-see.

10 Passage du Grand Cerf, 2nd

Clair de Rêve  

Another place for spectacles, but not specs, is Clair de Rêve, a toyshop that will also create fantastical animatronic displays. Their winter fables are often seen in Paris’s Christmas vitrines. Their shop is peopled with handcrafted dolls, marionettes and hand puppets, unique automatons, and windup theaters and Montgolfière balloons. The creation of marionettes and automated toys was once site-specific to the 4th arrondissement and Clair de Rêve is found  in the heart of the historic Île Saint-Louis. Behind the scenes, they work on the restoration of the automates you might find at the Musée des arts Forains or the Musée des automates à Falaise in Normandy. Their name means Dreamy Light.

35 rue de Saint-Louis-en-L’Ile, 4th

L’eau et les Rêves

Encore de rêves. Moored in the Canal de l’Ourcq, this floating bookstore/café named L’Eau et les Rêves or “Water and Dreams,” has an inevitable nautical theme. L’Eau et les Rêves is replete with portholes, mermaids and old maps. This barge-bouquiniste has wooden stalls on the upper deck for borrowing or buying second hand books.  While l’Eau et les Rêves is a treasure trove of volumes on seafaring and maritime escapades, it’s still a mainstream bookshop with new titles. Their café offers snacks, juices, wine and cocktails.

9 Quai de l’Oise, 19th

La Maison du Roy

This shop in the Passage Jouffroy touts that it was the favorite shop of Marie Antoinette. Despite this fantastical bluster, I do know the shop has a regal, gilded, 18th-century vibe, with lots of baubles, beads, and embroidery. They offer artistic creations, adornments for the house, special decorations for Christmas and Easter. The shop is curated with an eye so you can create your own tasteful Paris apartment. Not everything costs a king’s ransom. Have a peek at the exquisite pompons, passementerie and Venetian masks, even wigs!  Now you’re ready for Versailles. It really is a splendid shop in a splendid destination.

24, passage Jouffroy, 9th

Cire Trudon

Cire Trudon has been making exceptional candles since 1643. Today they’ve added home fragrances and perfume to their repertoire. Cire Trudon is the world’s oldest active candle maker, so if you spring for one of their aromatic wax creations you’ll be buying a little piece of history.

78 rue de Seine, 6th

Musée de la Poste

A less-than-obvious destination is the boutique in the Musée de le Poste. This large and modern shop offers stamps, postcards, stationery, globes, postbox coin banks, replica planes, trains and automobiles that have delivered your mail over the years. There are fashionable La Poste courier bags plus fine art books and books about the history of the French postal service.

34 Boulevard de Vaugirard, 15th

Librairie de la Halle Saint-Pierre

One of the most striking bookshops in Paris is at the Halle Saint-Pierre exhibition space, and is almost as surprising as the museum itself. The museum, housed in a converted iron and glass market, displays all kinds of unusual and popular contemporary art. The bookshop in this soaring space sells volumes on art and literature which often push artistic boundaries.

2 rue Ronsard, 18th

L’Artisanat Monastique

There is a living, working monastery in Paris, the Monastère de la Visitation on Avenue Denfert-Rochereau. At the monastery’s store, they sell Chartreuse, Christmas crèches, candles and just about everything in between. All the products are made at one of 300 other monasteries throughout France. They have a surprisingly large range of products and their prices are extremely reasonable. (Read Loui Franke’s in-depth article here.)

68 bis, avenue Denfert Rochereau, 14th

Herboristerie de la Place Clichy 

Opened in 1880, this is the oldest and most famous herbalist in Paris or even France. The decoration is magnificently Belle Époque. Pharmaceutical amphorae and rows of paper pouches reveal a  selection of arcane aromatic plants and flowers. The staff is au courant with the 900+ dried herbs, essential oils, tinctures and roots and what they can do for you. Perhaps New Year’s detox? Their mixtures are probably more preventative than curative.

87 rue d’Amsterdam, 8th

courtesy of the Herboristerie de la Place Clichy

La Tuile à Loup

Situated near the rue Mouffetard, La Tuile à Loup showcases France’s finest handmade tableware. Whether sophisticated or rustic, every single bowl, dish, or plate is unique. A wide range of colorful designs are displayed; over its nearly 50-year history, La Tuile à Loup has commissioned works from traditional artisans in diverse regions around the country. Our favorite? Ceramics with a swirly, marbled glaze effect, reminiscent of the end papers of an antique book. A tuile à loup is the wolf tile, the tile on medieval rooftops whose whistle foretold a change in the weather.

35 rue Daubenton, 5th

Lead photo credit : "Two-color afternoon." at the Serge Lutens boutique in front of the Palais-Royal gardens. Photo: soomness/ Flickr

More in Cire Trudon, Clair de Rêve, Deyrolle, Herboristerie de la Place Clichy, L’Artisanat Monastique, L’eau et les Rêves, L'Objet qui parle, La Maison du Roy, La Tuile à Loup, Le Petit Prince, Les Drapeaux de France, Librairie de la Halle Saint-Pierre, Maison du Pastel, Musée de la Poste, Nature et Passion, Pour Vos Beaux Yeux, shopping in Paris, Tombées du Camion, Ultramod

Previous Article A Literary Feast for Bibliophiles: Lesser Known Bookstores in Paris
Next Article 6 of the Best Cabaret Shows in Paris


A freelance writer and amateur historian, Hazel knew she wanted to focus on the lives of French artists and femme fatales after an epiphany at the Musée d'Orsay. A life-long learner, she is a recent graduate of Art History from the University of Toronto. Now she is searching for a real-life art history mystery to solve.