The Budget-Minded Traveler: Cheap Shopping in Paris

  • 01 of 06

    Style on a Budget: 5 Havens for Discounts in the City of Light

    Shopping in Paris
    ••• Ignacio BernalFlickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

    As one of the world's fashion capitals, you'd expect to find at least a few good budget shops and designer outlet stores in Paris. Parisians know that finding the perfect pair of slacks from a discount designer shop or antique lamp from a flea market is tout un art-- a genuine art. Particularly if you're visiting Paris on a limited and strict budget, make sure to bookmark this page for great ideas on cheap shopping opportunities in the city.

    Read related: Top Shopping Districts in Paris 

    When we say "cheap", though, we don't necessarily mean that quality has to be taken out of the equation. Locals pride themselves on finding fine clothes or home items for next to nothing. Read on for just a few of their secrets.

    Continue to 2 of 6 below.
  • 02 of 06

    Vide-greniers (Attic Sales)

    Attic sales are popular in Paris.
    ••• Vide-greniers, or "attic sales" are popular throughout Paris and its surrounding region. Ville de Neuilly

    The epitome of bargain shopping has to be yard sales. While you won’t find any front yards in the middle of Paris, the French do have their own version of getting rid of old household items: vide-greniers – literally, “emptying the attic.”

    Often taking over several blocks in designated neighborhoods, vide-greniers feature secondhand clothing direct from the merchant, from very used to practically new. Those motivated to dig will certainly reap rewards, often scoring brand-name items for a fraction of the original price – don’t be afraid to bargain here. 

    Check this website for a listing of local vide-greniers. Simply select “75-Paris,” then click on your desired Paris arrondissement to find dates and times.

    Continue to 3 of 6 below.
  • 03 of 06

    Summer and Winter Sales

    Annual sales in Paris, France
    ••• Annual summer and winter sales in Paris represent an excellent way to snag deals citywide. Francois Durand/Stringer/Getty Images

    Twice a year, stores in France slash the prices of a majority of their off-season clothing and open the doors to swarms of eager shoppers. Every January and July, as much as 75% is taken off retail items, for a month of bargain hunting in most stores in the country (home furnishings, books, antiques and any number of items go on sale in addition to clothing).

    One word of warning-- make sure get to shops fast. French people mean business, and if you wait until the end of the month to pick up that coveted peacoat or swimsuit, there is a good chance your size will be gone. The benefit of waiting it out, however, is getting the really cheap prices. Read more about the annual sales in Paris sales here.

    Continue to 4 of 6 below.
  • 04 of 06

    Vintage Shops in Paris

    ••• GoldyMama

    Next up in our guide to cheap shopping? The hallowed vintage store. There are dozens of such shops in Paris – far too many to name here. The easiest place to start is by visiting three neighborhoods where you’ll find a plethora of quality vintage items on sale.

    In Montmartre, right behind the Abbesses metro station, Chine Machine stands apart as being one of the few vintage shops in the area with a dynamite customer service and appropriately priced, funky clothes for women. Near Hotel de Ville and the Centre Pompidou is another top spot for loads of vintage shops. Free’P’Star offers a no-fuss, decently-priced selection (jeans, shirts and shoes for 10-20 euros, belts and scarves between 1 and 3 euros) and has three locations, all within walking distance from one another. Around metro Jacques Bonsergent, you’ll find another cluster of great vintage stores. Start with Frip Sape, which offers low prices and a treasure trove of secondhand goods, including a nice selection of leather boots....MORE Once you’ve tackled these vintage havens, you’re ready to break out towards the individual retro gems. GoldyMama offers higher-end pieces from the likes of Chanel and Jean-Paul Gaultier, as well as run-of-the-mill street fashion. Stepping into this tiny boutique is like going back in time, where a friendly staff will help when you need it, but leave you to happily shop when you don’t.

    Kookai Stock

    Kookai ready-to-wear boutiques offer some of women’s fashion’s most up-to-the-minute trends, but prices can be a bit steep for the average shopper, at least outside of sales season. Here at its outlet store, you’ll find those stylish wears for around half the price of the boutiques – with items from last season or surplus stock from the latest collection. While some outlet shops in Paris sell defective pieces or out-of-date styles, Kookai Outlet is definitely a diamond in the rough.

    Address: 82 rue Réaumur, 2nd arrondissement
    Tel: +33 (0)1 45 08 93 69
    Metro: Réaumur-Sebastopol, Sentier, Strasbourg-Saint-Denis
    Visit the official website

    Also see our guide to the best concept shops in Paris, some of which carry high-quality vintage items. These don't generally come cheap, but again, if you take advantage of sales season in summer and winter you can snag good deals. 

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Trendy Global Chains

    Trendy global chains like H&M can be reliable spots for deals in Paris.
    ••• Trendy global chains like H&M can be reliable spots for deals in Paris. Kay-Paris Fernandes/Fashion Window/Getty

    If you’re not really into rifling through bins of secondhand clothing or last year’s fashions, check out global fashion chains such as Zara, H&M, and Promod for year-round, low-end prices on the latest styles. While each store has its own slightly different style, they all have sections for trendy, casual or professional wear, and all of the collections at these global chains are inspired by runway trends.

    Where to find them: You'll find at least one branch of these chains in most of the major Paris shopping districts, especially on Rue de Rivoli (1st and 4th arrondissements), at the Forum des Halles, on the Champs-Elysees and at these three popular shopping malls in Paris

    In addition to the familiar stores mentioned above, I especially recommend you check out these popular French and global chains:

    Uniqlo: Japanese Chic, for Cheap

    In such a fashion-conscious city as Paris, even tourists may feel the pull to wear the latest trends. The Japanese chain is a perfect way to get the...MORE styles of the moment for less than in some of the smaller boutiques featuring local designers. For men and women, the printed t-shirts are especially fun, as well as some of the basics, like trousers and summer wear. The main location is in close reach of some of Paris' top department stores, too, making it convenient for an afternoon of shopping.

    Petit Bateau: Not Just for Les Enfants

    This beloved French chain is not just for children anymore. Locals love Petit Bateau for its classic lines, unquestionable quality and unbeatable prices-- especially during sales season. While the variety for adults is nowhere near what it is for the younger ilk, there is still much in the way of t-shirts, sweaters and other basics that will make you feel oh-so-French. If you’re looking for the classic Parisian long-sleeved shirt in white with navy blue stripes, there is no better place to find it than here. There are several locations around Paris-- visit the website to find one near where you're staying.

    Andre Stock: For Shoes

    If you like a good bargain, there’s nothing more satisfying than getting quality shoes for less. Shoe prices in Paris are notoriously high for the quality, so no shopper should feel guilty about looking for a deal. Andre offers good quality for moderate prices, and here at its outlet store, you’ll find last season’s shoes for much less. As far as selection goes, the styles are constantly changing, so you might need to come twice or three times before finding something that fits your style. But make no mistake – “outlet” in this sense does not mean “defective.” The shoes here might not be in the latest issue of Vogue but you’ll still find that reliable Andre quality.

    Address: 31 avenue des Gobelins, 13th arrondissement
    Tel: +33 (0)1 55 43 05 74
    Metro: Les Gobelins

    Tati: "Ultra-Hard Discount" Clothes and Home Items

    Tati is the somewhat beloved, somewhat maligned standard for French bargain shopping. It’s not glamorous, it’s not classy, but it is definitely cheap. In fact, the French refer to it as "le hard discount" store par excellence. The quality generally follows the prices, but if you’re looking for basics, especially light clothes for the summer or accessories, Tati offers some great deals.

    Continue to 6 of 6 below.
  • 06 of 06

    Flea Markets

    Flea markets can be great sources for original gifts in Paris.
    ••• Flea markets can be great sources for original gifts in Paris. Lucas Schifres/Getty Images News

    Flea markets are another great way to find bargain items in Paris-- and are part of a true cultural tradition. The most famous of the "puces" (literally, fleas) is the outdoor market at Clingancourt/St Ouen. Stepping out of the métro at Porte de Clignancourt can be overwhelming at first, but it will be well worth your while to check out the markets here. There are 14 markets englobed in the Marché aux puces, as it is known locally, and they offer enough variety to strike just about anyone’s fancy. From cheap, imported goods to antique wears and used clothing, strolling through the massive Marché aux puces is a great way to spend an afternoon. Just be sure to take care of your belongings here-- and beware of pickpockets.

    Read more on Paris flea markets here, and also be sure to see our guide on quirky and oddball shops in Paris, from curiosity cabinets to booksellers. These are all fantastic places to procure original gifts or home items.