For reasons that elude most of us, Parisians tend to make impeccable fashion sense look like a walk in the park. Even on modest budgets, they generally seem to just know how to pull it all together and come up with enviable and seemingly effortless looks. Call it "je ne sais quoi," if you must.
It's no surprise, then, that the French capital has held onto its reign as the global center of all things style-related. After museums and monuments, shopping alone attracts millions of visitors every year.
While the city is studded with fabulous boutiques and stores, these seven ultra-popular shopping districts in Paris are gold mines for discount-hunters, designer divas, window shoppers, and fashion victims alike.
There's room for all budgets, too — so looking snappy doesn't have to rhyme with going broke. Make sure you take home a little "je ne sais quoi" by clicking through our picks for the top centers of style in the French capital.
Louvre and Tuileries District
- Best for: Crème de la crème designer fashion, chic home furnishings, quality cosmetics
- Getting there: Metro Concorde, Tuileries (Line 1), Pyramides (Line 7, 14)
- Main streets: Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Rue Saint-Honoré, Rue de la Paix, Place Vendome
The Faubourg Saint-Honoré district is the pulse of Paris design and fashion. Part of the Louvre-Tuileries neighborhood, the Saint-Honoré fashion district is studded with flagship shops from classic designers like Versace, Hermes, and Saint Laurent, but also houses resolutely trendy boutiques and concept stores.
Also make sure to check out the elegant boutiques lining the arcades (covered galleries) of the Palais Royal: from luxury perfumer Serge Lutens to upscale vintage shops, jewelry, and art, shopping in the Palais Royal's chic nooks is worlds away from the hustle-and-bustle of central Paris, and offers a dose of real old-world chic.
Boulevard Haussmann and the Grands Boulevards
- Best for: Getting lost in Paris' prestigious — and dizzying — Belle-Epoque department stores (grands magasins)
- Getting there: Metro Havre-Caumartin (Line 3 or 9), Opera (Lines 3, 7, 8), RER Auber(Line A)
- Main streets: Boulevard Haussmann; Place de la Madeleine
The old Parisian department stores are famous for being worlds unto themselves. Galeries Lafayette and Printemps department stores dominate Boulevard Haussmann with real Belle Epoque grandeur, concentrating top designer collections for men and women, gourmet food shopping, home design, jewelry, and even hardware into a labyrinth of consumer delights. In the winter months, of course, these "grands magasins" are decked out with lights and elaborate decorations for the holiday season, so don't miss checking them out then.
Covered Passageways ("Les Arcades")
Also make sure to check out the old-world elegance (and high-quality boutiques) of the old covered "arcades" (passageways) in the area, including the Galerie Vivienne, which houses luxury boutiques from top designers such as Jean-Paul Gaultier, as well as rare bookshops, old-fashioned artisan toy shops, and gifts. (Metro: Bourse or Palais-Royal Musee du Louvre)
Other "arcades" worth exploring nearby include the Passage Jouffroy, with its throwback-style shops, and the Passage du Grand Cerf (Metro: Etienne Marcel), well-known for its intricate antiques and fine old jewelry. Stop at the latter before exploring Rue Etienne Marcel and its trendy boutiques from designers including Kenzo and Thierry Mugler.
- Best for: Eclectic and high-fashion, high-quality chains, vintage stores, artisan and handcrafted jewelry, antiques and fine art galleries, cosmetics and perfumeries.
- Getting there: Metro Saint-Paul (Line 1) or Hotel de Ville (Line 1, 11)
- Main streets: Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, Place des Vosges, Rue de Turenne, Rue des Rosiers
The historic Marais quarter is prime stomping ground for shoppers with an eye for the unique and finely-crafted, not to mention antique and fine art lovers. Try antiques or fine-arts shopping on the Place des Vosges, jewelry, fragrance, and cosmetics shopping at boutiques like Diptyque and MAC on Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, or plunder fashionable but accessible chains such as COS on Rue des Rosiers.
If you're a fan of excellent teas, chocolate, and other gourmet goods, the Marais is also an excellent area for foodie shopping. For high-quality French tea, head to Mariage Frères (and its adjoining tearoom) on Rue du Bourg-Tibourg, or Kusmi Tea on Rue des Rosiers. Meanwhile, Josephine Vannier (4 rue du pas de la Mule) is listed in our guide to the best chocolate makers in Paris.
For a great concept shop in the general vicinity, Merci is one of the trendiest places in town to shop for men and women's designer fashion, home decor, accessories and books, and more. The tearoom and cinema-inspired adjoining restaurant next door are perfect spots to perch, see and be seen, too.
Avenue Montaigne and the Champs-Elysées
- Best for: Designer shopping, trendy chain stores, Sunday shopping
- Getting there: Metro Alma Marceau (Line 9), Franklin D. Roosevelt (Lines 1 and 9), George V (Line 1), RER A (Charles de Gaulle-Etoile)
Avenue Montaigne and Avenue des Champs-Elysées form one of the city's most coveted fashion junctures. Avenue Montaigne is fast outstripping Saint Honoré in the arena of chic-cachet, with legendary designers like Chanel and Dior lining the street with flagship boutiques. The Champs-Elysées, for its part, features luxury names (Louis Vuitton) while also being a major spot for shopping in trendy global chains like Zara. Meanwhile, to keep the kids happy, the Disney Store dominates the "Champs" with fun window displays and enough toys to colonize the moon.
- Best for: Chic classic design, books, and home furnishings
- Getting there: Metro Saint-Germain-des-Prés (Line 4), Sèvres-Babylone (Line 10)
- Main streets: Blvd. St.-Germain, Rue St. André-des-Arts, Rue de Sèvres
Once synonymous with the famous intellectuals who haunted local cafés, St.-Germain-des-Prés has acquired several shades of chic and is now a preferred spot of BCBG's (yuppies). Sonia Rykiel and Paco Rabanne have boutiques here:
Try Rue Saint-Andre des Arts for rare books, unique regional gifts, and vintage threads.
Meanwhile, for local department store shopping, the Bon Marché is the consummate left-bank address for classic chic. If you're a foodie or are in search of gourmet goods to take home, make sure to have a whirl through the enormoys food hall there, too.
Les Halles and Rue de Rivoli
- Best for: Major chain shops and trendy boutiques
- Getting there: Metro Chatelet-Les Halles (Line 4, RER A,B)
- Main streets: Rue de Rivoli, Rue Pierre-Lescot, Rue Etienne Marcel, Rue de Turbigo
Once the locus of "the guts of Paris" — an enormous outdoor food market, the area around Châtelet-les Halles was transformed into a major shopping area in the 20th century. At metro Les Halles is a monstrous underground mall, "Le Forum des Halles," where global chain stores reign.
Running east to west from the Marais all the way to the Louvre, Rue de Rivoli is much the same. Great deals can be made on this long shopping artery in the city center, even outside of the Paris sales season. Chains such as H&M and Zara dominate the area, but closer to the Louvre you'll find lots of antique shops and art galleries, for those looking for special pieces to bring back home.
Dig Around at a Paris Flea Market
- Best for: Antiques and oddball items, discounted and vintage clothes and shoes
- Getting there: Metro Porte de Clingancourt (Line 4) or Garibaldi (Line 13)
The Saint-Ouen flea market (or "puces" — literally, "fleas") is the city's largest, and dates to the nineteenth century. Located at the very northern tip of Paris, les puces are an essential shopping stop. Come here for a few hours to browse the antique furniture, odd objects, or vintage clothes. There are also many other flea markets around the city, and they're pretty much all worth spending an afternoon exploring.
You may not come away with a masterpiece painting (as once was the case), but a find you are likely to make. A word of advice, however: weekdays are preferable to avoid the inevitable crowds. Also make sure to watch out for pickpockets.