Beauty & Perfume
At the airport, you’ll be assaulted with duty-free shops carrying loads of tax-free perfume; another colony of similar shops is near the Opéra. But don’t be afraid to go elsewhere because you will most likely get the same tax rebate no matter where you go (as long as you spend a minimum of 175€). Discounts can also be found at two huge perfume chains: the ubiquitous Marionnaud (www.marionnaud.fr) and the user-friendly Sephora (www.sephora.fr).
Paris’s English-language bookshops tend to double as cultural meeting places. Those that have survived the ongoing bookshop crisis are good places to pick up English-language newsletters, chat in English, and attend readings (sometimes by famous authors).
Food Markets: Marchés (open-air or covered markets) are small universes unto themselves where nothing substantial has changed for centuries. The fishmonger trumpeting the wonders of this morning’s catch probably doesn’t sound a whole lot different than his/her ancestor in the Middle Ages (although their dress has changed), and people no doubt assessed the goods in the stalls with the same pitiless stares that they do today. Certainly the hygiene and organization have improved and there are no more jugglers or bear baiters to entertain the crowds, but the essence of the experience remains the same—a noisy, bustling, joyous chaos where you can buy fresh, honest food.
Even if you don’t have access to cooking facilities, marchés are great places to pick up picnic goodies or just a mid-morning nosh; along with fruit and vegetable vendors, you’ll find bakeries, charcutiers (sort of like a deli, but better), and other small stands selling homemade jams, honey, or desserts. Some of the covered markets have small cafes and even fully-fledged restaurants inside—these are ideal for sitting down and soaking up the atmosphere.
A few marché rules: Unless you see evidence to the contrary, don’t pick up your own fruits and vegetables with your hands. Wait until the vendor serves you and point. Also, don’t be surprised if the line in front of the stand is an amorphous blob of people; this is the French way. Surprisingly, fistfights are rare; somehow everyone seems to be aware of who came before them, and if they aren’t, no one seems to care.
Every arrondissement in the city has a marché. Below is a selective list; you can find hours and locations of all on the municipal website (https://meslieux.paris.fr/marches), in French only (click on “plus d’infos” for opening times) or just ask at your hotel for the closest one.
* Marché d’Aligre: One of the city’s largest; aka Marché Beauvau, pl. d’Aligre, 12th arrond. (outdoor market Tues–Fri 7:30am–1:30pm, Sat–Sun 7:30am–2pm, covered market Tues–Sat 9am–1pm and 4–7:30pm, Sun 9am–1:30pm; Métro: Ledru Rollin or Gare de Lyon)
* Marché Bastille, bd. Richard Lenoir btw. rue Amelot and rue St-Sabin, 11th arrond. (Thurs and Sun 7am–2:30pm; Métro: Bastille)
* Marché Batignolles Organic, bd. Batignolles btw. rue de Rome and pl. Clichy, 17th arrond. (Sat 9am–3pm; Métro: Rome)
* Marché Cours de Vincennes, cour de Vincennes, 12th arrond. (Wed 7am–2.30pm and Sat 7am–3pm; Métro/RER: Nation)
* Marché Edgar Quinet, bd. Edgar Quinet, near Gare Montparnasse, 14th arrond. (Wed and Sat 7am–2:30pm; Métro: Edgar Quinet)
* Marché Grenelle, bd. Grenelle, btw. rue Lourmel and rue du Commerce, 15th arrond. (Wed and Sun 7am–2:30pm; Métro: Dupleix)
* Marché Monge, pl. Monge, 5th arrond. (Wed, Fri, and Sun 7am–2:30pm; Métro: place Monge)
* Marché Raspail, bd. Raspail btw. rue de Cherche-Midi and rue de Rennes, 6th arrond. (Tues and Fri, 7am–2:30pm; organic Sun 9am–3pm; Métro: Rennes)
* Marché Saxe-Breteuil, av. du Saxe near place de Breteuil, 7th arrond. (Thurs and Sat 7am–2:30pm; Métro: Ségur)
Antiques Fairs & Brocantes
You’ve probably heard of the famous marché aux puces, or flea market, at Clignancourt, and if you’re an inveterate browser, it’s probably worth the visit. But the better deals are to be had at the brocantes, antiques or jumble sales, held periodically around the city. Though most of what you will find at these sales is sold by professional brocanteurs who scout estate sales and other insider sources, your selection will be much wider and the chances of finding a postwar ceramic pastis pitcher or heirloom lace curtains at affordable prices are much higher than at some of the more overpopulated flea markets. To find out where and when the brocantes are happening, visit http://quefaire.paris.fr/brocantes or look in the special supplements of Le Parisien (Sun) or Le Figaro (Wed, the supplement is called Figaroscope).
Trendiness oozes from the walls of all of Paris’s concept stores—basically one-stop boutiques selling curated items by different designers and brands. Some have a cult following; most include a hip coffee shop for perusing your purchases post-splurge.
Judging from the sheer number of lingerie stores in even the smallest towns in France, French women must put aside a large portion of their budgets for underwear purchases. And for good reason—French lingerie is exquisite and worth the splurge.
Some Parisian vintage shops sell designer clothing; others scour the US, UK, and other European countries for the everyday retro garb they sell. Unless you aim for the designer category, it can be hit and miss, but mooch away and you may just come across a treasure. The Marais has several excellent vintage boutiques, so it’s a good place to start.
Wine in France is stunningly cheap. In Paris you can buy a bottle of something extremely pleasant for as little as 5€ or 6€. But before you start planning to stock your wine cellar back home, consider this sad truth: Most non–E.U. countries won’t let you bring back much more than a bottle or two. Wine stores abound, and even the humblest of them are generally staffed by knowledgeable wine-lovers who will be glad to help you find the perfect bottle to celebrate your Parisian adventure.
Affordable Fashion: A Quick Guide to the Chains
Several European chain stores sell fashionable clothing at remarkably low prices. Fresh and fun, these stores have loads of colorful, mod clothing—but don’t expect high quality. The following stores have branches throughout the city:
Caroll: A little more upscale and conservative, with a good selection of moderately priced clothing for working women who want something more feminine than a power suit. www.caroll.com.
Mango: Colors at this Spanish chain tend to favor a Mediterranean complexion, a nice change from the Nordic hues at other stores. www.mango.com.
Promod: A French chain with great clothes in wearable colors. The look is young, but not adolescent. www.promod.com.
Zara: Another Spanish option, Zara stocks both work and play clothes for the young and trendy. Great for basics like T-shirts and turtlenecks. www.zara.com.