In Paris, each neighborhood has its own personality, and each personality imposes itself on one or two main shopping streets. To preserve your sanity, and shoe leather, aim for the areas with the highest concentration of your kind of store.
The Right Bank
LOUVRE & ÎLE DE LA CITÉ (1ST ARRONDISSEMENT)
The east side of this arrondissement includes the subterranean shopping mall Forum des Halles (covered by the recently added canopé, a vast metal canopy covering shops like Lego), which is a short stroll from a major shopping strip on the rue de Rivoli. Both feature a wide range of affordable international clothing chains. As you move west, the atmosphere shifts dramatically. The arcades of the Palais Royal have recently been taken over by fashionable labels like Stella McCartney. Farther on, chic rue St-Honoré is lined with pricey, sophisticated stores. As you head farther west, the prices go through the roof at Place Vendôme, which probably has the city’s highest density of gemstones per square meter. Even if you are too shy to enter Chaumet or Boucheron, you can happily drool over the window displays.
OPÉRA & GRANDS BOULEVARDS (2ND & 9TH ARRONDISSEMENTS)
Boulevard Haussmann cuts through this neighborhood like a steamship’s wake, drawing hordes of shoppers toward the city’s two most famous department stores, Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. These two behemoths have spawned an entire neighborhood full of inexpensive shops just north of the boulevard on rue de Provence, rue de Mogador, and rue Caumartin. To the south and east of the boulevard lies a maze of 19th-century covered shopping arcades (see “Arcades,” below), as well as a market street lined with enticing food stores, rue de Montorgueil.
THE MARAIS (3RD & 4TH ARRONDISSEMENTS)
The success of the hip boutiques on the rue des Francs-Bourgeois has been such that stylish clothing stores have been cropping up on all the streets around it, even crowding out the kosher restaurants on rue des Rosiers, the historic Jewish quarter. Not as pricey as the luxury boutiques to the west, these stores have stylish duds at vaguely attainable prices (and they are open on Sun, a rarity in this city). The streets around rues de Bretagne and Charlot in the northern Marais are a hotbed of independent French designers.
CHAMPS-ÉLYSÉES, TROCADÉRO & WESTERN PARIS (8TH, 16TH & 17TH ARRONDISSEMENTS)
Dozens of chic boutiques dot the rue du Faubourg St-Honoré, but this shopping street pales in comparison to ultra-exclusive avenue Montaigne. Paris’s most glamorous shopping street is lined with unspeakably fancy shops, where you float from Dior to Chanel and everything in between. Teens, tourists, and other young things flock to the neighboring Champs-Élysées to crowd into hot mass-market flagships. High-end food shops (Hédiard, Fauchon) live in the area around the Madeleine.
MONTMARTRE (18TH ARRONDISSEMENT)
Small, fairly affordable design, fashion, jewelry, and food shops fill the winding streets that fan out around Montmartre’s place des Abbesses. Wander along rue des Abbesses, down rue Houdon, and up rue des Martyrs and discover hidden treasures. If you are looking for adventure and serious bargains, head east to the working-class Barbès neighborhood, where on boulevard Rochechouart, you’ll find Tati, a huge discount department store.
RÉPUBLIQUE, BASTILLE & EASTERN PARIS (11TH & 12TH ARRONDISSEMENTS)
As rue du Faubourg St-Antoine heads east from the Place de la Bastille, you’ll find a number of chain stores. The choices get more interesting in and around rue de Charonne, home to offbeat, youth-oriented clothing and goodies. A great place to window-shop is the Viaduc des Arts, which runs along avenue Daumesnil: a collection of about 30 specialist craft stores occupying a series of vaulted arches under the Promenade Plantée.
BELLEVILLE, CANAL ST-MARTIN & LA VILLETTE (10TH, 19TH & 20TH ARRONDISSEMENTS)
The Canal St-Martin is a bastion of local bohemian charm, and you can find interesting shops along neighboring streets like rue de Marseille, rue Beaurepaire, the quai de Valmy, and quai de Jemmapes. Belleville may not have trendy boutiques, but it’s a nice place to explore specialty shops from the city’s various immigrant communities.
The Left Bank
LATIN QUARTER (5TH & 13TH ARRONDISSEMENTS)
Chain stores have taken over a large chunk of the boulevard St-Michel, which used to be known for its cafes and bookstores. The few survivors include the massive Gibert Joseph, which has several outposts on the Boul’ Miche selling books, stationery, and more. Food enthusiasts will enjoy the delicious goodies on sale in the shops at the southern end of rue Mouffetard.
ST-GERMAIN-DES-PRÉS & LUXEMBOURG (6TH ARRONDISSEMENT)
Even if it’s technically in the 7th arrondissement, the shopping nerve center of this smart neighborhood is Le Bon Marché, the city’s most stylish department store. Radiating eastward is a network of streets with oodles of delightful shops, ranging from bargain-oriented rue St-Placide to chain stores and shoe heaven on rue de Rennes to designer labels and cute boutiques on rue St-Sulpice, rue du Cherche Midi, and rue du Vieux Colombier. Down toward the Seine, rue Bonaparte and rue Jacob tempt with classy, if pricey, offerings; you can stop in at the hip Taschen bookstore just off boulevard St-Germain for gorgeous coffee table books on pop culture, photography, and architecture.
EIFFEL TOWER & NEARBY (7TH ARRONDISSEMENT)
Most of this area is more focused on culture and architecture than fashion, but along its eastern edge, around the rue du Bac and rue du Grenelle, you’ll find hopelessly expensive designer shops. The market street of rue Cler has dozens of charming bakeries, charcuteries, and fruit sellers.
MONTPARNASSE & NEARBY (14TH & 15TH ARRONDISSEMENTS)
An ugly shopping center in the Tour Montparnasse complex is filled with the usual chain stores and a reduced version of Galeries Lafayette, but the more interesting shopping draw here is farther south on rue d’Alesia, lined with outlet stores (déstock) selling surplus and discounted wares, including designer labels like Sonia Rykiel. Rue Daguerre is a lovely market street filled with food shops that is as cute as rue Cler but less famous (you’ll hear a lot more French here). Farther south in the 15th, rue de Commerce buzzes with shops and restaurants.
Arcades: 19th-Century Shopping Malls
Paris is filled with covered arcades, primarily in the 2nd arrondissement. These lovely iron and glass galleries are 19th-century antecedents of today’s shopping malls—each one is lined with shops, eateries, and even the occasional hotel—and range in ambience from the up and coming to the already ultra-hip.
Built in 1825, the city’s longest arcade, Passage Choiseul, 40 rue des Petits Champs, 2nd arrond. (Métro: Pyramides), runs from rue des Petits Champs to rue de Saint Augustin and shelters everything from bargain shoe shops to used bookstores to art galleries. The Passage des Panoramas, 11 bd. Montmartre, 2nd arrond. (Métro: Grands Boulevards), intersects with several other short arcades (Feydeau, Montmartre, Saint-Marc, and Variétés), making an interesting warren of bookshops, collectors’ shops (stamps, coins, postcards, engravings), and increasingly, trendy restaurants, including Canard & Champagne. Across the street is the entrance to Passage Jouffroy, 10 bd. Montmartre, 9th arrond. (Métro: Grands Boulevards), which is lined with collectors’ shops featuring figurines, dollhouses, and cinema memorabilia. Pricier gifts are to be found at Passage Verdeau, across the street from the back end of Jouffroy, 31 bis rue du Faubourg Montmartre, 9th arrond. (Métro: Grands Boulevards), a particularly atmospheric arcade with stores selling rare books, antique engravings, and vintage photos.
Farther south, near the Palais Royal, is the chic Galerie Vivienne, 4 rue des Petits Champs, 2nd arrond. (www.galerie-vivienne.com; Métro: Bourse), a beautifully restored arcade with a mosaic tile floor and neoclassical arches. Stores here sell high-end clothes, handbags, textiles, and objets d’art. Legrand Filles et Fils has tons of fine bottles of wine, as well as a wine school and cafe. Toward Les Halles is the very stylish Passage du Grand Cerf, 10 rue Dussoubs, 2nd arrond. (Métro: Etienne Marcel), filled with flashy designer jewelry, clothing stores, and interior design agencies.