Despite pressures to concentrate consumption in gargantuan underground and multi-storey complexes, Parisians, for the most part, remain fiercely loyal to their small local traders and independently-owned shops. Whether you can afford to buy or not, some of the most entertaining and memorable experiences of a trip to Paris are to be had for free just browsing in small shops, their owners proudly displaying their cache of offbeat items, particular passions, one-of-a-kind oddities and mouthwatering treats, carefully created according to instructions handed down from generation to generation.
The most distinctive and unusual shopping possibilities are in the nineteenth-century arcades of the passages in the 2e and 9e arrondissements, almost all now smartly renovated and harbouring the kind of outlets that make shopping an exciting expedition rather than a chore. On the streets proper, the square kilometre around place St-Germain-des-Prés is hard to beat. To the north of the square, the narrow streets are lined with antiques shops and arts and interior design boutiques, while to the south you'll find every designer clothing brand you can think of, Parisian or otherwise.
Les Halles is another well-shopped district, good for everything from records through to designer clothes: pedestrianized rue Tiquetonne is especially worth a wander for its young and trendy fashion boutiques. The aristocratic Marais, the hip quartier of the Bastille and northeastern Paris (Oberkampf and the Canal Saint Martin) have filled up with dinky little boutiques, interior design, arty and specialist shops and galleries. For Parisian haute couture Hermès and the like the traditional bastions are avenue Montaigne, rue François-1er and the upper end of rue du Faubourg-St-Honoré in the 8e. In recent years, newer, cutting-edge, designers have begun colonizing the lower reaches of rue du Faubourg-St-Honoré, between rue Cambon and rue des Pyramides a trend that started with the opening of the ultra-cool Hotel Costes, near the corner of rue de Castiglione, in the late Nineties, followed by the concept store, Colette.
Place de la Madeleine is the place to head for luxury food stores, such as Fauchon and Hédiard. For essential foodstuffs, the cheapest supermarket chain is Ed l'Épicier. Other last-minute or convenience shopping is probably best done at FNAC shops (for books and records), the big department stores (for high-quality merchandise) and Monoprix (for basics). Toy shops, and shops selling children's clothes and books, are detailed under "Listings".
Markets, too, are a grand spectacle. A cornucopia of food from half the countries of the globe, intoxicating in their colour, shape and smell, assail the senses in even the drabbest parts of town. In Belleville and the Goutte d'Or, North Africa predominates; Southeast Asia in the 13e arrondissement. Though the food is perhaps the best offering of the Paris markets, there are also street markets dedicated to secondhand goods (the marchés aux puces), clothes and textiles, flowers, birds, books and stamps.
Pages in section ‘Shopping’: Art, Music, Food, Clothes, Bookshops, Sport, Markets, Various, Opening hours, Late-night.
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