In the world capital of fashion you’re never far from a major shopping street or hidden enclave full of tantalizing finds. Though the big-name labels have all gone global, it’s still an experience to sashay into a luxe designer flagship or discover that little-known gem for an original made-in-Paris find.
Here’s a quick-fix guide to Paris’s choice destinations—drinking, dining, and culture included—for the cultivated shopper determined to make the most of those precious Paris hours.
High rollers flock to the haute jewelers of the place Place Vendôme, but ladies on an earth-bound budget can’t do better than WhiteBird‘s stellar collection of French and international designers. Deliciously unique jewels to bedeck ears, necks, wrists, and fingers include Naohiko Naguchi’s frothy diamond clusters, Anaconda’s poetic antique-inspired gems, and Arielle de Pinto’s knockout chain-cluster chokers in silver, gold, or both. Dangling earrings or simple studs come in singles or pairs, and trunk shows introduce designers with limited-edition pieces. Two boutiques, in the haut Marais and just off the rue Saint-Honoré near the Place Vendôme, mean you’re never too far away to drop in.
INSIDER TIPThe rue Saint Honoré is a major fashion epicenter, second only to the Marais, lined with designer boutiques—Chloé, Hermès, Balenciaga, Goyard, Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, etc.—and top French brands.
Hats are back. But not just any hat; we long for those timeless styles—cloche, boater, fedora, jockey cap—immortalized by fashion icons. At Mademoiselle Chapeau, tucked away on a quiet street near the Place des Vosges, designer Chloé Thiéblin recreates the classics in the same fine materials that have been used for centuries of Parisian hat-making: straw, silk, rabbit felt, and wool. Updated versions of the classics are handmade in gorgeous colors in the back-room atelier using age-old techniques. Don’t see what you’re after? Custom designs can be made-to-order and mailed anywhere in the world.
Nearby rue de Sévigné, between the rue des Francs Bourgeois and rue Saint-Antoine, is lined with stock stores of the major French chains and designer brands, including Carven, Maje, Sandro, Claudie Pierlot, Jonak, etc., at discounts of at least 30 percent and more at sale times (roughly the first week of January, third week of June).
There’s no visiting Paris without a hefty side of culture, and fashion lovers will find grace and inspiration at the elegant Palais Galliera, the city’s fashion museum. A must-see show of the season, “Fortuny, Un Espagnol à Venise,” highlights the little-known, and lesser-seen, fashions of this genius of fabric, texture, and form. At Les Arts Décoratifs, the blockbuster show, “Christian Dior, Couturier du Rêve,” featuring the master’s earliest work and major pieces from every designer who’s worked in his name, from Yves Saint-Laurent to Maria Grazia Chiuri, has dazzled the crowds. Both close on January 7, so grab a cheap fare now!
INSIDER TIPEven if you don’t brave the lines for Dior (and you should), don’t leave without visiting the museum shop, with standout housewares, books, cards, fashions, etc. from cutting-edge artisans, artists, and designers.
Dine in Style
Nothing is wasted at the soaring new Les Grands Verres, the Palais de Tokyo contemporary arts center’s stylish new restaurant, where vegetables are repurposed for cocktails and the natural wines are revelatory. Right across the street from the Palais Galliera museum and park, it’s a perfect after-show destination for lunch, dinner, a wildly imaginative craft cocktail, or a glass of wine at the bar. The restaurant’s anteroom lounge is great for a quick and affordable cheese or charcuterie plate and 4 euro wines by the glass.
INSIDER TIPFor some great views of the Eiffel Tower with your apéro, check out the terrace at Monsieur Bleu, also at the Palais de Tokyo.
Le Bon Marché
If you’re pressed for time and seeking that one destination for a choice selection of the top names in fashion, Bon Marché is the place. This sophisticated oasis at the border of Saint-Germain-des-Prés harbors all the best and most beautiful in an atmosphere of refined chic: bags, scarves, and accessories, jewelry, a stellar new shoe salon, and a universe of men’s fashion at Balthazar in the basement. There’s also a new housewares shop covering two rounded floors atop the spiffed up Grande Epicerie, the city’s largest gourmet grocer and wine shop, plus three restaurants and a tearoom for refueling.
INSIDER TIPWhile strolling (or trolling) in Saint-Germain, some of the smaller not-to-miss streets include the rue des Saints-Pères, rue Saint-Sulpice, rue du Cherche-Midi, and the rue du Bac.
Book a Hotel
If you require a logo on your bag, head to the spectacular new Louis Vuitton store (opened early October) on at the Place Vendôme or nearby rue Saint Honoré (Goyard, Gucci, Hermès, etc). But women and men looking for a sleek and beautifully handcrafted bag that expresses a more individual style without stealing the show, Isaac Reina’s pared-down bags in lush colors are just the thing. These timeless goods in supple leather range from card cases, wallets, and compact handbags to totes, satchels, and larger bags.
On nearby rue de Sévigné, Leclaireur is Paris’ go-to concept store for the best in cutting-edge fashion, where big names (Haider Ackerman, Saint Laurent, Demeulemeester, Comme de Garçons) rub elbows with less mainstream brands (Ilaria Nistri, Moncler, Liapull).
Hotel Dupond Smith
This clandestine address tucked away on a quiet cobbled street just off the rue Vieille du Temple (a main shopping artery) is a haven for fashion and creative types who relish the privacy and exclusivity of a chic eight-room boutique hotel, as well as serious design creds. Laid out more like an apartment than a hotel, each room or suite’s unique interior was dreamed up by a different Paris luminary, adding up to a hotel rich in character yet deliciously discrete.
A hunt-themed museum may sound ho-hum, but trust us, the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature is one of the city’s best small museums, cleverly integrating period paintings and firearms with contemporary artworks and a top-notch program of of-the-moment exhibitions. The museum is now featuring Parisian artist Sophie Calle in an absolute must-see show (till February 11).
Vanessa Seward‘s entered the mainstream as the designer tapped to revive the glamorous Azzaro label, an influence easily traceable in her sleek 70’s-inspired styles. Seward’s knack for imparting both smarts and sexiness in her buttoned-up silk blouses, sweatshirts shot with metallic threads, fluid dresses, and perfectly cut high-top jeans has quickly made her a Paris fashion staple. We have our eye on a spectacular cape in Bordeaux marabou feathers and an A-line leather skirt.
INSIDER TIPSnag a collectible Azzaro original from the ’70s or ’80s around the corner at Studio W (21 Rue du Pont aux Choux), a stellar vintage shop featuring gems from high-end designers.
L'Officine Universelle Buly
You’re transported back to 19th-century Paris at Buly 1803’s newly opened second outlet, an antique apothecary where a sumptuous range of all-natural skin potions and fragrances harken back to another time. Delicately scented oils, creams, cleansers, and deliciously floral perfumes (bergamot, tuberose, rose, Scottish moss, orange flower, etc.) lightly scent the skin, and mix-your-own masks, pomades, and potpourris are concocted from apothecary jars filled with powders, clays, dried flowers, herbs, and a range of more than 30 oils, including white lily, prickly pear, Tamanu fruit, and apricot kernel. Afterwards, tuck into a sweet or savory Japanese Onigiris rice ball or yummy pastry at the charming bar.
INSIDER TIPIf you’re in Saint-Germain, don’t miss the original Buly 1803 at the Seine-side end of the rue Bonaparte.
As artistic director at Hermès, Lemaire brilliantly infused his streamlined aesthetic, but we still flocked to his rue de Poitou sanctuary to snap up more affordable pieces (relatively speaking) from his eponymous label. Now that Lemaire is entirely devoted to his own line created with designer Sarah-Linh Tran, all the more reason to haunt this dreamy boutique for timeless pieces in Lemaire’s artful palette of saturated neutrals and jewel tones and a few choice accessories.
INSIDER TIPRue de Poitou and the adjacent rue Charlot are not-to-miss streets full of tiny boutiques, galleries, and hidden cafés.
Paris’s best concept store hardly needs an introduction, but its popularity has only burnished its appeal. Merci is one of the city’s premier places to find a hand-picked collection of casual men’s and women’s clothes from French and international designers, as well as superb women’s jewelry, stationery, French linen sheets and honeycomb towels, kitchen wares, and hardware. The store’s three cafés—especially the basement restaurant for its gourmet salads and stellar desserts—make it an easy place to while away an afternoon.
INSIDER TIPSave some time to wander the Boulevard Beaumarchais, the haut Marais’s newest fashion destination, lined with cool boutiques (including Vanessa Seward and WhiteBird).