Paris

Nothing, but nothing, can push you into the current of Parisian life faster than a few hours of shopping. Follow the lead of locals, who slow to a crawl as their eyes lock on a tempting display. Window-shopping is one of this city's greatest spectator sports; the French call it lèche-vitrine—literally, "licking the windows"—which is fitting because many of the displays look good enough to eat.

Store owners here play to sophisticated audiences with voracious appetites for everything from spangly flagship stores to minimalist boutiques to under-the-radar spots in 19th-century glass-roofed passages. Parisians know that shopping isn't about the kill, it's about the chase: walking down cobblestone streets looking for items they didn't know they wanted, they're casual yet quick to pounce. They like being seduced by a clever display and relish the performance elements of browsing. Watching them shop can be almost as much fun as shopping yourself.

And nowhere is the infamous Parisian "attitude" more palpable than in the realm of fine shopping—the more haute the more hauteur.

Parisians are a proud bunch, and they value decorum. So dress to impress—and remember your manners. You must say bonjour upon entering a shop and merci, au revoir when leaving, even if it's to no one in particular. Think of it more as announcing your coming and going. Beyond this, protocol becomes less prescribed and more a matter of good judgment. If a salesperson is hovering, there's a reason; let him or her help you. To avoid icy stares, confidence and politeness go a long way.

As for what to buy, the sky's the limit in terms of choices. If your funds aren't limitless, however, take comfort in knowing that treasures can be found on a budget. And if you do decide to indulge, what better place to make that once-in-a-blue-moon splurge? When you get home and friends ask where you got those to-die-for shoes, with a shrug you'll casually say, "These? Oh . . . I bought them in Paris."

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  • 1. Balenciaga

    Champs-Élysées | Clothing

    This venerable Paris house rose to fashion stardom under the brilliant Nicolas Ghesquière, whose architectural volumes and structural technique...Read More

  • 2. Bonpoint

    Champs-Élysées | Clothing

    Outfit the prince or princess in your life at Bonpoint (yes, royalty does shop here). The prices are high, but the quality is exceptional...Read More

  • 3. Céline

    Champs-Élysées | Clothing

    Reinvigorated by Michael Kors in the late 1990s, Céline got another much-needed jolt when Phoebe Philo arrived in 2008 and began dazzling the...Read More

  • 4. Chanel

    Champs-Élysées | Clothing

    Elegant, modern looks with sex appeal and lasting value are Chanel's stock in trade. Although the spectacularly beautiful Avenue Montaigne flagship...Read More

  • 5. Dior

    Champs-Élysées | Clothing

    Following in John Galliano's outsized footsteps, Raf Simons did a brilliant job of redefining the label, but himself decamped in late 2015,...Read More

  • 6. Dior Joaillerie

    Champs-Élysées | Jewelry/Accessories

    When Victoire de Castellane was signed to create Dior's first line of fine jewelry, she brought a big dollop of wit and panache to the venerable...Read More

  • 7. Louis Vuitton

    Champs-Élysées | Shoes/Luggage/Leather Goods

    Louis Vuitton has spawned a voracious fan base from Texas to Tokyo with its mix of classic leather goods and saucy revamped versions orchestrated...Read More

  • 8. Petit Bateau

    Champs-Élysées | Clothing

    This children's clothing store provides a fundamental part of the classic French wardrobe from cradle to teen and beyond. The signature T-shirt...Read More

  • 9. Berluti

    Champs-Élysées | Shoes/Luggage/Leather Goods

    Berluti has been making exquisite and expensive men's shoes for more than a century. "Nothing is too beautiful for feet" is Olga Berluti's motto...Read More

  • 10. Dolce & Gabbana

    Champs-Élysées | Clothing

    Dolce & Gabbana offers a sexy, young-Italian-widow vibe with a side of moody boyfriend. Svelte silk dresses, sharply tailored suits, and...Read More

  • 11. Giuseppe Zanotti Design

    Champs-Élysées | Shoes/Luggage/Leather Goods

    Every pair of shoes here is fetish worthy, if not downright dangerous. Mile-high spike heels, buckle stilettos, slinky python booties, and jewel...Read More

  • 12. Guerlain

    Champs-Élysées | Perfume/Cosmetics

    This opulent address is a fitting home for Paris's first—and most famous—perfumer. Still the only Paris outlet for legendary perfumes like Shalimar...Read More

  • 13. Jimmy Choo

    Champs-Élysées | Shoes/Luggage/Leather Goods

    This is the place for vampy stilettoes, strappy flats, and butch biker boots. Recent Belle de Jour –inspired kitten heels are a nice respite...Read More

  • 14. Laguiole

    Champs-Élysées | Household Items/Furniture

    This is France's most famous brand of knives; designers like Philippe Starck and Sonia Rykiel have created special models for the company. ...Read More

  • 15. Le Dépôt Vente de Passy

    Eiffel Tower | Clothing

    This beautiful high-end consignment shop carries barely (and sometimes never) worn designer ready-to-wear from big names, including Chanel,...Read More

  • 16. Le66

    Champs-Élysées | Clothing

    Finding just the right totally chic, totally black anything is a breeze here. This up-to-the-second concept store, composed of three boutiques...Read More

  • 17. Maison de Baccarat

    Champs-Élysées | Household Items/Furniture

    This museum and crystal store was once the home of Marie-Laure de Noailles, known as the Countess of Bizarre. Philippe Starck revamped the space...Read More

  • 18. Maison Ullens

    Champs-Élysées | Clothing

    A glam Golden Triangle location, a Rem Koolhaas–designed boutique, sumptuous clothes—the Belgian label's first Paris outpost hits all the marks...Read More

  • 19. Marni

    Champs-Élysées | Clothing

    Marni started out as a little Italian label that put a quirky spin on classic styles, employing retro-ish prints and colors (think citron yellow...Read More

  • 20. Nina Ricci

    Champs-Élysées | Clothing

    Creative director Guillaume Henry, who lately resurrected the venerable Paris label Carven, brought a welcome edginess to this archly feminine...Read More

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