Galeries Lafayette, Paris
The Galeries Lafayette on the boulevard Haussmann (there is another one at Montparnasse) is actually a monument where one can buy all luxury products for all uses.
Lafayette is especially enchanting in the Christmas period with the huge Christmas tree under the famous "coupole" glass dome. The windows on the boulevard Haussmann show sceneries with automats for children form 7 to 77 years old.
Lafayette is located in 3 buildings on the bvd. Haussmann. Most famous for its architecture and glass dome is the one called "Lafayette Coupole" on the corner with the rue de la chaussée d'Antin. My wife took me here as there are 4 floors of women's fashion, cosmetics, jewelry, maroquinerie (leatherwear).
A number of luxury brands have their own boutique with guards limiting the numbers of persons admitted inside. I must say that women and men selling products at Lafayette are all very smart. At the entrances of Lafayette are security guards who kindly say "bonjour" to the visitors.
The next building is Lafayette Homme with 3 floors on men's fashion. I managed to avoid this part and went to the Lafayette Gourmet Food hall and Wine Library so much more interesting!
On the other side of the boulevard is the Lafayette Maison - Home.
Something that on each of my visits to the "shopping Paris" struck me is the extreme luxury of the shops and the misery of the SDF "sans domicile fixe" homeless sitting against a wall of the same boulevard with a board saying "j'ai faim - I'm hungry".
The Galeries Lafayette is a huge department store and you don't have to be a fanatical shopper to enjoy it. First of all it has a spectacular dome which is well worth going in to see, even if you don't end up buying anything. In addition to that, go up to the top and there's a great (free) view from a terrace. It's not quite as good as when it's raining, alas (it chucked it down when I was there) - but I did console myself with an excellent but pricey lunch in the cafe on the top floor.
Note that it's closed Sundays, but it's open from 9.30am - 7.30am (9pm Thurs) during the rest of the week.
Quite a few people ask about being in fashion in Paris. Paris, like any large city, covers all possibilities of fashion from baggy jeans on teen boys to Chanel suits on women "of a certain age" and everything between.
Keep in mind that in Paris people are usually going to work or are tourists and those are two different wardrobes. Another thing to consider is the time of year. Paris definitely has four seasons and plenty of rain. You will be taking public transportation and doing a lot of walking so my first suggestion is comfortable shoes, even if you don't think they are truly stylish. When you are in pain from pointy-toe high heels, you won't care about style. If you have to be stylish, get cute little ballet flats for spring and summer and flat-heeled boots for fall and winter.
I have no department store photos so will substitute a clothing boutique in Nice and a restaurant in Paris for photos. You will have to eat lunch . . .
BTW, one of my favorite places to shop when I've forgotten something is the Marché St. Germain, a covered shopping market with everything from food to clothes to pharmacies. We often stay near there and it's very convenient . . . and has clothing boutiques if you're looking for clothes.
What to buy: Clothing: Best suggestion is don't worry about it. Take something to get you through a couple days and plan to buy your clothing in Paris. If you buy it there, it is in style there. Not only that but you have some marvelous souvenirs and wonderful conversation pieces when you get home.
Here are two really fun department stores where you can see what everyone is wearing and hopefully find something in your budget. The Galleries Lafayette is worth a visit just to see the inside of the store. It is soooooo French and just beautiful.
Galeries Lafayette Department Store
Printemps Department Store
For the truly budget minded there is Monoprix or Tati but that's another Tip.
What to pay: You can find choices in nearly any price range. If you are buying in Paris, I'd recommend buying something very classic and paying as much as you can. You will be able to wear it forever . . . and will see some Paris matrons wearing their 1960 Chanel suits that look as though they were purchased yesterday. Classic is classic.
This foodstore is extra special to me. It's where I happened upon while at its main store on my first visit to Paris and I try to return each time I'm in Paris.
It is a huge space filled with all types of foodstuff-both fresh and prepared-that you'd ever want. There are stations devoted to cheese and prepared meats and stations to buy various prepared food to take away-some international.
But my favorite is its large grocery area where you can buy just about everything else.
What to buy: This is where I stock up on all kinds of European chocolates at a small cost. Many brands we don't get in the US and if we do the prices are much higher than in Paris.
What to pay: As much or as a little as you want
Galeries Lafayette is an extra special department store. Known as a grand magasin it competes with its other well-known neighbor, Au Printemps.
And while I love La Samaitaine, BHV is good for basic stuff, Au Bon Marche is chic, and Au Printemps a nice dept.store, GL is my favorite department store of all.
It was here that I chose to check out what a Parisian dept. store is like on my first visit and I've returned time and time again. It's so old-world, old-style. After all, it was built in the 1800's, therefore, the architecture is so unique and beautiful. Check out its dome when you are there; it is one of the most stunning things you'll ever encounter in a department store! Beautiful!
As for the items sold at GL, they are numerous and of high quality. Therefore, the prices are matched accordingly! So you will find designer everything if you want to no-name stuff. But in a few words: they are all great!
What to buy: I've got a weakness for just about any nicely designed French leather handbag. That's a souvenir for me.
What to pay: For handbags you will pay less than what you spend in the US especially for a "Made in France" product of high quality leather.
What to buy:
I always visit this store when in Paris just to see what's new....and I always also eat at its nice Cafe on the sixth floor which has the great views of Paris.
Before you buy, get a copy of those brochures about the mall which gives you a $10 discount, on top of the VAT refund. So, that's a good 30% off total!
When I see the inside of this mall, I know I am in Paris. They have nice couches where you can sit and I just dropped on one of them while my 3 year old twins ran around and my wife got lost in the "soldes"...hehehe!
What to pay: depends on what you buy
The decor of course, is the first thing you notice in Galeries Lafayette. this is fairytale stuff. The theatre like design on the main floors and of course the spectacular glass domed ceiling. I went there just to see it but then could not resist the urge to have one of those famous red shopping bags to show off, so using the excuse that my first grandchild (a little girl) is due in January, I proceeded to the 5th Floor and had a wonderful time picking out the perfect little designer outfit for her. We had a mouthwatering Tart Tartin and Coffee at the roof top cafe which cost an arm and a leg but hey, how often do I go to Paris? (Only three times this trip, so hang the expense, give the canary another seed!)
What to buy: On my second visit on my last day in Paris, I was lucky to go to Galeries Lafayette when BabyGap was having a 50% off sale, so once again I had a wonderful time on the 5th floor. I also discovered the Gourmet Food Hall which also had me walking around wide eyed and drooling. After consuming a wonderful Ciabatta with Prosciutto and Cheese sandwich, I loaded up with chocolates for the folks at home and sadly headed back to the hotel and the Air France Shuttle to CDG.
What to pay: LOts, but if you're lucky you may find some bargains.
On the roof of the big department store Galeries Lafayette (main building) there is a popular observation deck where you can look out over the rooftops of Paris and of course see the Eiffel Tower. Just in front of the Eiffel Tower you might recognize the greenish roof of La Madeleine and slightly off to the right the big glass roof of the Grand Palais.
Since the store is only slightly higher than the surrounding buildings, the views are not spectacular, but they are still interesting and they are free. Anybody can go up there and have a look around, even non-shoppers like me. There is a guy selling coffee in cardboard cups and a young lady selling frozen yogurt with various kinds of fresh fruit.
The roof is covered by a sort of green spongy carpet that feels vaguely like a lawn, so people feel comfortable sitting on it or walking around to look at the views.
The folks in my first photo are sitting in the shade because it was quite a hot day when I took the pictures.
Second photo: As you can see, the roof is fairly large, so there is plenty of space for everybody to sit around or walk around.
At the west side of the observation deck there is a plaque explaining that in the early twentieth century the Galeries Lafayette promised to pay 25,000 francs to the first pilot who managed to land a plane on their roof. In 1919 a pilot named Jules Védrines succeeded in doing this. He was given the 25,000 francs but only could keep 24,984 because he had to pay a 16-franc fine for flying over Paris, which was illegal, and for landing in a forbidden area.
Third photo: The back of the Opéra Garnier, which is right across the street from the Galeries Lafayette.
Fourth photo: Looking down at the staff entrance of the Opéra Garnier. The little traffic circle in the foreground is called Place Diaghilev, named after the Russian ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev (1872-1929), founder of the Ballets Russes.
The street to the right of the opera house is Rue Scribe, named after the French dramatist and librettist Eugène Scribe (1791–1861). He was the author or co-author of the libretti (the text) of numerous then-famous operas such as Auber's Fra Diavolo and Meyerbeer's Robert le diable, which I had occasion to mention in one of my Brugge tips. Scribe was also the co-author of the text to Les vêpres siciliennes by Giuseppe Verdi, which I have recently seen twice in Frankfurt.
The street to the left of the opera house is Rue Gluck, named after the German composer Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787). I once saw Gluck’s opera Iphigénie in Aulis in Nürnberg, and later his Iphigénie en Tauride right here at the Opéra Garnier with the American mezzo-soprano Susan Graham in the title role.
Fifth photo: The outside of the cupola, as seen from the observation deck.
Next review from July 2013: Au Printemps
Most of you are too young to remember this, but back in the twentieth century it was customary for department stores to consist of – departments.
If you were looking for, say, men’s trousers, all you had to do was take a deep breath, enter the store, find your way through a maze of perfume and jewelry counters, and then somewhere near the escalators you would find a big sign with a list of ‘departments’, all with generic names. With any luck, there would even be a department called ‘men’s trousers’ on one of the upper floors, and when you got up there you would find some floor space where they were indeed selling men’s trousers of various sorts and sizes.
Of course in the twenty-first century no self-respecting store would want to be organized in such an anachronistic way, certainly not the Galeries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussmann behind the Opéra Garnier in Paris.
To start with, at the Galeries Lafayette they don’t sell clothing, they sell fashions.
In the main building there are several huge floors devoted entirely to women’s fashions. Each floor has a name, like Mode Créative (Creative Fashions), Mode Tendence (Contemporary Fashions), Mode Séduction (Seductive Fashions) or Mode Évasion (which they translate as Leisure Fashions).
The one about Évasion sounds funny to us English speakers, since evasion is one of those words that have negative connotations in English but mainly positive ones in French. In English we tend to think of tax evasion or breaking out of prison or finding some devious way to avoid answering an embarrassing question. But to the French the same word can also mean being entertained, relaxing, traveling, having a change of scene.
The seduction floor is also interesting, because it implies that we men are extremely hard to seduce, so they need a whole floor of seductive fashions just to get us into the mood.
Under each floor name there is a list of brand names, about twenty per floor. These are no doubt prestigious and awe-inspiring brands that make any true shopper’s heart beat faster in anticipation. Of course it is assumed that everyone knows what sorts of products are sold under each brand name.
Men’s fashions, by the way, are relegated to a separate (smaller) building across the street. This is presumably to get us out of the way, so we won’t interfere with the serious shoppers. But in the men’s store everything is also strictly organized by brand names. You won’t find a ‘department’ called ‘men’s trousers’ – although there is a Jeannerie, where they sell jeans, on the floor called Mode Sport.
Second photo: Corner view of the main building. On the left you can see an enclosed pedestrian bridge leading across the street (Rue de Mogador) to the smaller building for men’s fashions. Inside the pedestrian bridge they have expensive watches for sale.
Third photo: Inside the main building of Galeries Lafayette is a stunning art deco rotunda from the year 1912, under an equally stunning glass cupola.
Fourth photo: Looking up at the cupola.
Fifth photo: The upper balconies under the cupola.
Next review from July 2013: Roof of Galeries Lafayette
The "Galeries" have opened a new building in the Boulevard Haussmann, opposite the original one. The Galeries have a name for elegance and this new building is light airy and beautifully decorated.
Here you can find the "home and decoration" department - which includes the Gourmet Food section.
A great deal of this is fresh food, including ready made dishes from the Middle East, from India, from Mexico, from the Far East etc.
To celebrate my neice, Gabby, graduating from High School, I took her to Paris and London for a week. One of the highlights of our visit to Paris was taking in a Fashion Show at Galeries Lafayette.
The hour long show featured 5 women and one man who modeled the season's fashions. The music was exciting and provided a great background for the show.
I was able to really impress my neice as being a worldly and fun aunt!
What to buy: Later we shopped in the beautiful flagship store for treats for ourselves and gifts for those at home.
The two "grandes dames" of Parisian shopping are next to each other on Boulevard Haussmann. Both are enormous. Both are rambling combinations of buildings and both are worth a visit.
Both will also have desk to help you with your VAT refund and often have special "deals" for foreign visitors.
The new pictures are of the dome at Galeries LaFayette and the main shopping floor from above.
What to buy: It works best if you choose one or two departments to "shop" -- perhaps cosmetics? housewares? lingerie? Otherwise you will be overwhelmed. It is also a good idea to have a conversion table for sizes if you are from the United States or United Kingdom.
Here is a link to a chart for clothing and shoes:
What to pay: The regular price unless you hit during one of the twice yearly sales.
One of the two major luxury malls in Paris, the other being Printemps. The scarves sold at the shops at the metro station level are cheaper than those right outside the dept store. The place to get cheap nice scarves are at the shops at opera metro station.
What to buy: For one stop luxury brand shopping, so that it is easy to process your tax refund. You can do the administrative work at the detaxe counter at basement (-1 floor) as long as you spend a total of over 175 in a day.
Be warned though, the tax refund will not be in full as Lafayette uses a service by Global Blue which eats up half of the tax refund. If you're buying big-ticket branded stuff that easily amount to over 175euro, suggest you buy it elsewhere and get a better detaxe rate, unless they are using global blue as well.
Get the customs stamp on the forms at the customs detax counter in the departure hall before checking in your luggage. Once past into the transit area, head for the travelex/money exchange/detaxe counter. they will refund you in cash (if indicated on the form that you want refund in cash)
What to pay: Some stuff like cognac eiffel tower souvenir or pop champagne are decidedly a few euros more expensive than what you can get elsewhere. Ditto for the miniature houses by Gault. At 30+euro, it was more expensive than the 20+ euro at other street stores.
My recent trip to Paris in November was the first time I had been in the "City of Lights" during the holiday season.
What a treat it was to see the festive decorative lights all around the city!
A most special treat was seeing the Galeries Lafayette's flagship store on Boulevard Haussman all decked out!
Paris was more than ever the city of lights....as the Galeries Lafayette Flagship was dressed by an amazing gown of light designed by italian artist Valerio Festi.
This "haute couture" gown was said to be inspired by the italian tradition of baroque ornaments from the region of Napoli. Hundreds of thousand light bulbs strung together reflected a beautiful embroidered theatrical front wall of the store.
Combined, it looked like multicolored neon lace.
You felt like you were walking into a *fairy tale* Palace as you entered! Then when you're "Knight in Shining Armor" takes your hand and feeds your "addiction to Dior" with a surprise gift in hand............it's like a FAIRY TALE COME TRUE! ;-)))
What to buy: If you're in Paris during the holidays, just go there to admire the decor!
At the backside of Opera Garnier at the Boulevard Haussman you can find one of the great department stores of Paris, the Galeries Lafayette.
In the mainbulding you can find a enormous choice in woman fashion, but also cosmetics, jewelry, books, toys and much more. In the other buildings and parts of the huge complex you can find man fashion. There is also a food plaza with all kind of different fresh products, where you can take also your quick lunch.
It can take some time before you will find your way. It's a paradise for shopping, but also for only looking around. Anyway don't forget to have a look at the stunning colourful stained glass dome !!