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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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