The two department stores Au Printemps and the Galeries Lafayette are both on the same street, Boulevard Haussmann. They are both in large historic buildings with Art Deco cupolas. And they both sell the same fashionable products with prestigious brand names that everybody except me has heard of.
It turns out that Au Printemps is the older of the two stores, having been founded in 1865. Galeries Lafayette wasn’t started until thirty years later, in 1895.
From a purely touristic point of view, I would say Galeries Lafayette is the one to visit, because of its beautiful interior and its rooftop observation deck. Au Printemps is also attractive, but by comparison it is somewhat less remarkable and at present looks a bit bedraggled except for the dedicated brand-name areas.
But what struck me in Au Printemps (which means spring in French) is that the customers look fantastically elegant and well dressed, more so than at Lafayette. This might be because Lafayette does a lot of advertising in English to attract tourists, whereas Printemps concentrates on its French clientele. Or it might be that Printemps is simply the place to go for serious fashion shopping. But this is all just speculation on my part, so I’d be interested in getting comments from any fashionistas or other knowledgeable people who might happen to read this tip.
Second photo: The downside of having elegant customers is that they tend to arrive in elegant cars, so it comes as no surprise that Printemps has a voiturier service, known in English as valet parking. Readers of my voiturier tip may have noticed (reading between the lines) that I am very much opposed to this sort of ‘service’, since it only serves to generate unnecessary motor traffic in the public streets, with the resulting noise, congestion and air pollution.
Third photo: On the first floor of Au Printemps (i.e. one flight up) there is an area devoted to whatever sort of products are sold under the brand name of Louis Vuitton. This is the one brand name that I instantly recognize, thanks to a lovely Swedish soprano called Anna Ryberg, who since 2004 has been a member of the opera ensemble in Frankfurt am Main.
In the Rossini opera Il viaggio a Reims, which I have described in one of my Frankfurt tips as The world’s first tourist opera, Anna sang the role of a delightfully capricious and fashionable French lady called the Countess of Folleville (‘Folleville’ meaning ‘crazy city’). Towards the end of the opera there is a scene in which all the characters make suggestions about what the topic of the final song should be. The others propose serious topics like Joan of Arc, the citizens of Reims or the Battle of Tolbiac, but Anna always got a laugh by suggesting Louis Vuitton.
Of course this was not in the original libretto from the year 1826. There the Countess of Folleville suggested San Luigi (Saint Louis), which wouldn’t have gotten a laugh even then.
The winning suggestion turned out to be “Charles X, King of France”, which was not surprising since the opera had been specially commissioned for his coronation. Tradition has it that the new king fell asleep during the world premiere of his opera, but it may be that he was just all tuckered out after a long week of being coronated.
Fourth photo: The cupola in Printemps is similar to the one in the Galeries Lafayette, but somewhat smaller and less spectacular.
Fifth photo: Under the cupola in Printemps there is a restaurant which is recommended by VT member breughel in his tip on Au Printemps.
Roof of Au Printemps
Roof of Galeries Lafayette
Next review from July 2013: The other Hôtel du Nord
To find the rooftop observation deck of the Au Printemps department store, you have to go into their building at the corner of Boulevard Haussmann and Rue du Havre. This is not the building with the cupola, but the other one, the one further west. You’ll know you’re in the right building when you see a big display of children’s perfumes on the ground floor. (I’m not making this up.)
The escalators are not designed to get us up to the roof in a hurry. You have to walk around in a circle on each floor to get to the next escalator going up to the next floor. But with some persistence you can make it all the way up to the roof.
Unlike the roof of the nearby Galeries Lafayette, where there is plenty of room to walk around, the roof of Au Printemps is taken up mainly by a restaurant and café. But even if you don’t want to sit down and consume, it is still possible to walk around the edges and look at the views.
Second photo: People and tables on the roof of Au Printemps.
Third photo: Looking towards Montmartre and Sacré-Coeur. The older-looking church steeple in the center of the photo is the Trinité.
Fourth photo: Looking west towards the Arch of Triumph.
Fifth photo: Evening on the roof of Au Printemps, looking towards the Eiffel Tower.
Next review from October 2013: Signposted bicycle route # 1
wonderful cafe on top floor, great fashion, a symbol of France, need to visit. you have all in the webpage, I have been so many times over the years and so lazy to write about it. My fav is to to the terrace in good weather to eat; shopping is second for me there lol!!!
a bit of history
The store was created on may 11 1865 choosing an new area close to the gare Saint Lazare . So the store settles in at the corner of rue du Havre and Boulevard Haussmann . The building was built on November 3 1865 blessed by the priest of the Madeleine.
By April 6 1874 four buildings were added and elevators or lifts were added. On March 9 1881 a fire took place taken a great part of the store buildings, but quickly rebuilt by 1883 in concrete block. In 1888, Printemps is the first store to be equipped with electric lighting! as many businesses during WWII the store was hard hit by the war, the male employees were use for hard labor by the nazis ,and the women took the work in the store.
The rest is a wonderful story of beauty, fashion, and panache, or chic a la French we all come to admire.
What to buy: anything in a dept store but in Paris
What to pay: prices for top brands in Paris
Similar to Galeries Lafayette, Printemps is a great place to find just about anything. It's a multi-storied shopping complex which carries approximately the same types of items Galeries Lafayette does.
There are a few locations throughout Paris and they have fashion for men, women, children and they also carry a wide range of housewares, jewelry and accessories.
There is also a cute restaurant on the sixth floor called Cafe Flo.
What to buy: Just about anything can be purchased here but I usually like to check out their uinque women's clothing and their women's lingerie department.
Check out Cafe Flo located on the 6th floor.
What to pay: Prices are about average
Even if you don't want to do some shopping the architecture of the Printemps department store at the boulevard Haussmann makes the visit worthwhile on the outside especially at the corner of the boulevard and the rue du Havre leading to the Gare St Lazare (ref. photo) and inside having lunch at the Brasserie Printemps under the large cupola from 1923 made of tainted glass and steel. (Open Mondays to Saturdays from 9.35 am to 8 pm • Women's Store, Floor 6).
I had a few times lunch there but what I ignored is that the cupola was dismantled and stored at Clichy in 1939 to avoid the risk of destruction by bombing. It was restored only in 1973. The façade and cupola of the building are registered as historical monuments.
Pulled by a woman from shop to shop, the exhausted man had, at last, a small compensation: the beautiful building composes a classical ambiance for the myriad of shops and stalls.
Excuse-me! That's up to her.
By the way... where the hell did she go?
Another big expensive store that we visited for other than shopping reasons :)
The building itself is beautiful, in art nouveau style, it was built about 100 years before!
We only checked the prices at perfumes (more expensive anyway), the clothes seem (according to the females of our group) but also pricey. There is something for everyone (men, women, kids, jewelry, accessories) but a good credit card will help.
So we just took the lift up to 9th floor where they have a nice café/restaurant with amazing view over the city (Eiffel Tower included of course, check pic 3). There is outdoor seating at the terrace but also a nice small bar inside if you visited during winter like we did (pic 4).
The prices were normal…
The store is open Monday-Saturday 9:35-19:00, night opening on Thursdays to 10 p.m.
These stores arose in Paris after the guilds had been abolished during the Revolution and Public Transport had been instituted (and railways going into Paris created). The first such store was Les Magazins Reunis in the Pl. de la Republique (1866;gone) followed by Printemps opened in the same year. When damage by fire it was replaced in 1888. The corner rotunda remains but most of the rest of the store has been much remodeled. The Bazar Hotel de Ville appeared in 1904 and in 1906 oth the Samaritaine and the Galeries Lafayette (Separate Tip) where we prefer shopping because of its lunch room and roof view.
On the same day I was on my way to the Chapelle Expiatoire, I also stopped by Printemps at one of their outside vendors to buy a floral silk scarf (100% soie/silk) bordered in navy blue for a scant 15€.
Not to be outdone by their neighbor, they also decorate for the holidays but I prefer Galeries Lafayette's light display!
However, Printemps has a much prettier building.
Photos: November 2007 & February 2006
Founded in 1865, le Printemps was one of the most innovative stores of its time. As a direct competitor of the neighbouring Galeries Lafayette, le Printemps matched its elegance and reputation. The large store occupies multiple buildings dating from as early as the 19th century and listed as historic monuments. Le Printemps continues to be a leading department store in France synonymous with luxury and quality.
For Individual Travellers
Upon presentation of your foreign passport and under certain conditions, department store will be pleased to offer you a 10% discount card at the Welcome Service, ground floor, Printemps de la mode.
Remark: It is free! In the Printemps department store go to the 9th floor (take the elevator to the 8th floor, go through the luggage section, and take the escalator up towards La Terrasse restaurant). Walk through the restaurant and exit through the glass doors. You will find yourself on a large outside rooftop terrace that provides an amazing view of many Paris monuments: look to the left and you will find the Opéra, the Grand Palais, the top of the Arc de Triomphe. Looking right you have a superb view of la Butte Montmartre. The terrace is not so well known, so it is not too crowded.
I was told about this place from my art teacher.
You have to go to the cafe at the top of Printemps, it was built in 1923 in an Art Nouveau style and is a stained glass dome consisted of 3,185 panes of glass with a diameter of 20 meters. Luckly they had the foresight to protect this jem during WW2 so it's still here today.
The cafe does great ice cream too.
This is a paradise for those who love shopping spree! There are so many things to see it's almost impossible to check all out in one day...Make sure you have time to go back before leaving.
What to buy: Anything you want, from men's clothes to house items, shoes, gifts, etc.
4 huge buildings and almost 10 floors of high quality shop, shop, shopping.
And beautiful at Christmas.
One of my alltime Paris vt favorites mariev has a beautiful tip and foto of the view of the Sacre Coeur from the Printemps 9th floor terrace.
What to buy: I don't shop on holiday (typical male). I like the building and even had a snack once in the cafe there (just an average sandwich, definitely nothing to write home about, but the ceiling was kind of cool)
What to pay: beaucoup
Located right next to the Galleries, another great place for cheap or designer clothing.
What to buy: Bourjois cosmetics. If youre american you know these cosmetics cost big bucks in the states. In Paris its really cheap! Its just as cheap as cosmetics you would by at the drug stores! This is a good gift to bring back.