The French capital has some of the largest, most glamorous, and historically the best department stores in the world: destinations where people can check out the trendiest in designer fashion and latest connections, enjoy a meal on a spectacular outdoor terrace, explore attractive aisles at gourmet food shops, and even be at free fashion shows.
Also literally referred to as “grands magasins” in French (“grand stores”), these are great institutions in Paris often attended by both locals and vacationers. Ensure that they are on your itinerary if shopping in the City of Light is something you will rather do extensively.
For architecture lovers, these department stores of classic style are worth seeing as well for their beautiful structures, most dating to the early 19th-century or “Belle Epoque” epoch. Glass cupolas and expansive steel, elaborate and gilded details, exciting galleries: no better way to feel the classic enamor of old Paris than by taking a turn at one of these lovely attractions in Paris? Even better- some of the spots offer a bird’s eye view over the city.
Here are some of the best department stores in Paris:
Even if you do not plan to shop when you visit Paris, check out the much-admired Galeries Lafayette in its spell-binding setting. The store’s distinct Belle Epoque architecture has an ornate Art Nouveau staircase and a spectacular colored glass dome. The staircase features airheaded angles over the store added to the department store being named after a Paris heritage site.
Galeries Lafayette- in the winter months- is donned in fine lights for the holiday period. Visitors can take their family along to savor the widely embellished seasonal window displays, which usually have animatronics and illustrative Christmas scenes. From colorful dolls and penguins to Santa Claus’ elves, kids will be pleased by these interesting yearly attractions.
Galeries Lafayette has a rich history to its name. On December 25, 1951, Europe’s biggest mechanical stairway was opened to the public, and visitors came in their droves to the area. In that same year, Edith Piaf, the singer, performed in the store’s front.
Two floors were added to the building in 1959, and they made it more spacious to devote a section to fashion. The festival of Style was organized annually between 1980 and 1999. The event rewarded the best chosen for Galeries Lafayette. It will not be long- 2 years actually- before Jean-Paul Goude, the photographer and artist, designed a few posters for Galeries Lafayette that would become a turning point for himself as well as for the store.
The brand now enjoys a global reputation. After the Eiffel Tower, it is the second most visited monument in France. With such influence on the French capital’s tourism, the store offers 45-minutes tours for groups of 10-20 guests at no cost. Galeries Lafayette has 5 stores around the world and 63 in France. The company has about 12,022 employees and welcomes about 1 million visitors daily.
For lovers of good wine and food, Lafayette Gourmet is a big food hall where visitors can buy nice gourmet objects and enjoy a tasty lunch or great treat. In general, the “Galeries” is a perfect place to discover distinct gifts in the French capital irrespective of the season.
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Le Bon Marché
Le Bon Marché is the perfect destination for the classy Seine’s left bank. It is another posh department store that deserves a visit when you are around- a superb stop before or after checking out the near Saint-Germain-des-Pres neighborhood. Le Bon Marché presents habitually renewed catalogs from more than 40 top fashion designers, which is hosted in a building that the iconic Gustave Eiffel designed in 1852.
For a dining experience before or after checking out the major store, La Grande Epicerie is the place to be. It is a gourmet market that is stocked with thousands of treats from different parts of the world. Its meat, cheese, and manufacturing section are regarded as one of the best in Paris. Make a detour here and stock your baggage with delectable items like excellent sweets and chocolate just before your train or plane ride home. Le Bon Marché is located at 24 Rue de Sèvres, 75007, Paris, France.
Bazar de L’Hôtel de Ville (BHV)
Located in the lively center of the French capital and right across the street from the city hall is BVH- the unassuming cousin of the Paris department stores perhaps. It is a bit more accessible for considering vacation costs than the incredibly expensive Bon Marche or Galeries Lafayette, and less touristy as well.
In its innovative spirit, the Bazaar had its first escalator in the 1950s, which attracted even more customers. After that, the establishment was among the first to use a telephone with a switchboard. In the 1960s, they were the first store to be equipped with air conditioning for the comfort of their guests.
The end of the 1990s and the start of the 21st-century caused a new turn in the Bazaar de l’Hôtel de Ville. The outfit gets a facelift, and its front is remodeled with an exterior window display that guests have taken a liking to in the Christmas season.
‘Real’ locals visit here when they want utensils, find deals on edgy urban gears or browse the pet accessories stall during the yearly sales in the city. As a solid Parisian impression, head to the “Bazaar” on a weekend. But before or after visiting this respected temple to shop, ensure that you explore the neighboring Les Halles and Beaubourg districts. From the Center Georges Pompidou to quiet small streets with strikingly unconventional bars, it is in Paris center but retains its own village-ish angles. BHV is located at 52 Rue de Rivoli, 75004, Paris.
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Printemps Department Store
The history of this store started in 1865 when the Second Empire occupied the corridors of power for 3 years. The French emperor was Napoleon III. It was first opened to the public on November 3rd, 1865, in a deluxe building on Boulevard Haussmann. Printemps was birthed from the collaboration of two businesspeople, Jules Jaluzot and Jean-Alfred Duclos.
These men preferred to found their store in a less urbanized area but chose the promising Chaussé-d’Antin. Near the Gare Saint-Lazare train station, the entrepreneurs hoped to attract customers from different parts of the country.
Jules and Paul Sédille- father and son- were the architects that constructed the building. Classy and covering three floors, their accomplishments are connected to the sale of high-quality material that would later make the establishment a global brand. The commercialization of its distinct black silk signaled the start of a high-level recognition that they still enjoy today.
A year later, the love for the store was immensely growing, and then there was an increase in sales when prices on their unsold goods were cut. This strategy was to make a new customer base, but Duclot had to leave the business. Printemps’ main objective was to deal with innovative and quality items at a low price- a way to support its reputation. To keep a loyal customer base, the outfit offered the store’s emblem, a bouquet, to customers on 21 March on the first day of spring.
In the Christmas season, the front windows are adorned with popular decorators and animated figures, made by the big names in the world of design and style. They welcome about 8 million inquisitive guests within 6 weeks. The store at Boulevard Haussmann attracts close to 7.5 million visitors every year (1.5 million than the famous Eiffel Tower) or 40,000 per day 43,500m2 space that is shared with 27 floors and 3 buildings.
Printemps is another expressively designed store that dates back to the mid-1800s. I recommend the rooftop bar, with its amazing views of the city. Visit in the summer or spring when it is nice and warm, have a drink, and absorb Paris from high up on the roof. Like its counterparts, Printemps organizes a great show during the holiday season. It is a smart idea to visit the two adjoining stores in the yuletide season to take in the magical spectacles. The store is located at 64 Boulevard Haussmann 4e etagé, 75009, Paris.
Best Department Stores in Paris – Final Thoughts
Paris’ department stores have become a stopping point on all touristic itineraries. They have grown to such scale that expansion beyond the city is necessary by having branches all over the country and internationally. These outfits shaped the world of retail and high-end fashion. When in France, visit any of the department stores for the trendiest fashion wares and see how they have transformed the commercial world of sales.