Destination: France: Paris
Assuming you’re not looking for international labels and would rather find French boutiques, the best overall shopping areas are the Marais and St. Germain. If you are looking for Valentino, Dior etc…, stick to the Avenue Montaigne and Rue St. Honoré. In the 16th arrondissement, the Rue de Passy and Avenue Victor Hugo have interesting boutiques mixed in with the well-known high-end chains for their well-heeled area residents.
TIP: Whether you choose to take these walks or not, you should buy a Plan de Paris par Arrondissement if you don’t already have one. Like the London A to Z, these street guides are easy to use (they are organized by arrondissement or district) and are indispensable for navigating Paris. They are available at most newsstands and bookshops and cost about $10.
Left Bank: St. Germain des Près
Some of the city’s best shopping is concentrated in the 6th and 7th arrondissements. Start at Rue du Bac and Quai Voltaire. Follow Rue du Bac away from the Seine, you will pass Laurence Tavernier, Eric Bompard, Le Prince Jardinier and Deyrolle. Cross Blvd. St.-Germain and continue along the Rue du Bac until it meets Rue de Varenne. Look out for the small stationer shop Olivier de Sercey. (On the corner, you’ll see the shop Dîners en Ville.)
Going along the Rue du Bac, keep an eye out for the lovely home and children’s shops, Blanc d’Ivoire and Coquelicot…Paprika and R&Y Augousti. Make a left on Rue de Babylone, Conran shop is on the corner and Le Bon Marché will be to your right, if you need a fix at the best department store in the city. Continue along Rue de Babylone until you reach Blvd. Raspail.
Once you cross, stay straight on the Rue de Sèvres. On your immediate left, you will see a small square, where Le Cigale Récamier has outdoor tables and is a good place for a coffee or lunch. If you continue on Rue de Sèvres, you will reach the Place de la Croix Rouge, a triangular little place. There should be a Manfield shoe shop at the bottom of the triangle and beyond that a Claudie Pierlot boutique on the Rue du Vieux Colombier. (This is where a Plan or mapquest will be useful.) Take the Rue du Vieux Colombier. Continue across the Rue de Rennes. Stay on the Rue du Vieux Colombier and a block or so after you cross the Rue Madame, you will arrive at Place St. Sulpice, named for the enormous church in the center. Continue along the north side of the Place, passing the Annick Goutal shop among others. Straight ahead of you is the Rue St. Sulpice with Vanessa Bruno and Garderobe.
Follow Rue St. Sulpice to the Rue de Seine and make a left. Follow the Rue de Seine across Blvd. St.-Germain and continue on Rue de Seine until you reach Rue Jacob. Make a left on Rue Jacob and follow it to Rue Bonaparte. (For an added detour, you can take the Rue de Furstenberg to the tiny little square, Place de Furstenberg.) Make a left on Rue Bonaparte. Two blocks south, you will arrive at St.-Germain des Prés, where you can get something to eat or drink at Deux Magots, Café Flore or, across the street, at Brasserie Lipp.
Right Bank: Haut Marais
The Haut Marais, in the 3rd arrondissement, is buzzing. Roughly the area between the Musée National Picasso (which is closed for renovation until 2012) and the Place de la République, it’s a perfect place to explore for its galleries, cute one-off boutiques and plenty of funky cafes and restaurants for refueling. It’s off the well-trodden tourist path but in proximity to the city center. Especially travelers with trendy teens who are tired of monumental sight-seeing should not miss a walk through this lovely neighborhood. Read what not to miss.
Right Bank: Marais
A good, short walk in the Marais, in the fourth arrondissement, which passes a lot of the best boutiques, is taking the Rue des Archives from the Rue de Rivoli to Rue Ste. Croix de la Bretonnerie; at Rue Vieille du Temple turn left; on a little ways you’ll see the Rue des Rosiers on your right, follow Rue des Rosiers until it hits Rue Pavée; turn left on Rue Pavée and then right on to Rue des Francs Bourgeois. Follow Rue des Francs Bourgeois three blocks until you hit the Place des Vosges, a perfect spot for lunch or a drink (stop by Carette). The Musée Carnavelet (on the history of Paris) is a fun stop. Don’t miss Proust’s cork-lined bedroom on the second floor.
Right Bank: Rue St. Honoré and Environs
While the Left Bank and the Marais have some of the funkier, small-label boutiques, the first arrondissement, abounds with Paris’ most upscale shops. Many of them, like Causse Gantier, Charvet, Cassegrain, Victoire and Camille Fournet specialize in those incredibly refined, special products—gloves, paper, shirts, watch straps—that make Paris shopping such a joy. The main shopping drag is Rue du Faubourg St.-Honoré and Rue St.-Honoré (the former leads into the latter), as well as surrounding rues, like Rue de Castiglione, Rue Cambon, Rue d’Alger and Rue du 29 Juillet. The arcades of the Palais Royal bear such treasures as the vintage wares of Didier Ludot and Le Prince Jardinier. The epicenter of French style, Colette is still going strong and its donwstairs cafe is also a good spot to take a break. For a more refined lunch while you shop, head to the courtyard of the Costes or the lovely 114 Faubourg, the more casual restaurant of renowned Hotel Le Bristol.
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