Last Updated on 1st March 2023 by Sophie Nadeau
Around the world, Paris is known as a fashion capital, and for good reason. As well as several Paris fashion weeks throughout the year, and a number of beautiful brands calling Paris home, Paris is also a haven for shopping lovers. There are a number of department shops in the city which sell a plethora of brands and are known as ‘les Grands Magains’ in French. Here’s your guide to the best department stores in Paris.
If you’re looking to spend a rainy day in Paris, then it’s well worth noting that les Grands Magasins are a great place to takes cover. French sales (known as the ‘soldes’) are highly regulated by French law and only take place twice a year; once in the summer and then again in the winter.
With this being said, there is a rise on other clothing offers in stores throughout the years and so the ‘soldes’ definitely carry less weight than they used to. If you are a non-EU resident, then you may qualify for a tax refund on some of your purchases.
Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche
The oldest (and arguably the most exclusive) department store in Paris is Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche. This is the only major department store on the left bank (known in French as the Rive Gauche- i.e. South) of the River Seine.
The department store was founded by a husband wife duo Aristide and Marguerite Boucicaut in 1838. Set across multiple levels, the department store is divided into various sections; accessories, shoes, women’s wear, and even a bookshop selling all kinds of wares. The entire layout of Le Bon Marché is open-plan and surrounds a geometric dazzling staircase.
BHV Le Marais
Located in the very heart of Paris, just outside of the Hôtel de Ville, BHV Le Marais was founded in the 1850s. According to legend, BHV (which stands for Bazaar de l’Hôtel de Ville) was founded after the most interesting turn of events.
After moving to Paris in 1852 together with his wife, Xavier Ruel began selling wares in a shop which he named “Bazar Parisien”. The legend goes that, in 1855, Ruel saved the Emperor Napoleon’s Wife after her horses became frightened close to the store. As a reward, she gave him cash, which he used to open the store which would eventually become the BHV.
Today, BHV Le Marais is one of the most popular and busy stores in Paris. Set across several buildings, the shop sells everything from homewares to children’s clothing. The nearest metro station is that of Hôtel de Ville (line 1 and line 11).
In the summer months, one of the coolest places to grab cocktails in the Le Marais area is at Le Perchoir, which is a rooftop bar set atop the famed BHV Le Marais flagship department store and offering an Eiffel Tower view.
One of the original department stores in Paris is that of La Samaritaine, which is one of the most impressive buildings in the 1st arrondissement of Paris.
Newly re-opened to the public for the first time in several decades, La Samaritaine features plenty of Art Nouveau architecture, as well as several restaurants and plenty of concept shopping opportunities. La Samaritaine is also home to one of the best vintage photo booths in Paris.
Printemps is not only the word for Spring in French but also happens to be one of the five ‘Grands Magasins’ of Paris. Situated on Boulevard Haussmann, in the 9th arrondissement, the department store was created by Jules Jaluzot in 1865.
Characterised by its iconic domes and 44,000 m² of floor space spread over 25 floors and 3 buildings, Printemps Haussmann offers a luxury shopping experience in a historically listed building. There’s even a free rooftop terrace that offers views of the Eiffel Tower.
One department store which actually has several branches across the city (as well as in other European cities such as Toulouse and Berlin) is Galeries Lafayette, whose main flagship store is located on Boulevard Haussmann in the 9th arrondissement.
Galeries Lafayette also has another location on the Champs-Élysées in the 8th arrondissement. The Galeries Lafayette flagship store itself boasts a Cupola which is Art Nouveau in architectural style and is almost as much of an institution in Paris as the nearby Palais Garnier Opéra House.
Conceived at the beginning of the 20th-century to be a Luxury Bazaar selling all manner of goods to Parisians, the department store also has a free rooftop terrace which offers one of the best views of central Paris.
The Galeries Lafayette complex of Boulevard Haussmann boasts 65,000 m2 of space across three buildings, and sells over 2,500 different brands in total. Each Christmas time, a giant Christmas tree is erected in the centre of the cupola.
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Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, travel, pizza, and history. A fan of all things France related, she runs solosophie.com when she’s not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming something sweet. She currently splits her time between Paris and London. Subscribe to Sophie’s YouTube Channel.