ShoppingParis is a shopper's paradise. Jet-setters will feel at home with the famous names of the haute couture boutiques found on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré such as Dior, Chanel, Givenchy, and Jean-Paul Gaultier. Trend-setting fashions can be found in Rue Etienne Marcel shops. Sadly, the Champs-Elysées is not what it used to be, with banks, fast-food chains and malls strategically placed to trap tourists. However, some good stores remain - perfume from Guerlain Parfumerie is a classic Paris souvenir.
Galeries Lafayette is a famous French department store. The flagship store is located on Boulevard Haussmann and has been a Paris icon since its creation in 1894. Beneath the decorative Art Nouveau dome lies 65,000 square metres of floor space hosting more than 3,500 brands from around the world. The energy, architecture, layout, restaurants and views over the city have turned Galeries Lafayette into a prime tourist attraction for shoppers and browsers alike.
Les Halles is a subterranean shopping mall with more than 150 stores where bargain hunters will be able to find cheap knockoffs and other trendy clothes. Mainstream department stores offer some great finds, such as La Samaritaine, which prides itself as being the one where on trouve tout (one finds everything). Just outside the city, La Vallée Village offers designer goods at steep discounts.
Bargains closer to town can be sniffed out in abundance at the three main flea markets situated around the old gates of the city. They are, however, teeming with pickpockets and shoppers should be on their guard. Les Bouquinistes, which consists of rows of bookstalls perched against the walls of the Seine River, is a great place for bookworms to browse and barter.
Those determined to buy a plastic Eiffel Tower or other kitschy souvenir, will find tourist tat plentiful along rue de Rivoli. Those looking for something a bit different to take home should visit the La Plaque Emaillées in Filles-du-Calvaire for a taste of turn-of-the-century Parisian Art Nouveau.
Parisians buy most of their food from specialty stores such as bakeries and butcheries, which stock pastries, cheeses or pâtés to die for. The open-air markets are a fantastic place to find flowers, produce and clothing. These are frequented by most of the locals. Paris also offers a wealth of window-shopping opportunities, making it the ultimate destination for the discerning consumer.
Most shops open between 9 and 10am, and close at 7 or 8pm. France levies a sales tax of between 5.5 percent and 33 percent, depending on the merchandise. There is a VAT refund scheme for non-EU visitors, but conditions apply.