Have you been to the Grands Magasins of Paris? No? What about one of the huge department stores in Manhattan or in your local mall? The ones you have seen are big aren’t they? But, really, really big?
Big is an Understatement
Saks Fifth Avenue is big. Bergdorf Goodman is luxe. Barney’s is cutting edge. But, you cannot imagine the spread of the Grands Magasins. All of the New York stores combined into one do not equal the sheer enormity of either Printemps or Galeries Lafayette. These are the two, true Grands Magasins of Paris. And they have food too!
Imagine one of the incredible department stores that you know, then supersize it – twice or three times. Next, add haute couture names from the best in the fashion world, plus everything you can imagine from a regular department store. Add in food in all variations. And there you have it – one of the Grands Magasins. All under one roof (or three, as the case may be). As a bonus, the Grands Magasins are next door to each other (and behind the Palais Garnier). Convenient, eh?
What is Inside the Grands Magasins
Housewares – floors full
Kitchen – great souvenirs in the tea towel section and utensils section
Bedding – anything you can imagine
Men’s – of course
Women’s – can’t have a department store without it
Shoes – for acres
Food – pantry items to prepared gourmet take home
Restaurants – from sandwiches where they slice the aged ham off the bone to a Petrossian caviar and Champagne restaurant right by the atrium in Galeries Lafayette. And, everything in between. In Printemps du Goût, we stopped at Byzance for a beautiful smoked salmon baguette sandwich that we enjoyed while looking over the rooftops and the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Not too shabby!
Grocery – like a super high end grocery store with butchers and fish mongers who can answer any question you have about the product or how to prepare it
Wine and Liquor – tremendous wine selections, rooms of Champagne, spirits of all kinds
Thinking of food and drink, Printemps recently opened two new floors of gourmet food halls, Printemps du Goût. One floor even has a great gift section appropriately named, “Le Cadeau” (“gift” in English). Shelves of perfectly sized gems for gift giving. (Just ignore my advice on not really taking jarred and canned things back and get a few for family and friends back home if you dare.) Galeries Lafayette has amazing food halls, too. Luxurious, insane, deliciousness waiting for your watering mouth.
Fashion at the Grands Magasins
And, are you looking for the most exclusive names because you are a fashionista? I bet you have never heard of all of the luxury brands encircling the atrium beneath the fabulous multi-colored dome of Galeries Lafayette. The same with Printemps in an entire building dedicated to women’s wear. Printemps also has a dome, but it covers a brasserie where, once you are done shopping, you can relax under beautifully filtered light.
With all that is on offer, it is hard to imagine that any store can be as magnificent as the Grands Magasins. Just walking around for an hour to browse and getting a snack (or two) can be overwhelming. And, you cannot make it through the Grands Magasins in a day – or maybe even a week. They are simply over the top, and at the same time, a must visit. Obviously visitors from all over the world feel the same way. You can see any nationality shopping, and the Grands Magasins have sales people who speak practically every language. The diversity is amazing.
View From on High
Whatever you do, shop or not, do not miss the view from the top of one of these Grands Magasins. The view is worth every penny you don’t pay to go shopping. Expanses over the rooftops at a height that makes Paris seem to stretch out forever at your feet.
A Couple of Notes on Visiting the Grands Magasins
– Expect your bags to be checked by security when you walk in the doors of each store.
– Do not bring suitcases with you.
– Galeries Lafayette will soon open another location in a huge historic building on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées
– Thinking of eating during a shopping trip? Be prepared to be overwhelmed; there are lots of choices and lots of competition for seats
– Practice a few key menu terms before you go
– At the restaurants, pay attention to the details – yes, they have “hairnets,” but they are stylish
– Galleries Lafayette even has an RER entrance into the men’s department
– Check out this warning – and admonition to get your body moving – from the Printemps website:
ALCOHOL ABUSE IS DANGEROUS FOR THE HEALTH. CONSUME WITH MODERATION.
FOR YOUR HEALTH, PRACTICE REGULARLY PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES.
Galeries Lafayette – Paris Haussmann
40 boulevard Haussmann
Printemps – Paris Haussmann
64, Boulevard Haussmann