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.
Perfect size for gifts.
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.
Who knew you could get chocolate bons bons in a make up format?
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
View from the terrace of Galeries Lafayette of the Palais Garnier.
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.
Keep going up!
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.
Not a bad place to enjoy a smoked salmon baguette sandwich!
Jennifer was on a quest to find the best vintage clothes in the Marais. As soon as we were planning the trip, Jennifer began researching names and locations of vintage clothing stores. Then, she decided to narrow it to the Marais. With that limitation, she and I could map out the stores and create a route for the day, with some culture and a snack or two along the way.
Jennifer is an expert at vintage clothing and has a collection that rivals the best shops anywhere. Whether in New York, Miami or London, Jennifer has found exceptional quality at vintage clothing stores. Along with clothes, she shops handbags, jewelry, shoes, luggage, and hats.
On the trip in January, Jennifer packed 3 vintage berets that she sported jauntily in our evenings out. Also in her suitcase, she packed vintage dresses from Yves St. Laurent and Givenchy, vintage Gucci heels, vintage clutch, and bags full of vintage earrings and jewelry. (She was stunning each night!) Her motto is save for something spectacular and timeless, and do not waste money on trends at retail stores. With that goal in mind, she set our mission for the day of shopping at vintage clothes in the Marais, and we were off.
Start at Saint Paul for Vintage Clothes in the Marais
Rue de Rivoli near Saint Paul Métro
First, we took the Métro up to Saint Paul station. After walking past some of the beautiful foods offered at shops along the way, we arrived at Tilt on the rue de Rivoli. Jennifer went in to check out our first shop of vintage clothes in the Marais. A few minutes later, she returned to the sidewalk without making a purchase. Her assessment: not high end, not really vintage, more of a resale shop. Nice sales people that were helpful. At the end of the day, she added that Tilt is not crammed and jammed like the ones on the rue des Rosiers (more to come about those).
Fit in a Little Culture and Some Great Food
Entrance to the Picasso Museum – nice house!
From Tilt, we walked to the Picasso Museum and saw his personal collection on the top floors. Then, we walked around the corner and ordered crêpes to go from Breizh Café annex – next door to the sit-down restaurant.
Great picnic spot! The other side of the house from the entrance to the Picasso Museum.
We walked across the street and had a picnic at one of the tables in the park behind/in front of the Picasso Museum. Along with our to go boxes, the cutlery and packaging were all biodegradable. (An example of Paris really trying to be green.) This was a completely perfect way to enjoy a delicious Breton crêpe in the Marais!
Bio c’ Bon
Now that we were fortified, we could start our shopping in earnest. But, Paris has many diversions, even if it is a grocery store. On our walk, we passed a store, Bio c’ Bon and I went in to get a bottle of water. It turned out to be an amazing store of 3 floors of only organic products. From brimming meat cases to stunning produce, to everything else in a regular grocery store – all organic. A great find – and they are all over Paris. Add it to your list.
Place de la République
Place de la Republique
We kept going up to near the Place de la République to find the shop, Nice Piece. It was supposed to open at 12:30 pm, and we got there right at 12:30. We looked in the window for a few minutes. Jennifer said it looked good and worth checking out. We waited, then walked up the street and looked at Place de la République, took some photos, then back again. Still not open.
Onward to High-End Vintage
Time was ticking, so we walked over to the end of rue Tournelles. Two vintage stores are down the block from each other: Odetta and Fabri & Co.
From the outside, each one looks like a high-end boutique – small, tasteful, luxe. Jennifer and John were in Fabri & Co. so long that I was sure Jennifer was making a purchase. Finally, they came onto the street without a bag. But, Jennifer was very impressed. She said the shop owner was super friendly, high-end vintage, the quality was great, clothes were in great condition, lots of beautiful jackets and matching skirts or pants from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Also, handbags and some shoes.
Next, they went into Odetta and did not spend as much time. Jennifer said it was extremely high end with a salesman to match. The shop is a sparse boutique with a well-edited collection. Clothes are beautifully made, along with handbags and jewelry, all in great condition.
As we made our way down the street, we saw a café and stopped in. It was Chez Janou. A café with a super-great Parisian feeling. A beautiful rounded zinc bar, a friendly bartender, a lively crowd and an excellent looking menu! We ordered a celebratory drink – Jennifer a glass of Champagne, John a kir and me a glass of red wine. Maybe you wonder why celebratory? It is Paris and that is reason enough to celebrate!!! Plus, Jennifer was feeling especially optimistic about our next stops. After our pick-me-ups, we started out again.
More Beautiful History
Place des Vosges in winter.
On the way to the next store for vintage clothes in the Marais, we had a few stops to make. First, we walked in and around the Place des Vosges. We sat on a bench for a few minutes admiring the amazing architecture and calming square. Even without any leaves on the trees, it remains one of the most beautiful squares in Paris.
Even in cold and rain, you can sit outside at Florence Kahn Bakery and enjoy falafel.
Then we made our way down the narrow streets to the corner of rue des Rosiers and rue des Ecouffes – falafel central of the Jewish quarter. John had been waiting for a snack here. He got a falafel stuffed pita and we all had a bite of the falafel – deee-licious. It is always a great place to go on each visit to Paris for a reasonably priced and delicious meal (or snack). When making plans, remember that most of these restaurants are closed on Saturdays in observance of the Sabbath.
Kilo Shop – one of multiple.
While we were walking for a falafel snack, Jennifer saw a second-hand store, the Kilo Shop, and went in. Jennifer’s assessment: some vintage clothes, fur coats, men’s and women’s jackets, shirts, and jeans. Minimal accessories and the store was packed with things. Here, shoppers buy by weight – an interesting idea. Later comment – Kilo Shops are all over Paris with thrift-store quality.
More Like Thrift Stores
Look on the glass storefront for the painted letters – Vintage Desir.
Another find was right off of the falafel corner. Vintage Desir (or Coiffure – looks like a leftover sign from a previous haircutting place) is a second-hand shop and Jennifer went in. Her assessment: slightly more upscale thrift shop quality. Much more wear to the clothes, both men’s and women’s clothes, everything from jackets, to bins of scarves, purses, hats. Some hidden gems. Kind of a free-for-all inside with the shoppers.
Another Free’P’Star is across the street from this one. Look at the piles of purses.
Free’P’Star was the last store of vintage clothes in the Marais on Jennifer’s list. It is in the next block from Le BHV with a Kilo Shop next door. Jennifer’s assessment: claustrophobic, free-for-all, thrift store grade, knock-off purses by the load. Once she got in, she had a hard time getting out. It is two stores, one across the street from each other. I only looked in the window and it was a mob scene.
Place de l’Hôtel de Ville
After the raucousness of Free’P’Star, that was it for the day. We walked to the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, satisfied our craving for a Nutella Crêpe, saw Yellow Vests marching down the rue de Rivoli, then headed back to the hotel for a nap. No purchases, but Jennifer took us on a great tour and we found out a lot about vintage clothes in the Marais!
Take a tour of vintage clothes in the Marais, but add some spice and spend the day. Here is a map with directions for this walking tour of vintage clothes, history, art, and food.
Tilt 8 rue de Rivoli 75004 Paris
Picasso Museum 5 rue de Thorigny 75003 Paris
Breizh Café 109 rue Vielle du Temple 75003 Paris
Nice Piece 76 rue Charlot 75003 Paris
Fabri & Co. 82 rue Tournelles 75003 Paris
Odetta 76 rue Tournelles 75003 Paris
Chez Janou 2 rue Roger Verlomme 75003 Paris
Kilo Shop locations around Paris
Vintage Desir 32 rue des Rosiers 75004 Paris
Florence Kahn Bakery 24 Rue des Ecouffes 75004 Paris
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