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Where to Find Unique Gifts in Paris – All Under One Gorgeous Roof

Where to Find Unique Gifts in Paris – All Under One Gorgeous Roof

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

Galeries Lafayette Atrium

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?

Galeries Lafayette

 

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

Galeries Lafayette Wall Diagram

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.

Printemps cadeau

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.

Galeries Lafayette Bons Bons Maquillage

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 terrace of Galeries Lafayette

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.

Galeries Lafayette Sign to the Terrace

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.

View from Printemps Food Halls

Not a bad place to enjoy a smoked salmon baguette sandwich!

Galeries Lafayette – Paris Haussmann
40 boulevard Haussmann
75009

Printemps – Paris Haussmann
64, Boulevard Haussmann
75009

Souvenirs from Paris

Souvenirs from Paris

A souvenir = a reminder/a memory.  The French word for remember describes exactly what we crave from places we visit – a remembrance of a trip or a special place that conjures the spirit of that place or trip in one symbolic item.  Souvenirs do not have to be much, a little something for your family and friends to let them know you were thinking of them in Paris.

When buying souvenirs, keep them small and lightweight!  Remember, you have to tote them home!  Here are some suggestions for souvenirs.

Chocolate

Perfection for nearly everyone.  Paris has no shortage of delicious chocolate shops.  Be careful on the return journey because chocolate can melt!  You may want to keep all chocolate and candy souvenirs in your carry-on.  The packaging is extraordinary and even the smallest amount of chocolate makes for a grand souvenir.

Paper, paper products, notebooks

Gibert Jeune – not just any paper products.  Think paper products and notebooks done the French way – these are souvenirs with style and interest.  Yes, it is a book store and text book store for all of the students, but it is much more and worthy of taking a turn through the aisles for yourself and for others.  You will see the yellow signs near Place St. Michel. The sign includes, “Librarie,” which translates to bookstore, not a library in the American sense.

Tea towels/kitchen towels

A useful souvenir that can be for the whole family.  Your family and friends can hang them from the oven door and think of you for as long as they last!  Find tea towels at many museum gift shops, along the touristy walkways and even at Monoprix or Franprix.

Candy

La Cure Gourmand, newly installed in Paris, made in the South of France, and only from 1989. However, your head will spin when you walk in the stores and see the selection and the packaging, taste the flavors and decide you must bring some home. Try the chocolate olives!

Fashion

Maybe a chic scarf is the way to go – Paris is the fashion capital of the world. Take a look at the museum shops, les Grands Magasins and even the tourist stalls on the rue de Rivoli.  Also, when you duck into a Franprix or Monoprix, they may have something to suit you.

Children’s clothes – new baby in the family??  Stop by the Monoprix or Franprix and pick up children’s clothes at great prices.

Old books, interesting maps, vintage looking magnets and trays, what about a reproduction menu?

Find them all at the bouquinistes.  These souvenirs can please even the most well-traveled relative or friend.  The bouquinistes have the green flip top storage containers sitting atop the walls along the quais of the Seine.  When the top is opened, the sellers are ready for business.  Do not touch anything without asking first.  Many times, the seller will pull out the item for you and present it to you for inspection.  Shop for souvenirs, plus, enjoy the walk and admire outstanding views of Paris.

Museum Shops

Did you visit a museum show with an incredible exhibition that you loved? See if the museum shop has a small exhibition catalog for a souvenir. Or, if you especially loved it, you can get a souvenir for yourself!

The boutique at Musée de l’Armée has super cool miniature Napoleonic canons for boys on your list.  Anything more appropriate than that for warring Napoleon?

Postcards

A postcard is my favorite souvenir from someone who goes on a trip, and one of my favorite souvenirs to send.  Most people have everything they need and a postcard is always perfect.  They are easily found nearly anywhere in Paris, they are save-able, inexpensive and thoughtful.  They can be beautiful, funny, monumental or whatever you prefer or whatever matches the style of the recipient.   Most hotels have stamps and will mail them for you – and you do not have to bring it home with you in your luggage!

Specialty Souvenirs

For book lovers, you may select a book from Shakespeare and Company – be sure to have it stamped by the store on the way out – or, try the bouquinistes again.

Someone who likes gardens may like a box of note cards from the shop in the Tuileries.

Sometimes, you have a grandchild or niece or nephew who couldn’t be more pleased with plastic snow globe of the Paris landmarks – you can find these and other “unique” items around Notre Dame, the Louvre and Montmartre.  Or, what about an Eiffel Tower key ring – inexpensive enough to buy multiple in case you forgot someone on your list. Mini monuments are kitsch, but…. you are a tourist.

For cooks on your list, try a kitchen supply store like La Vaissellerie (4 locations) or E. Dehillerin. Or, maybe an apron from Café de Flore.

Pharmacy

What great products the French pharmacy has! Look for the green, kind of weird plus sign and that signifies a pharmacy. Besides being able to help you if you have a sore throat, they have all kinds of beauty potions and lotions that will satisfy even the most fickle person on your list.

Recap on Monoprix or Franprix

These are kind of a combination supermarket, variety store and department store.  Incredible resources for necessities that you may have forgotten and for souvenirs. You may be amazed after entering a simple street-side door, marked with a sign overhead, that opens to an expansive multi-level affair.  Interesting and fun places to shop for souvenirs and to learn about French culture (look at all of those yogurts in glass jars! What is that wooden contraption over there?).  You can find your own souvenirs, but consider:

Jaunty make up bags

Rows of Dijon mustard, not Parisian, but hey, it is French and pick a brand that you have never seen before

Milled bar soap

Kitchen towels

Sea salt – Fleur de Sel from the Camargue – not Parisian either, but, still French

Children’s clothes

Socks

Toothbrushes – a friend brought these back for a whole group of us and the toothbrush came with a little brush head cover that I still use today (on newer toothbrushes)

Cooking utensils (go to that section and see if you can figure out what they are all used for)

Food Souvenirs

A caution for food souvenirs: Food other than candy and chocolate – buy at your own risk.  Customs has taken jars of jelly from me before, so I avoid food products other than chocolate and candy.

However, for the honey lover – the Opera Garnier’s gift shop sells honey from the hives on its roof.

Forgot a Gift?

Did you forget to get a souvenir, but have yet to take the flight home? Use your left over euros at the airport in one of the shops to find a last-minute souvenir.

Back at home and forgot a gift? Maybe you saw an exhibition and now you want the catalog? Check out the official French museum shop online.

Questioning Whether You Can Bring It Back?

For a definitive list of what you can and cannot bring back into the U.S. and what the costs may be, check with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection online and watch, “Know Before You Go.”