After two months in the city of light, I have come up with my definitive guide on the best shopping in Paris, whatever you're looking for. Without further ado:
Best department store: Printemps Haussmann
I love Printemps. A lot of guidebooks will point you towards Galeries Lafayette as the must-see historic department store of Paris, but Galeries Lafayette is a tourist trap. I would recommend stopping inside only for the historic value. If you're interested in old buildings, it definitely does have a early-20th-century, upper-class Parisian feel. But if you're serious about shopping and getting good deals on or new pieces from luxury brands, Printemps Haussmann, next door, is definitely the way to go.
Firstly, Printemps is simply a better store - it's better-organized, has a better curated selection of brands, and is much easier to navigate and get around. In the main (women's) building, floors 3 & 4 are my favorite haunts. Floor 2 features very high-end international designers, and everything is typically out of my price range (although Givenchy is always worth stopping by). On 3 & 4, though, you'll find more-affordable collections from designers like Yves Solomon, Moschino, and Maison Margiela.
At the Haussmann Homme's store, there's a likewise treasure trove on the 2nd floor. Here, in addition to the regular collections of Givenchy, APC and others, you'll find L'Endroit - a space dedicated to new designers, featuring read-to-wear from from Rick Owens and Raf Simons to Alexander Wang and Philip Lim.
And, to top it all off, Printemps regularly holds pretty fantastic sales. Check their website for when these might be coming off. And one more secret tip: if you walk just 10 minutes or so to the Hilton Hotel (Opera), you can ask the concierge for a discount card for Printemps. It's always worked for me, and it gives you 10% storewide. If you're traveling from abroad, you can still get your 10% tax refund on top of that - which you'll have to claim same-day on the ground floor. Not a bad deal at all!
Best Shopping Center: La Vallée Village
I haven't seen a lot of websites mention La Vallée Village on their places to shop, but it's definitely worth a visit if you're hunting for good deals on French designers. La Vallée Village is a sprawling outlet center about 40 minutes east of Paris, by train. You can take the RER A from the city center (Les-Halles), and debark at the Val d'Europe station. From the train station you can walk through the Val d'Europe mall or take a short bus to get to the outlets.
Tip: Make your first stop the Welcome Center, located just left of Polo Ralph Lauren in the picture above. There, you might qualify for a 6-pack for 10% discount at any store, to use as you like! Again, you can use this discount and still apply for 10% tax refund.
Depending on what you like, there's a lot to find here. It's not generally my style, and definitely more geared to luxury brand loyalists. But if you want to come back from your Paris trip touting brands like Céline and Loewe, it's perfect.
Best Street: Rue Saint Honoré
I would say Rue Saint Honoré is, without much contest, the best single street to walk down for endless offerings of great shopping. Running parallel to the Jardin de Tuileries, you can take a break at any time to stroll or sit in the beautiful gardens, or take in the sites at Place de Concorde or the Louvre.
I would suggest starting at the metro station Concorde, and moving east. There's a ton of big brands going west from here, but I think you would find better deals on these same options in Printemps, above. Walking up to Rue Saint Honoré, you can start at the girly & Other Stories, or beautiful Valentino shop. Keep an eye out for some of my favorites: Colette (great streetwear and high-end collections), APC, Maison Kitsuné, Carhartt, Starcow (sneakers and athleisure). This will bring you right up to the metro hub Chatelet-Les Halles, which brings me to:
Best neighborhood: Chatelet-Les Halles
Now, Chatelet might not usually come up on the top of the list for best shopping neighborhoods, but it's my top choice for a few reasons: 1) It has a mix of literally everything, from top designers to trendy boutiques, and big international brands like H&M and Zara. 2) Everything is very compact, so you can literally spend the whole day in this one area, without tiring yourself walking around a lot between stores.
At the center of it all is the sprawling Forum Les-Halles, which encompasses a number of large international brands and French favorites. It's not my favorite shopping center, but if you make it up to ground level you can find several great options around the edges, including L'Exception - a flagship concept store dedicated to French brands, which features some really great local designers.
On the streets surrounding Les-Halles, you'll find much more affordably-priced chic boutiques, mixed in among souvenir shops, sneaker stores, and classic Parisian cafes. I'm a big fan of Les-Halles, and there's plenty to do here if you get tired of shopping. In Place de Carrée you'll find a big modern cinema alongside an old-school French noir theater, an indoor swimming pool, and the small but peaceful Jardins de Nelson Mandela.
Best Vintage: Le Marais
Paris's Le Marais district has become known for its boutique shopping and trendy nightlife bar-hopping. Both, I would agree, are pretty good and worth experiencing, though I personally find the nightlife more my scene than the shopping.
I think Le Marais is best for those who want a very Parisian feel to their shopping experience - it features dozens of chic boutiques with flowery scents and Bohemian-clad salespeople. The best shopping in Le Marais, however, is the vintage.
I'm personally not a vintage shopper, so I can't speak a lot on this. A friend of mine does, however, own a pretty cool shop called Le Marché Noir - which essentially brings back classic vintage pieces that they've found across Africa. It's a great place to start, and radiating out from this shop you'll find dozens of stores with unique pieces of Chanel, Dior, etc.
Le Marais is a great district for artists as well, as you'll find small art shops and paperies weaved in among the clothing stops. Make sure to check out Merci. Sunday is the best day to visit Le Marais, as it is one of the only areas where stores are open in Paris.
Best Boutiques: Etienne Marcel
Etienne Marcel might technically be looped in as part of Le Marais, but this little triangle of shops has a lot to offer in itself. I would say this is the best area for boutique shopping, if you're looking for very curated, trendy and unique pieces. The shops aren't as targeted as Le Marais, and there's a bit more for everyone here.
Make sure to check out Kabuki - featuring select collections from upscale designers. One of my favorite brands, All Saints, has also just set up shop in this area. There's tons to find on Rue Tiquettone and Rue Etienne Marcel - I would suggest starting at the metro station, and moving westward towards Opera.
If you need a respite or want to relax after a day of browsing, there's a great pedestrian street in this area - Rue Saint-Sauveur - that boasts some of the best bars in Paris, including the small but packed Experimental Cocktail Club.
Best Foreign Experience: La Défense
If you're looking for a traditional Parisian shopping experience, La Défense is definitely not the way to go. But if you have the time and want to experience a completely different side to Paris - La Défense is certainly it.
I was surprised how much La Défense reminds me of home: home being the US of A, where everything is bigger and more boasting. There's a big shopping center here, with a lot of international stores and brands you might not find elsewhere in Paris. The huge multi-story complex is reminiscent of something you might see in a bustling Asian hub like Hong Kong or Shanghai - completely with plenty of international food options, both upscale and on-the-go.
To complete your visit, you'll also get some great views of the Arc de Triomphe, all the way to the Louvre and Eiffel Tower.
And those that missed the list...
The famous Champs-Elysees street is, in my opinion, not worth the trouble. The big street can get overwhelming and over-crowded quickly, and there's nothing you'll find here that you couldn't also get in any of the places I've mentioned above. My take: stop by if you really want your photo at the Arc de Triomphe, but don't stay for the shopping.
Saint Germain de Pres is another neighborhood that comes up a lot as a great Parisian-shopping experiences with plenty of boutiques to offer, but the vibe is quite similar to Le Marais and the latter, in my opinion, has a better selection to offer.
Well, that's my expensively-researched list of best shopping spots in Paris! What are your favorites?