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Paris: Grand Boulevards and Grands Magasins

Printemps puts on a glittering show for Christmas
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Paris has fewer department stores than many other world capitals but what this city lacks in numbers it more than makes up for in truly spectacular style. There are four department stores ( Les Grands Magasins in French ) worth knowing about, two on the bustling and cosmopolitan Boulevard Haussmann, one on the Left Bank and one near the Paris City Hall. 


Boulevard Haussmann


Boulevard Haussman was named for Baron Haussmann, the civic engineer who laid out the grand boulevards of Paris in the mid-19th century. It's a broad and busy tree-lined avenue that runs for about 2.5 km  between rue Drouot and the ultra chic rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré.  Fashionable department store shoppers head for the 300 metres near the Opéra Garnier, where the two historic emporiums Au Printemps and Galeries Lafayette have traded almost since the boulevard was built.


Au Printemps at No.62 Boulevard Haussman sells fashion for men and women, beauty products and goods for the home in three ornate buildings. Opened in 1865, its tiled and decorated façade is a registered historic monument. Now it's usually called simply "Printemps". Make sure to stop for a bite to eat in the café, under the amazing stained glass cupola. Designed and installed in 1923, it was removed to prevent bomb damage in 1939 and restored in the 1970s by a grandson of the original designer.


Galeries Lafayette at No.40 Boulevard Haussman also spreads over three buildings and sells children's clothing, jewellery and designer wear as well as fashion for men, women and the home. The main building, the Lafayette Coupole is a Belle Epoque masterpiece and a Paris city heritage site. Visit to see the Art Nouveau staircase that rises through balcony after balcony up to the stained glass roof. The store's food hall is modelled after an Easter bazaar.


Elsewhere


Le Bon Marché on rue de Sèvres in Paris' Rive Gauche claims to be the world's oldest purpose-built department store. Built in 1852, it was designed by the consulting firm of Gustav Eiffel, who designed the Eiffel Tower. Highlights here are the fabulous cosmetics hall, which fills almost the entire ground floor, and the ever changing selection of top designer fashions. The Grand Epicerie, in an adjoining building, is one of the best gourmet grocers in Paris. By the way, bon marche means bargain priced in French - but don't expect many bargains here; this is chic shopping and chic designer prices.


BHV (Bazaar de L'Hotel de Ville), on rue de Rivoli opposite the Hôtel de ville, is the store used by most Parisians for their everyday shopping needs. Look here for hardware, pet accessories, tableware, small appliances, pots and pans, linens, urban fashions and even a wine shop. It's great for funky presents.

 

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