Say "Paris" and three things come to mind: romance, food and fashion. Shopping in Paris can be a heady and overwhelming experience for tourists. With so many shopping districts, concept shops and department stores to choose from, here's a guide for the clueless traveler.
Avenue des Champs-Elysees
Touted as the most famous avenue and the most expensive piece of real estate in the world, the Champs-Elysees have luxury designer shops (Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Cartier, Tiffany), upscale chain stores (Zara, H&M, Adidas) and the trendiest, hottest brands. The Champs-Elysees are a haven for wealthy shopaholics and fashionistas.
Avenue Montaigne is a two-minute walk away from the Champs Elysees and is a third of the size. There are no mainstream brands here, only high-fashion shops for clothes, accessories and jewelry. Dior, Chanel, Versace, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Ralph Lauren, Louis Vitton and Armani all have a presence. Avenue Montaigne is for the most sophisticated clientele with money to burn.
A major department store and must-visit for the bourgeois tourist, Printemps has its flagship store on Boulevard Haussmann and branches across France. It has in-store restaurants and carries both popular and luxury names with over 300 brands sold exclusively in its stores. Another reason to go to the flagship Printemps is for its old-world Parisian design and famous art-deco cupola.
Also on Boulevard Haussmann, Galeries Lafayette is a humongous department store with trendy and high-end fashion goods, cosmetics, jewelry, a kids' section and home furnishings. Lafayette Gourmet on the first floor is a foodie's paradise -- a food court serving dishes from around the world. On the seventh floor, you'll get a fantastic, panoramic view of the city of Paris.
Marche Aux Puces, Saint-Ouen (Clignancourt)
"Puces" is "flea" in French and this market in Saint-Ouen is the largest in Paris, with 15 markets selling antiques, new and second-hand clothing, books, record, all kinds of knick-knacks and food. Tourists on a budget will love this sprawling outdoor space. You will need to learn the art of bargaining before visiting!
Reciproque at Rue de la Pompe is the biggest consignment store in Paris, selling genuine luxury items with a 20 to 80 percent discount. One of the Parisians' best-kept secrets, this series of stores located side by side has men and women's clothes, shoes, bags and accessories, jewelry and art, all in mint condition and at bargain prices.
Maje Stock at 4 Rue de Marseille
Maje Stock is one of numerous outlet stores that carry unsold apparel, shoes, bags and trinkets of stylish boutiques from the previous season. If you search hard enough, you can find current selections. Locals patronize them since they are 30 to 50 percent discounted.
Forum des Halles
Located in the city center, the Forum is an underground shopping center with shops, restaurants, cinemas and a recreational center. Homeware, electronics and fashion are all here. Prices are in the mid-range and access requires going down passages that are confusing to tourists. Shoppers should be wary of pickpockets.
One of dozens of concept stores in Paris, French Touche has bags, accessories, home decor and trinkets from young and innovative designers. It's out of the way in the 17th arrondissement but worth a trip to find original and one-of-a-kind French products at reasonable prices as souvenirs of your French holiday.
The yardstick by which all other concept stores are measured. Located at Rue de Honore, Colette is a favorite for the locals and tourists alike for its trendy fashion. Colette has cutting-edge couture, shoes and sundries from well-known and newly discovered designers. It also sells jewelry, electronics, books, and music. Prices vary from reasonable to outrageous.
Similar to Milan or London, Paris has numerous boutiques for high-end clientele. For bargain hunts, a visit to the flea markets and small shops promises cheaper prices and discounts. Most shops are open Monday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., leaving the evening free to take advantage of the city's nightlife and fabulous restaurants.