Take a short break in Paris at Christmas this winter and see if the breath of French air can’t make shopping memorable for all the right reasons: original gift ideas, money saving opportunities, macaron pit-stops at Ladurée…
Colette for gifts and gadgets for trendy teens. This store on many floors (rue Saint-Honoré) is as good for finding cheap and cheerful stocking fillers as it is for those looking to splurge on larger, more sought-after and more expensive items.
The enormous Galeries Lafayette department store (rue Lafayette) in central Paris is not only a great place to pick up bits for friends and family of all persuasions, but it also houses one of the most impressive Christmas trees you’ll see this season. All the major department stores put compete to outdo each other in their store window displays at Christmas, so why not stop by and see what they’ve done with them this year?
Beauty emporiums Sephora, Marionnaud have branches around Paris offer an unbeatable range of perfumes and cosmetics for all budgets. Staff can help you put together a gift set of your own choosing, allowing you to mix and match the products you want. At the till, they like to throw in a handful of free testers too!
Pharmacies and parapharmacies are treasure troves of beauty potions, natural products and skincare essentials. The staff is usually very well trained and will be more than happy to reveal the favourite staples of the Parisienne’s beauty routine.
Petit Bateau – it’s what all the best dressed babies in Paris are wearing! The cult French clothing brand also caters for boys and girls up to age 10 and has introduced a few lines for men and women as well – underwear and pyjamas a speciality.
A pit-stop at Ladurée (various locations across Paris) is a great way to relax and enjoy a little sugar rush. But a break here needn’t eat into your shopping time. The famous patissier now sells gifts including bath foams and oils in almond and bonbon varieties, plus scented candles including brioche and café crème.
Christmas Markets in France
Christmas time in France is a joyous event celebrated with sparkling decorations, festive food, concerts, and charming Christmas markets. There are around a dozens taking place between late November and early January, it’s easy to find a Marché de Noël near you:
Parvis de la Défense
Place Saint Germain des Prés
Jardins du Trocadéro
Parvis de la Gare Montparnasse
Stores in big cities like Paris generally stay open later than usual over the holidays, and in designated popular tourist areas they are even allowed to stay open on Sundays. If you are headed further inland in France, remember that French shopping hours are more limited than you may be used to. Keep this in mind when planning your trip as a mid-week break could be more convenient than a long weekend in this regard.
Presentation is all
No matter what time of the year you visit, most shopkeepers in France will ask if your purchase is intended as a cadeau. The French will gift-wrap anything, so why not take the opportunity to have all your purchases covered with pretty paper and tied up with ribbon? Just make sure that you can still tell presents apart.
As a tourist in France, you may be entitled to claim back VAT on your purchases. Look out for the tax free shopping sign in shop windows. Larger shopping malls will have a special guichet counter to fill in a form to obtain a tax refund via cheque or credit to the bank card.
The soldes are strictly regulated in France and take place at set times each year (Jan/Feb and June/July) and last five to six weeks. So if you are looking for cut price bargains, New Year might be a better bet than Christmas.
There’s nothing like the advice of someone living in Paris to direct you to boutiques off the beaten track, whether want art, vintage fashion, antiques or gourmet gifts.
Do not forget to add your own name to the shopping list!