Writing this article took a lot of market research. I spent days upon days shopping in Paris to create this list of must-buy items and where to get them. Two trips to Paris, one maxed out credit card and countless hours later… all in the name of writing a great travel article, right? [PS: In this article I prove that Paris can be done on a budget too!]
Here it is ladies, my shopaholic’s guide to Paris!
WHERE TO GO
I’ll start of with the most important information! Paris is a huge city, and it can be easy to get discouraged when you can’t find the right places to shop. The four places below are not to be missed! These are my go-to spots to stock up on my favourite French items.
- Rue Saint Honore, and the surrounding neighbourhood, is filled with high-end designer shops like Chanel, Gucci and Hermes. If a designer shopping spree isn’t in the budget you can still find affordable purchases here such as perfume or a Longchamp bag
- Behind the Notre Dame there are a few tiny streets lined with souvenir shops. This is my favourite places to buy small gifts (like key chains) and random Paris-themed stuff to bring home! Between all of the stores I find the selection is good, and the prices are slightly lower than stores near Champs Elysees.
- Galeries Lafayette is the mother of all stores in Paris. This giant department store deserves at least a few hours of your time. The stunning interior alone is reason to come here, and they also have a rooftop terrace where you can grab coffee and enjoy the view.
- City Pharma is the pharmacy to go to for all of your French skincare needs. From fashion magazine editors to world famous models… everyone in the “know” shops at City Pharma. Check out “What to Buy” below for a closer look at the products you have to buy here.
- Champs Elysees is another street popular for shopping. Personally, I don’t enjoy shopping here as much as Rue Saint Honore… but I can’t visit Paris without stopping at the Louis Vuitton on Champs Elysees!
WHAT TO BUY
There’s certain items that are just so Parisian you can’t leave without buying one (or ten). Here’s my recommendations on what to buy in Paris,
- Laduree souvenirs are always a crowd pleaser. I always purchase at least one box of macaroons here to bring home, but I also love their candles and bag charms.
- A Longchamp Le Pliage purse is something I never leave without buying. I love these bags because they’re affordable and practical. I always use them when travelling because they fold up into nothing and can be thrown in your suitcase. Check out the Eiffel Tower Le Pliage bags that are only available in Paris.
- L’Occitane hand cream is my favourite hand cream, and I almost never leave home without it. L’Occitane products are cheaper in France than they are in North America, so I like to stock up in Paris!
- Scarves make a great souvenir or gift. I’ve purchased so many beautiful scarves from street vendors in Paris, and they’re always dirt cheap. Since they’re lightweight they also don’t take up much room in your suitcase.
- An Eiffel Tower statue is another great souvenir or gift. I love the bright colours ones adorned with crystals. They look so chic on a bookshelf or in a bathroom! I plan to buy one on every trip we take to Paris, and at 4€ each I don’t think Paul will mind.
- An Eiffel Tower key chain that a friend brought me home from Paris instantly replaced my old Coach key chain! It was such a nice gift to receive. I’ve since purchased a few more to use as bag charms on my Longchamp purses.
- Skincare is probably one of my favourite things to buy in Paris. There are so many amazing products that I can’t possibly talk about all of them. I’ll just list out my favourites and link to their websites so you can check them out: Avibon Vitamin A Cream; Embryolisse Lait-Cream Concentrate; Boiron Homeoplasmine; T. LeClerc Pressed Powder and Leonor Greyl Huile de Palme.
- If your budget allows, I do find that many designer stores are cheaper in France than they are in North America. Even after the exchange stores like Louis Vuitton are cheaper in Paris. Add in the fact that there’s no tax on top of the sticker price and you can get a VAT refund and they suddenly become even more affordable.
VAT REFUND TIPS
Paris shopping trips get a whole lot cheaper when you take advantage of the VAT refund! As long as you are not a EU citizen and you spend 175€ in one store you are eligible for a VAT refund. It’s easy to spend 175€ if you shop at Galeries Lafayette because they carry so many brands under one roof. One bottle of Hermes perfume and one Longchamp purse and you’re good to go! If your qualify, then you just need to follow these steps:
- Make sure you get the Retail Export Form from the store. Do not leave without it! The retailer needs to give you this form, examine your purchase and stamp the form after you fill out your information.
- The refund process happens at the airport, at a counter called “Detaxe”. Customs agents will want to see your forms, your receipts and usually the products. That means you can’t pack your new Gucci purse in your checked luggage. You need to bring it in your carryon!
- Once the custom agent has stamped your form (therefore approving it) you have to mail your forms to submit for your VAT refund via credit card.
- To my knowledge, you can request a cash refund at the airport for a fee of 3€. This saves you the hassle of following up months after if you never receive your refund.
Be patient after mailing in your forms! Many shoppers agree, it can take months to receive your VAT refund after leaving France.
There’s two major sale periods in Paris every year:
- Summer: End of June until end of July
- Winter: Starting right after New Years Day
The sales are generally 6 weeks long and are a way for shops and boutiques to clear out merchandise before next season’s items arrive. After the first week of sales the stores slash prices even further, but the selection starts to get picked over. If your travel schedule allows it I’d recommend shopping during the first few days of the sales!