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Historical Market District Les Halles Offers Great Shopping in Paris



 

With its underground mall featuring big brand name shops, many flock to this area to get all their shopping done in one stop. The innovative architectural design that is being installed on top of the underground mall is still getting its finishing touches (at time of writing) and is much anticipated. Surrounded by parks like the Jardin Nelson Mandela which fronts up against the Saint-Eustache church when facing north, the area is a mixture of bucolic outdoor greenspaces, shops, cafés and restaurants. It is, as well, one big pedestrian zone. At lunch time, especially when the sun is shining, you will find hordes of office workers and tourists sitting around the famous Stravinsky Fountain leisurely enjoying their sandwiches and the company of friends.

 

In addition to the mall, you will find a wide selection of all kinds of shops in and around Les Halles. The range is vast, spanning from cheap shops selling China-made shoes and bags, to electronic gadget stores, to Made in France artisanal handcrafted products. One of the most-appreciated aspects of this district is that it really does offer one-stop shopping. And with the option of mall shopping underground or perusing the dozens and dozens, if not hundreds, of boutiques that dot the pedestrian zone on ground level in and around the funky little streets, you are sure to find whatever you might be looking for.  


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Pearl Magasin Paris
Photo courtesy of Pearl Diffusion

This is the gadget store for guys and gals. On the ground floor entry you have all the smart phone and consumer electronic paraphernalia. Downstairs is where you'll find all the kitchen goods like icecream makers, ionic hair dryers, hot water boilers, etc. In a country where many of the electronic goods are sold through monopolistic huge dispensary-like stores (FNAC, DARTY) this shop is refreshing as it's human-sized and you can simply pick your choice off the shelf, take it to the cash register, pay for your purchase, and be done with it. Like normal folk. (At the other shops mentioned above you have to take a ticket, stand in line, pay for your purchase then stand in another line to get the order filled. Meanwhile, half your day is gone!)


The best way to discover this shop is to go to their website and check to see what upcoming events are calendared. When they do their openings for performance artists, DJ's, product launches it is "the" place to be. True, it caters to the youthful crowd so you'll feel more comfortable hanging out here if you're under 25...Ok, under 40. Still, it's worth cruising by as even when a party isn't happening all around you, you get the chance to see some new products that are just now being tested on the market. The location itself plants you squarely in Les Halles but off on one of the smaller sidestreets so not so heavily trafficked.




There are a number of big (French) name brand baby and kids' clothing shops all throughout the capital that you can busy yourself with. This boutique is on the smaller side and its address places it squarely in the district known for "cute and affordable." The sizes here are for babies so after toddlers' ages you will have to look elsewhere. But here you will find everything to swaddle, wrap, tuck, snap and button your baby into. Styles and themes change regularly with the fashion seasons so even when your baby grows too big to wear these clothes, you can keep coming back for the nieces, nephews and grandkids.


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This shop isn't just for the young dandy. Stylish businessmen who like to feel distinguished in their suits and dress shirts will also take to the items in this shop. Think of it as not-like-your-grandpa's-habberdashery. It's a bit on the outer limits of Les Halles but still in the 1st arrondissement. This area of the city is known for its chic shops for clothing, accessories and bags. Prices here are relative to what you yourself find affordable. That's to say if you are used to shopping at Gucci, Boss and Paul Smith then you'll find this within your price range.




These are "Love Shops" which, are a very different concept altogether from a sex shop. Here you find witty and thoughtful playtime aids that only the French can come up with. If you wander in with your significant other, likely you won't find anything (too) embarrassing while you're browsing together. These shops are playful and fun and meant to heighten romance. In fact their tagline is "for the sustainability of couples." There are several of these shops in and around the center of Paris, but this one is the closest to Chatelet, though there is another one not too far from Les Halles, too.




I may be mistaken but in the past I believe we called concept shops "boutiques." No matter, this genre of boutique has, of course, become wildly popular in the past decade and some can even rival a well-curated museum shop in the sense of stocking things that you never would have thought you would need but once seen, you've gotta have it. This one here at Les Halles has that bit of an edge to its stocked items, in keeping with the hip hop -vibe of this area. It's a great place to wander into when you're doing early Christmas shopping for your posse or also when looking for unique souvenirs and gift items in the t-shirt/ sweats/ baseball cap genre to bring back home to your hip hop/DJ/skateboarder son/boyfriend/brother. They stock the same kind of stuff here for girls, too.




The New York fashion crowd, who come to town twice annually for the Paris Fashion Week, make this a stop on their buying itinerary, even if they'll never openly admit it. The shop is located just a couple minutes' walk from the Centre Pompidou in the direction of the Marais, so it's in that zone just next to the BHV (big department store) that is the -invisible- border between Les Halles and Le Marais. Budget some time for your treasure hunt here as there are treasures to be found. The more expensive, and usually designer, items are hung on the racks. That's where you'll find a vintage lambskin coat by Dior or a cachmere by Chloé. The big bins are fun to sort through, too. It's often just castaways but every so often you find a Desigual or a Ben Simon shucked in with the lot.




When you really stop and observe how French women dress, you'll notice that they don't deviate all that much from the basics. In fact a blue blazer and a pair of low-heeled, well made pumps are to be found in each and every French woman's wardrobe. What that French je ne sais quois is then, is a knack, even a genius, for accessorizing. With just the right pieces of jewelry, and of course the right bag and scarf, as well, you can dress up an outfit immensely. So if you're looking to take your everyday outfits from woe to Wow!, this shop that stocks hundreds and hundreds of bracelets, necklaces, earrings and hair accessories all at rock bottom prices is the place to start bolster your costume jewelry collection.




This French lingerie boutique chain store offers nighties, basics, loungewear, slippers and lots, lots more. And while this is a shop for the ladies and the girls, it is also a good one to know for the guys who are looking to find their good girl gifts. The lingerie here tends toward the basics and includes items like big furry rabbit slippers and boxer short ensembles. While this is one of their smaller shops, their larger ones have extended to include ready-to-wear, jewelry and even some makeup. These shops also often have French or Paris-themed items so you might even find a pair of Eiffel Tower slippers here if you look often enough.


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1er Arrondissement


This shopping mall is buried underneath ground, which, many would say, is where a shopping mall should be. Currently there is still some renovation being done above ground to make the structure welcoming and when finished should be quite appealing. Meanwhile, you can access the shops in the below-ground shopping mall as you make your way to the métro line, accessed by the same escalators, if you should so wish. And there isn't just shopping here at this underground mall but also restaurants and movie theaters. It's as much of a mall as central Paris has and it's getting even better. Shops you will find here include, Darty, FNAC, Desigual, Eram, Esprit, Forever 21, GO Sport, André, Morgan, Muji, Petite Bateau, Princess Tam Tam, Undiz, L'Occitane, Zara, Maisons du Monde and Soleil Sucré.


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Meet Paige Donner

Paige's latest book, The Romantic Couple's Guide To The City of Love, Sexy Paris follows her earlier guidebook Paris On 4 Paws, A Dog Lover's Guide To The City of Light and her acclaimed...  More About Paige

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