Stylish Paris Shopping

Explore budget-friendly venues, fabulous vintage finds, flea market steals and even runway-worthy couture.


Many shoppers on a Paris vacation look for “that certain something” that makes them feel as if they’ve come home more beautiful than when they left. (Just picture Audrey Hepburn at the beginning of the film Sabrina when she arrives home a beautiful lady after having left for Paris a mere child two years earlier.) Each arrondissement offers a bevy of boutiques, shops and stores, and through careful ambling it is easy to stumble across a window that calls your name.

To cut down on time, however, there are certain spots worth checking out. Paris is renowned for its haute couture, luxury brands and boutiques, however its second-hand scene includes expansive brocante markets and petit vintage shops. And of course, for those with champagne taste on a beer budget, there are a few choice locations that make it possible not to go home empty-handed.

Paris Budget Shopping 

Shopping in Paris can be expensive, and of course H&M and Zara are good options to keep to a budget. Here, these stores tend to be super-sized and overwhelming, and hold the same merchandise as in their other locations around the world. Kookaï,which has locations all over Paris, is a good place to find staple clothing and the latest trends at better prices.

More reasonable is COS or Collection of Style (4 rue des Rosiers), a branch of H&M that carries a more sophisticated line of clothing and fabrics, with accessories starting at €12 (about US$17) and most other articles hovering at the €30 to €50 (about US$42 to $70) range.

Finally, a little boutique I happened upon near Les Halles called Territoire (8 rue Montmartre), is good place to sift through. There, I’ve found sweaters for €30 (about US$42) and cotton blouses for under €20 (about US$28). It draws from various collections and often follows the line of latest trends in Paris.

Paris Vintage Shopping 

The Marais has been dubbed the “haut-lieu du vintage,” or the high place of vintage in Paris. Almost every main artery has at least one window display artfully laid-out with the stuff of various decades past. One shop I’m repeatedly drawn back to is Mamz’Elle Swing Vintage Shop (35 bis, rue du Roi de Sicile). There’s no obvious signage, excepting a leaf of paper taped to the front door, but there is sometimes swing-era music wafting out from a mock antique radio near the entrance. Although Mamz’Elle’s doesn’t air on the side of unilaterally cheap vintage, it does contain well-intact pieces that have survived the 1900s to 1960s.

The haut-lieu du vintage, however, has bled into neighboring arrondissements. If you wander north of the Marais into the 3rd arrondissement, pop into Violette & Léonie (27 rue de Poitou). It’s a dépôt vente concept store, meaning one can drop clothes off, which will then be put on the racks; if the item sells, the store splits 50 percent of the profits with you. How do you keep track? Online. The collection ranges from last year to many years ago, and it is just as possible to pick out an Yves Saint Laurent linen skirt as an old H&M tank top.    

Snaking a little northwest of there, one winds up in Montmartre, a stone’s throw away from the Sacré-Coeur Basilica. A personal favorite here is Chinemachine (100 rue des Martyrs). It clings to the idea that vintage should be an inexpensive diamond in the rough experience. American-run, it buys clothes in exchange for credit, cash or exchange.

Brocante and Marché aux Puces 

By sight, a brocante and a marché aux puces can be hard to distinguish. A brocante (somewhat akin to a garage sale), tends to take place over a weekend, in temporary, fixed locations throughout the year. A marché aux puces, which translates to a flea market, tends to have a fixed location and regular hours. However, you tend to find the same things at both: antiques, furniture, vintage and knock-off clothing, lamps that may or may not work, antiquarian books and oriental rugs, to name a few.

Puces are sometimes tacked on to regular open-air food markets, and depending on which neighborhood you find yourself in, the selection and cost varies. The Marché aux Puces d’Aligre, (Place d’Aligre, Bastille) has a fantastic selection of knickknacks, home décor and literature.

Paris is also very proud of its Marché aux Puce de Clignancourt (Porte de Clignancourt). On its edges is a bustling clothing market, filled with sneakers, hoodies and other commercial clothing, but at its interior is a maze of small allies filled with stands containing everything from antique dining room tables to dolls’ eyes and buttons.


The boutique Merci (111 boulevard Beaumarchais) is relatively new, however Merci’s chic construction, collection and mission statement have made an impression in Paris. The profits of Merci are turned over to aid organizations, in particular one that benefits children in Madagascar. Various designers have contributed their talents by creating special lines of clothing, furniture and accessories for the boutique.


It’s easy to mistake Paris high fashion for just plain old Paris couture. In reality, there are very few designers who qualify, as the criteria for haute couture (established in 1945) are strict and financially draining. However, plain old couture is nothing to shake a stick at. Also known as luxury brands, designers like Chloé (54/56 rue de faubourg de Saint Honoré), Sonia Rykiel (175 boulevard Saint-Germain) and Isabelle Marant (1 rue Jacob), create beautiful pieces that rival the designs of established haute couture houses like Christian Dior.

Haute Couture 

Before the 1980s, rue de faubourg de Saint Honoré and rue de la Paix were the base for some of Paris’ most elite shopping. Even today, some of the most renowned haute couture boutiques, such as Chanel (31 rue Cambon) and Givenchy (28 rue de faubourg de Saint Honoré) can be found in the area, and should be explored, even if only for a small taste of the great pride and tradition of high fashion in Paris.

Destinations: Paris

Themes: Shopping

Activities: Shopping

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