Even those who claim they go to Paris solely for the food and culture return to Charles de Gaulle with their luggage significantly heavier. While mainstays like the Clignancourt flea market reliably yield treasures, why not follow the locals to their favorites for a new take on one of the world’s best shopping cities?
Here, we offer intermediate versions of the “classics” — still worth visiting, of course!
Merci ➛ La Tresorerie
The Marais mini-superstore for modern housewares and fashion always offers new delights — and crowds. Walk 15 minutes north to find a tightly curated selection of “useful” (and packable!) home and kitchen goods, tabletop items and housewares with a muted Franco-Scandi bent, from affordable, wedding-gift-worthy linens, house-label ceramics and glasses to pink enamel milk pots, and, our favorite, a 25-euro wooden sausage-slicer. After visiting their newer furniture store across the street, stroll a few minutes more to the stellar bakery Du Pain et des Idées to celebrate the new additions to your home.
Le Bon Marché ➛ Monoprix
The fabled 19th-century Saint-German department store is truly one-stop shopping, offering not only a great edit of the best in French and international fashion, home design, beauty, and even groceries, but also branded kiosks that save you the schlep to, say, Mariage Frères. But don’t turn up your nose at Monoprix, especially the nearby location on the rue de Rennes. Imagine if Target hired designers from Isabel Marant and Bonpoint, did home collabs with India Madhavi, and stocked chunky bars of savon de Marseille for a couple of euros. You’d do all of your gift-shopping there, too…
Clignancourt flea market ➛ Vanves
Clignancourt is heaven if you’re decorating someone’s home (with their money), but less fruitful for those in search of more packable treasures — not to mention bargains. For those who love to dig through boxes and paw through jumbled tables in search of what fan John Derian calls “smalls” — be it dead-stock dish towels and butcher’s aprons, patinaed Champagne buckets, a 19th-c. egg cup or a set of ebony-handled knives in the original wedding box — you’re going to have to get up early on a weekend in order to make your way to the southwestern edge of the city: By noon, the vendors are loading up their old vans. It’s a great time to bargain, but be sure to do your browsing first. The best finds are along the Avenue Marc Sangnier, but be sure to give yourself time to explore around the corner on Avenue Georges Lafenestre, where they pack up a smidge later.
G. Detou ➛ Terroirs d’Avenir
Home bakers, professional pastry chefs and sweets lovers know this shop near Les Halles well: It stocks a dizzying selection of chocolates, extracts, sugars, vanilla products (try the powder!) and more. (As pastry chef and blogger David Lebovitz has said, “If G. Detou didn’t exist, I couldn’t live in Paris.” ) Culinary tourists looking for a wider display of fresh products should see what the young founders of Terroirs d’Avenir are up to on the Rue de Nil. Over the years, the former purveyors of sustainable produce to restaurants have opened shops selling heirloom vegetables, dairy, meat and charcuterie, fish, and baked goods from France, Italy, Spain, and Greece. Whether it’s a Calabrian bergamot, a Corsican brocciu cheese, or a proper jambon Prince de Paris, these are gifts best savored in your hotel room.
Alain Ducasse Chocolat ➛ A l’Etoile d’Or
The master chef’s chocolate shops are perfect for gifting, be it at his Eurostar kiosk or the Bastille factory. His pralinés, dried-fruit-studded mendiants, and jars of creamy chocolate spread are among the city’s best. But Denise Acabo, the founder of a jewel-box confiserie on a still-iffy street in Pigalle, is a true Parisian legend. Now in her 70s, she still sports her signature pigtails, red bolo tie and mini kilt, guiding visitors through her shop’s selections of French candies and chocolates, from violet-scented marshmallows to cassis gelées. Call ahead to make sure she’s received her weekly shipment of salted-caramel-filled chocolate bars from Lyon legend Bernachon.
Isabel Marant ➛ Spree
Marant’s Bastille boutiques are great, but imagine if they sold other designers, cool furniture and lighting from the 60s and 70s, and had an adjacent café. That would be Spree, Bruno Hadjaj and Roberta Oprandi’s stylish Montmartre boutique. You can find Marant pieces alongside a collectible Friso Kramer chair, Vanessa Seward cashmeres next to a Joe Colombo desk lamp and Japanese socks, or new-to-us design finds, such as Barena — an old Venetian tailoring house where the granddaughter is now crafting minimal womenswear in men’s fabrics — or the perfect Parisienne pieces of Chloe Stora.
Didier Ludot ➛ Thanx God I’m a VIP
Ludot has cornered the market for luxe vintage, and his Palais Royal location is impossible to beat. But Thanx God I’m a VIP has its own color-coded charm, especially when it comes to men’s and women’s finds from the 80s and 90s, be it a Sonia Rykiel parachute dress or a patchwork JC de Castelbejac sweater jacket. There’s a good French workwear selection, too, in case you don’t yet have a cobalt street-sweeper’s jumpsuit. You don’t have to be a high-waisted millennial to shop here, though it will certainly help you fit in along the counter at La Buvette later that evening.
Deyrolle ➛ Deyrolle
Still singularly perfect.
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Christine Muhlke is a food consultant and writer currently based in Woodstock, NY. A former editor at The New York Times and Bon Appétit and the founder of the Xtine newsletter, she has written books with chefs Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin, David Kinch of Manresa and Eric Werner of Hartwood Tulum. Her most recent books include Wine Simple with Le Bernardin’s Aldo Sohm and Signature Dishes That Matter.