Les Grands Magasins: the “Big Three”

December 17, 2006 • Magazine

Les Grands Magasins: the “Big Three"

Les Grands Magasins: the “Big Three"

Sun, 2006-12-17 07:00

Gabbie Perez

New York has Barney’s, London has Harrod’s, and Paris has the “big three” department stores: Galeries LaFayette, Au Printemps, and Le Bon Marche. Each store generally sells the same types of merchandise, but each store offers a totally different shopping experience.

Rive Droit
Galeries LaFayette: Metro Opera (Line 8), Havre-Caumartin (Line 9)

Perhaps the most famous department store in Paris. Get ready for this store, mentally and physically, as there are three separate buildings and there are always massive crowds. However, this store does have everything, from a shoe repair center to a post office to entire buildings dedicated to men’s wear and home design. Shopping could take all day! For a terrific shopping break, try the yummy restaurants on the level six—you can see all of Paris.

Au Printemps: Metro Opera (Line 8), Havre-Caumartin (Line 9)

This store is some tough competition for Galeries LaFayette, particularly because of its location (just one block away!). Easier to navigate than Galeries LaFayette, Printemps offers a more relaxed shopping experience. The ground floor is accessories (bags, wallets, scarves, etc.). First floor includes all major designers from Prada to Marni. The higher you travel to the top floor, the less expensive the merchandise becomes. It has by far the best shoe selection of the three department stores (and the friendliest employees).

Rive Gauche
Le Bon Marche: Metro Sevres-Babylone (Line 10)

This is Paris’ oldest department store and is often forgotten. However, of the three department stores, it is my favorite. Usually uncrowded and quiet, it provides an uncompetitive shopping atmosphere. The gourmet food department — Le Grand Epicerie, located in the basement across the street from the main store—is to die for! The best meat department in the city. Great wine and cheese selections as well. Be sure to grab a treat before you shop the store.

The joys of being a foreigner…
Yes, there are some perks about being an American in Paris. My favorite happens to be the 10% discount card that both Galeries LaFayette and Au Printemps offer. Do not confuse this with the 12% detax. This is a standard 10% off most items in the store (top designers, such as Louis Vuitton or Chanel, are not included in the discount). You can also apply for the 12% detax by filling out several forms (and standing in several long lines). To obtain the card, bring in your passport to the Welcome Desk (or “Accueil”) at Galeries LaFayette and/or Au Printemps. Each card is valid for one year.

These labels should not to be missed at these department stores. There are several boutiques around Paris for each of the designers, but why not save 10% with your discount card?

Zadig & Volatire- Check out the amazing, affordable leather accessories and the chic cashmere sweaters.

Sandro- Great for comfortable and pretty going-out clothes, Sandro focuses on detailing and embellishments.

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