In Paris, we have three big department stores or grands magasins (as the French like to call them): Galeries Lafayette, Printemps and Le Bon Marché. The first two are located side by side between the region of the opera and the Gare Saint-Lazare; the third, in turn, is on the Left Bank (rive gauche) in a region that is much less explored by tourists. Inside these stores, you will find an amazing array of products from apparel and fashion accessories to homeware and food. There are a lot of premium and luxury brands within each of them. Below, a short explanation of the peculiarities of each one.
Galeries Lafayette was built to be a theater and retains much of the original architecture under its beautiful glass dome. Visiting the place is important even for those who will not buy anything. The store is the second most visited attraction in Paris after the Eiffel Tower. Remember that it’s usually pretty crowded and it’s good to choose well the time to visit it. Saturday afternoon is usually one of the worst times to do this! The terrace of the store has breathtaking views to the city. Currently, it has a building dedicated to menswear, a building for women’s fashion and a relatively new space dedicated to home goods and gourmet products. This new area for gourmet products has made a huge success since its opening. The Galeries Lafayette also has another unit in Paris in the Montparnasse neighborhood, but that it’s undoubtedly much less famous than the one at the Boulevard Haussmann.
While Galeries Lafayette impresses by its architecture and decoration, Printemps is more sober and elitist. This is reflected in the number of tourists that each one receives. Galeries Lafayette is always much more crowded than Printemps. Products and brands sold in the two stores are very similar, but the second floor of the Printemps meets ultra-luxury products with the best French and international fashion brands. I had the impression that it also has a larger space between sections of each brand, and its dressing rooms are larger and more enlightened than the ones at Galeries Lafayette. Even not counting with a gourmet space equal to the contestant, Printemps has much better restaurants. It houses a Ladurée, a Café Pushkin and a bakery signed by Alain Ducasse inside.
Le Bon Marché
Le Bon Marché is away to the area of Grands Magasins. It’s located on the Seine Left Bank (rive gauche) in the Saint Germain neighborhood. Shopping there is more quiet than on the other two mentioned department stores. For Parisians who avoid Galeries Lafayette and Printemps due to the crowd of tourists that pass through them every day, it represents the pinnacle of luxury and refinement. Le Bon Marché is a more sophisticated place to shop and consequently the brands and the products exhibited there are often even more expensive. A special mention deserves to be given to the Grande Épicerie de Paris which is in the building next door. It brings together an impressive array of the best gourmet products in the world. In addition, it has several restaurants that tend to be more frequented by those who live or work in the region.