Fun fact about me! I spent one semester in college living abroad in the amazing city of Paris. During my time spent living in the City of Lights, I picked up a few things in order to successfully navigate life in this mind-blowing city. These include daily skills such as how to order at a café and how to scope out the best baguette at a boulangerie. You know, the basics.
But when it comes to shopping (because, duh), I spent the semester taking notes. Certain French brands have become my favorites and I learned how to make wise buying decisions in order to save my pocketbook (as best I could, at least).
Here are my top 3 tips and tricks for channeling your inner French-girl when hitting the Paris avenues.
1. When in France, buy French
Perhaps the most important aspect of shopping in Paris that I learned is to utilize the French brands available there. Luckily, I was informed of this valuable fact by a saleswoman at Maje (a brand that has become one of my absolute favorite places to shop). She filled me in on the significant price difference between French brands sold within the country and in the United States.
Because of the taxes placed on French good when they’re imported into the U.S., you end up paying much more for the same items available in Paris at a lower price. Thanks to my new friend, I payed more attention to French brands when I’m in Paris and leave American and other European labels for another time.
2. Go big, but also go small
Lastly, between the huge department stores, boulevards dedicated to shopping and boutiques on every corner, shopping in Paris is sensory overload. What I have came to learn, though, is how different types of places all offer something unique.
Department stores have a significant role in French history and society, so you truly can’t miss out on the experience of Le Bon Marche and Galaries Lafayette. Your head will spin from the amount of gorgeous merchandise and the beauty of the buildings themselves. I also highly recommend visiting during the holiday season, given the windows and decorations themselves are worth going for.
But despite how incredible French department stores are, I came to love the fun, unexpected finds of small boutiques in my own neighborhood. Sometimes the best, and often the most memorable, discoveries come from those unassuming stores you’ll pass by as you explore amazing city.
3. Upgrade your souvenirs
As mentioned, the amount of brands available to me while I lived in Paris was mind-blowing. But some of the most memorable souvenirs I learned to bring home were a little more practical than you might think.
On just about every street corner you’ll find a pharmacy, and the first time I ventured into one near my apartment I was shocked. Unlike your average Walgreens or CVS at home, the aisles are packed with a huge variety of upscale beauty products including Creed and Hermès fragrances and everything from La Roche-Posay, Avène, Caudalie and so on. But, given these brands are of course French, the prices are staggeringly more reasonable than what you’ll pay in the US. I still believe the best micellar water, lipsticks and lotions I’ve ever used have come from these unassuming drug stores.
To say I stocked up my suitcase before returning home was an understatement. And since, I always beg any friend or family member who returns to Paris to make these items my souvenirs of choice.
4. Don’t forget the tax back
Another tip that might help you justify your purchases (and have your wallet thanking you) during your shopping spree through Paris–request a tax back form! Filling out these documents as you go results in a significant payback once you submit them all in at the airport on your way home.
Between the reduction in price on French brands and what you are able to get back from the tax return, shopping in this fashion mecca just got a little more doable!