Shopping in Paris was quite an experience. I was thoroughly impressed by the excellent customer service. We observed tourists shopping from a number of different countries - I was impressed by the fact that many associates were fluent in multiple languages including English, German, Russian, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese and more. Beauty shopping in Paris is unlike anything else - almost all the stores we stopped by had associates that were knowledgeable, friendly, helpful and very patient.
Before I left the US for Europe, I made a list of stores I wanted to visit and mapped them out. The city of Paris is divided into twenty districts called arrondissements. Mapping out all the monuments, shops, restaurants and hotels of interest helped us plan our days in Paris. In the time we were in Paris - we spent most of our time sight-seeing and enjoying the parks and cafes. I didn't get to see all the shopping places on my list - I could have spent an entire week just window shopping or browsing and still not have made a dent in seeing what the city has to offer.
The beauty places I shopped, browsed and stopped by, sorted by arrondissment:
Location: all over the city
I was thrilled to visit several French Pharmacies around Paris. Quite a few of my friends here in the US who have been to France and studied French in college said the pharmacies are like CVS and Rite Aid in the US - they are on almost every corner and stock items locals aren't really excited about. I didn't know what to expect but was really impressed by the selection. Stores were stocked with Bioderma, La Roche-Posay, Phyto, Caudalie, Nuxe and more. Some had an entire wall of Nuxe or Phyto. I only made a few small purchases since most of what I was interested in were liquids - I wouldn't have been able to fit them in my quart-sized carry on. I went inside about a dozen - most stock similar items. Some have more variety compared to others. I was really impressed with the reps in each store. The vast majority seemed to wear white lab coats, they were very knowledgeable in all the lines and options. They were really helpful too. I was able to snap few quick photos inside a couple with my iPhone. I was really impressed by the selection of sunscreens available - had I planned our itinerary better, I would have shifted our Paris week to the end of the trip and filled a suitcase with liquids (skincare, body care, jams, jellies, tea and all the things you can't carry on). Bioderma minis were plentiful and cheap - usually around 2-3 € or sometimes in packs.
Location: 99 Rue de Rivoli, 1st Arrondissment
There is a small Printemps store underneath the Louvre in the Carrousel Shops. The upside of shopping here is there are a lot of stores in one place and most are opened on Sunday. The beauty section in Printemps Louvre was the only store in Paris I wasn't thrilled with. The store was extremely packed and busy the first time I visited (although it was on a weekend). Associates weren't as friendly as other stores I had visited. There was a beautiful Louboutin display of all the nail colors along with shoes, clutches and wallets. I stopped by a second time on our trip back to the US to buy one of the new Scarabée colors - however all the associates were visibly upset with all the shoppers touching and moving the Louboutin nail polishes. They stood guard and kept moving them back into place - understandable if they wanted to keep the display pristine, however if there was a look but don't touch rule, they should have sectioned it off or put up a sigh. I made sure not to touch any since I didn't want to make them upset. I wanted to purchase a few but they were so rude I left without buying anything. (I ordered the three new ones from Nordstrom and they were waiting for me at my house when I returned to the US, I hope to swatch soon - they are gorgeous!)
Location: 34 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 5th Arrondissment
Being the die-hard Diptyque fan that I am, visiting the store on 34 Boulevard Saint-Germain was at the top of my list. The store is exquisite in a quaint and inviting kind of way. I wish I could have transported the store and put it inside my home - the decorations and displays were beautiful. The store associate was very friendly - we chatted about the boutiques that had opened up in California (San Francisco, Beverly Hills, South Coast Plaza and Larchmont). The store offerings were almost identical to those in the US with the exception of the room sprays. When I go back to Paris I hope to buy more of the room sprays. I left buying one, Feuille de Lavande which is incredible (similar but stronger than the candle version). For me this was heaven.
Location: 78 Rue de Seine, 6th Arrondissment
I wasn't able to make it into the Cire Trudon store. We stopped by it on the way to dinner but they had already closed and I never made it back. I hope to visit on my next trip to Paris. The displays in the store looked beautiful - the photos I took were too dark but I did get one snapshot of the outside.
Location: 70-72 Av. des Champs-Élysées, 8th Arrondissment
The Sephora store on the Champs-Élysées was unreal. It was the ultimate beauty shopping store. I've never seen such a large store and it was amazing. The entrance had a large red carpet with kiosks along the side with beautiful Dior displays. The entire wall was covered with Dior. Also inside included brands you don't see in Sephora stores in the US: MAC, Serge Lutens, a beauty bar for makeup application, a nail bar where women were getting nail touch ups, By Terry, Chanel and so much more. I could have spent an entire day inside - but I limited myself to the Dior and travel section so I wouldn't do too much damage.
Location: 68 Av. des Champs-Élysées, 8th Arrondissment
I only briefly walked through this beautiful boutique. It was filled with so many different perfumes I think it would take me weeks to learn about all the options. I only use a couple items from Guerlain so I didn't purchase anything from the store. If I could describe it in one word though it would be "magical." There is at least one more Guerlain store in Paris, but this one was recommended as the best to me.
Location: 382 Rue Saint Honoré, 8th Arrondissment
Chanel is easy to find in Paris. The Rue Cambon Boutique has a beauty section in the store but it was very busy. Around the corner there is a little beauty store on Rue Saint Honoré which is dedicated to beauty, skincare and fragrance. The store itself is extremely small. There were 5 other customers inside, myself and 3-4 associates roaming around helping people and we barely had room to navigate. It's very cute inside and minimalist. The associate who helped me was very nice - I asked to test a few powders and she showed me some of the new Sublimage skincare that had just launched. They have the Exclusifs line - the bottles lined up on the wall looked so beautiful.
Location: 64 Boulevard Haussmann, 9th Arrondissment
This was my favorite store out of all the shops I visited. So many brands within one store, beauty floors on multiple levels. They have a special Diptyque candle called Primavera to celebrate the 150th anniversary. I think pictures are worth a thousand words - so I'll let the pictures do the talking here even though they don't do the store justice. Here are some snapshots I took with my iPhone. It's a beauty addict's makeup heaven.
Location: 40 Boulevard Haussmann, 9th Arrondissment
Galeries Lafayette is one of the most famous department stores in Paris. The inside of the store is beautiful from every angle. The ceiling is exquisite. They carry a diverse range of luxury beauty and fashion items - Hermes, Goyard, Chanel, Dior, Guerlain and so much more. Since this store carries a lot of brands under one house, it is extremely packed and very busy. I made a few fashion purchases here but wasn't able to go to any of the counters. There were simply too many people although I did venture in on a Saturday - probably not the best time to shop.
A few thoughts on beauty shopping in Paris:
Take note, most stores and shops are closed on Sunday, although some in major tourist areas are open on Sundays (i.e. those on the Champs-Elysees). Visiting individual brand boutiques can be really fun to see each line in their independent settings - how each brand displays the products and the presentation of collections is a sight to behold and really quite stunning. This however can be a bit time consuming so if your shopping time is limited, you can find most items at the larger department stores. My personal favorite was Printemps Haussmann (many readers commented this was the best department store to shop in Paris and I agree!) - the associates at Diptyque, Chanel and L'Artisan were so helpful and threw in so many samples my jaw dropped.
Many international travelers already know this, but if you reside outside of the European Union, are 16 years +, have a passport and spend €175+ in the same store on the same day in Paris, you can be eligible for a 12% tax refund. There are several ways to claim it - by mailed check, ACH back to your credit card, or cash back upfront at certain department stores. Some have automatic kiosks to process your receipts that are easy to use but often have lines. I used a kiosk at one of the stores and accidentally pushed the button for cash refund - in total we waited about 35 minutes in the line. Each store may have a slightly different policy for what you can or can't combine if it's a department store - any associate can help explain how it works. To process your refund, you need to have it validated by customs within 3 months of purchase date at the airport, train station or border. Galeries Lafayette has a comprehensive overview of the tax refund process here.
When in doubt, ask for assistance - I was impressed by the French men and women who worked at the beauty shops and counters. Many of my readers and other bloggers have mentioned they learn something new every time they venture into Paris for shopping. This was my first time to Paris and I was really impressed by the level of customer service, professionalism and friendliness. The French take shopping to a new level. A few personal observations:
- The stores in Paris are well stocked with inventory where in the US often times stores like J.Crew or even Nordstrom (these days) don't carry as much inventory compared to online. In the US I am fed the phrase "we can order it for you online" more and more in physical stores these days. It's a nice service to have - but time is precious and the more I find things sold out in stores (and not even limited-edition items) the more I feel like just shopping online to save time. Shopping in person is better to see things in person whether it's clothes, makeup, items for the house or really anything. I'm not sure if it's just me, but I find in-store inventory decreases more and more even though the number of physical stores sometimes increases.
- Department stores and retailers like Sephora France carry a wide range of brands making one-stop-shopping truly possible. Printemps for example has multiple beauty floors - I found this a bit confusing as we moved from one floor to the next seeing multiple Dior or Chanel booths. But it did make it nice to navigate and see different setups. In the US, if I want to see all the beauty brands I have on a list, I often have to visit 3-4 distinct stores to purchase to Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs Beauty, Diptyque, Caudalie, Fresh and Hourglass (as an example).
- Parisian beauty counters and shops seem very generous with samples and not just any flimsy sample packets, actual good ones! The Chanel Beauty boutique on Rue Saint Honore gifted a deluxe mini of the exclusifs bottle of Gardenia along with skincare and foundation packets (although I did spend a substantial amount there). Printemps Chanel threw in minis and a deluxe-sized mini of Bleu de Chanel for my husband. For Diptyque 34 Boulevard Saint-Germain threw in so many skincare packets and some fragrance minis although I have to say the Diptyque store at South Coast Plaza in the US is also very generous to loyal customers.
Have you shopped for beauty in Paris before? What was your experience? Did you have any favorite stores or amazing beauty finds? I hope to go back in the near future. There is so much to explore!