Shop like a Parisian on rue de Rennes
Connecting chi-chi Saint-Germain to bustling Montparnasse, rue de Rennes is the Left Bank’s fashionista-packed main shopping artery. Raiding the boutiques lining the length of the street can be quite the endurance test. Our tip? Buy a metro carnet and make liberal use of the four metro stops along the way. You’ll find all the usual high-street brands here (pop into the FNAC to stock up on French musique) alongside quirkier local shops. Try La Vaissellerie for colourful, purse-friendly crockery to bring home.
The neighbourhood is the ideal springboard for a classic Parisian spree, with a few sightseeing stopovers to boot – namely the views from the soon-to-be refurbished Tour Montparnasse. Hit the side streets for edgier local brands such as Sandro and the Kooples, or pâtisseries from the likes of Poilâne and Pierre Hermé. Futuristic three-storey shopping precinct Ateliers Gaité is set for completion in 2020, bringing the neighbourhood into the present while honouring its old-world charm. Ready to hit the shops? Here’s how to make the most out of your shopping trip.
Headed up by a Swedish mother-daughter team, L'Atelier Scandinave has the air of a peaceful snow-clad cabin with stock to please even the most seasoned 'hygge' habitués. Expect cosy luxe fashion, leather goods and accessories from a pan-Scandinavian roster of on-trend designers, including a covetable range of slippers designed by the owners themselves.
A recent addition to the 6th arrondissement’s 'new wave' café scene, this millennial box-ticker is light-filled, calm and, yes, Instagrammable as they come. And with good reason: Fougère Café is all vintage-style vases, cute ferns and splashes of pink, with a health-focused menu of matcha lattes, açaí bowls and gluten-free cakes. Snuggle up in this cocoon or grab a Coutume brew to go.
Place Saint Sulpice
Times slows at Place St Sulpice, a genteel square designed by Florentine architect Servandoni. Listen to the bells of baroque Église Saint-Sulpice from the terrace of Café de la Mairie, a neighbourhood stalwart that makes a mean croque monsieur. Or stop by Pierre Hermé for macarons to nibble on while making wishes in the monumental fountain.
Peckish? Book lunch at Atelier Vivanda, Michelin-starred chef Akrame Benallal's siren song to carnivores. The chefs rustle up a purse-friendly €24 three-course menu. Think Jerusalem artichoke soup with almond cream and fried onions, Black Angus steak, dauphinoise potatoes and a silken flan pâtissier.
This charming 'strip' will take you all the way from wind-down aperitif to early-morning grooving. Begin with sophisticated cocktails at the gin-focused Tiger, then grab shots at the Frog and Princess. Blag your way into the recently revamped club Castel – if not to be seen, then to pay homage to Serge Gainsbourg's much-loved piano.
- Start at Montparnasse and work your way towards the Seine – no one should be climbing that hill with shopping bags in tow!
- Avoid shopping on a Sunday: the bigger chains will stay open but boutiques and independents will be closed.
- Don’t be afraid to stray: the side streets around rue de Sevres and Saint Germain are full of indie boutiques.
- Hit the second-hand shops on rue du Cherche-Midi and rue saint-Placide for pre-loved treasures from local fashionistas.
- All shopped out? Put your feet up in the palm-fringed Jardin du Luxembourg.
- Always say ‘bonjour’ when you enter a shop, and ‘merci’ or ‘bonne journée’ when you leave.
- Shop staff will always ask you whether you need help: a polite ‘pas pour le moment’ will do.
- Stocking up for a picnic at the marché? Don’t squeeze the fruit, but do ask if you can have a taste before you buy – good vendors will be happy to oblige.
- If buying in cash, use up your change – shopkeepers often don’t like large bills.
- Independent clothes shops often don’t have mirrors in the changing cubicles. Come out of the changing cabin to discuss the fit and style with the sales staff – they’re the experts!
Image credits: © AnnDcs via Shutterstock; © AnnDcs via Shutterstock; © L'Atelier Scandinave; © Fougère Café; © Getty; © Atelier Vivanda; © Tiger