A guide to bargain shopping in Paris

photo by Eliott Brown

Paris is a notorious shopper’s paradise, but it is also known as a rather exclusive shopping destination where people go to buy couture and expensive brands. But as everyone who has spent more than a few weeks in Paris can testify, Paris is also a great place for bargain shopping, the trick is to know where and when to look for bargains. Whether you’re looking for a quick and cheap meal, mementos to bring back home, presents to buy or simply to indulge in your passion for shopping, a guide to bargain shopping in Paris will help you to save a pretty penny.

Flea markets

Flea markets, or marches aux puces to use the local lingo, are the best places a veteran shopper can wish for. If you are the type of shopper that has the patience to dig for hours through mounds of junk in search of a hidden treasure, then you will enjoy yourself immensely at Paris’s flea markets. Puces de Saint Ouen, Puces de Porte de Montreuil, Porte de Vanves are only a few of the flea markets you should visit. There are lots of flea markets in the city, some larger, some smaller, and the stuff found in flea markets will usually fit into one of three categories: antiquités (honest to goodness antiques that will not be cheap), brocante (standard flea market fare that will most likely be affordable and you might be able to bargain to lower the price) and vide-greniers, junk and things that most people will find useless, but which might hide the occasional catch. For a list of traveling fairs, visit the Vide-Greniers site.

Bargain clothes

If you don’t feel like throwing a thousand bucks on a couture dress but you’d still like to buy something that has that typically Parisian air of chic, go no further than the department stores of old. Department stores were at the brightest in Paris at the end of the 19th century, but even today they have the power to sate any shopper, no matter how obsessed. Of course, department stores are treasure troves only in the bargain season, of which there are two every year : in summer and winter, each lasting six weeks. Monoprix, a huge discount clothes shop, you can find designer clothes for incredible prices too, so be sure to check out the clothes sections too.

Designer depots

If you don’t happen to be in Paris for the discount season, then you should head to the designer depots where you can find all the irresistible clearance prices that aren’t available elsewhere. Designer depots work similarly to consignment stores (people bring clothes in, and the shop sells them), but since this is bargain shopping in Paris, most of what you find in designer depots is couture and designer clothes worn once or twice, at abysmal prices.


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