Paris

Nothing, but nothing, can push you into the current of Parisian life faster than a few hours of shopping. Follow the lead of locals, who slow to a crawl as their eyes lock on a tempting display. Window-shopping is one of this city's greatest spectator sports; the French call it lèche-vitrine—literally, "licking the windows"—which is fitting because many of the displays look good enough to eat.

Store owners here play to sophisticated audiences with voracious appetites for everything from spangly flagship stores to minimalist boutiques to under-the-radar spots in 19th-century glass-roofed passages. Parisians know that shopping isn't about the kill, it's about the chase: walking down cobblestone streets looking for items they didn't know they wanted, they're casual yet quick to pounce. They like being seduced by a clever display and relish the performance elements of browsing. Watching them shop can be almost as much fun as shopping yourself.

And nowhere is the infamous Parisian "attitude" more palpable than in the realm of fine shopping—the more haute the more hauteur.

Parisians are a proud bunch, and they value decorum. So dress to impress—and remember your manners. You must say bonjour upon entering a shop and merci, au revoir when leaving, even if it's to no one in particular. Think of it more as announcing your coming and going. Beyond this, protocol becomes less prescribed and more a matter of good judgment. If a salesperson is hovering, there's a reason; let him or her help you. To avoid icy stares, confidence and politeness go a long way.

As for what to buy, the sky's the limit in terms of choices. If your funds aren't limitless, however, take comfort in knowing that treasures can be found on a budget. And if you do decide to indulge, what better place to make that once-in-a-blue-moon splurge? When you get home and friends ask where you got those to-die-for shoes, with a shrug you'll casually say, "These? Oh . . . I bought them in Paris."

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  • 1. Acne Studios

    Louvre

    Justly famous for its sexy, derriere-shaping jeans, this Swedish label daringly mixes genders and genres in body-hugging or oversized, asymmetrical styles that rival some of...Read More

  • 2. Alexander McQueen

    Louvre

    The Paris flagship of this lauded label, whose global fame only skyrocketed with the design of the Duchess of Cambridge's wedding gown, is glorious to...Read More

  • 3. Alice Cadolle

    Louvre

    Selling lingerie to Parisians since 1889, Alice Cadolle offers some of the city's most sumptuous couture undergarments. Ready-to-wear bras, corsets, and sleepwear fill this eponymous...Read More

  • 4. Amélie Pichard

    Bastille

    You'll feel positively cinematic sporting the shoes of this wildly creative young designer, whose career was jump-started in 2014 by a collaboration with her idol...Read More

  • 5. Artazart

    Canal St-Martin

    The best design bookstore in France carries tomes on everything from architecture to tattoo art: there are sections dedicated to photography, fashion, graphic art, typography,...Read More

  • 6. Artefact

    Marais Quarter

    Tea lovers will adore this art-centric tea boutique and salon set in a 17th-century stone building in the upper Marais, near the Centre Pompidou. In...Read More

  • 7. Avril Gau

    St-Germain-des-Prés

    After designing a dozen collections for Chanel, Gau struck out on her own, opening this neo-Baroque boutique on the charming Rue des Quatre Vents. She...Read More

  • 8. Balenciaga

    Champs-Élysées

    This venerable Paris house rose to fashion stardom under the brilliant Nicolas Ghesquière, whose architectural volumes and structural technique revolutionized the label. His abrupt departure...Read More

  • 9. BHV

    Marais Quarter

    Short for Bazar de l'Hôtel de Ville, Le BHV Marais houses an enormous basement hardware store that sells everything from doorknobs to cement mixers and...Read More

  • 10. Bonpoint

    St-Germain-des-Prés

    Stroll through the ground floor of this high-end children's clothing store, inside a 17th-century mansion, and you'll feel like royalty on a private visit to...Read More

  • 11. Bonpoint

    Champs-Élysées

    Outfit the prince or princess in your life at Bonpoint (yes, royalty does shop here). The prices are high, but the quality is exceptional, and...Read More

  • 12. Borgo delle Tovaglie

    Oberkampf

    This Naples-based label's soaring concept store eschews sterile minimalism for an opulence well suited to its lavish Italian linen sheets and pillows. Crafted by hand...Read More

  • 13. Buly 1803

    St-Germain-des-Prés

    Although it only opened in 2014, you can be forgiven for thinking Buly 1803 is an antique apothecary—those jars overflowing with exotic herbs, powders, and...Read More

  • 14. By Marie

    Grands Boulevards

    At her multibrand concept store, jewelry designer and general fashionista-about-town Marie Gas does the work for you, mixing designers you already know and love (Golden...Read More

  • 15. Carré Rive Gauche

    St-Germain-des-Prés

    Head to the streets between Rue du Bac, Rue de l'Université, Rue de Lille, and Rue des Saints-Pères to unearth museum-quality pieces. The more than...Read More

  • 16. Céline

    Champs-Élysées

    Phoebe Philo, who defined this bohemian-chic label for a decade, single-handedly redefined the codes of fashion for professional women, garnering a huge and fiercely loyal...Read More

  • 17. Centre Commercial

    Canal St-Martin

    This store's A-list fashion credentials come with a big bonus—everything here is ethically and ecologically sourced. Peruse racks of men's and women's wear from handpicked...Read More

  • 18. Chanel

    Champs-Élysées

    Elegant, modern looks with sex appeal and lasting value are Chanel's stock-in-trade. Although the spectacularly beautiful Avenue Montaigne flagship takes shoppers' breath away, the heart...Read More

  • 19. Chantal Thomass

    Louvre

    The legendary lingerie diva is back with a Pillow Talk–meets–Louis XIV–inspired boutique. This is French naughtiness at its best, striking the perfect balance between playful...Read More

  • 20. Chloé

    Louvre

    Much like the clothes it sells, Chloé's flagship boutique is softly feminine and modern without being stark. Housed in an 18th-century mansion, its creamy marble...Read More

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