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 | Clothing

    Justly famous for their sexy, derriere-shaping jeans, the Swedish label for men and women daringly mixes genders and genres in body-hugging...Read More

  • 2. Alice Cadolle

    Louvre | Clothing

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

  • 3. Artazart

    Canal St-Martin | Books/Stationery

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

  • 4. Avril Gau

    St-Germain-des-Prés | Shoes/Luggage/Leather Goods

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

  • 5. Balenciaga

    Champs-Élysées | Clothing

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

  • 6. Bonpoint

    Champs-Élysées | Clothing

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

  • 7. Buly 1803

    St-Germain-des-Prés | Perfume/Cosmetics

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

  • 8. Carré Rive Gauche

    St-Germain-des-Prés | Antiques/Collectibles

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

  • 9. Cartier

    Louvre | Jewelry/Accessories

    Cartier flashes its jewels at more than half a dozen boutiques in the city. Longtime favorites such as the Trinity rings and Tank watches compete...Read More

  • 10. Céline

    Champs-Élysées | Clothing

    Reinvigorated by Michael Kors in the late 1990s, Céline got another much-needed jolt when Phoebe Philo arrived in 2008 and began dazzling the...Read More

  • 11. Centre Commercial

    Canal St-Martin | Clothing

    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...Read More

  • 12. Chanel

    Champs-Élysées | Clothing

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

  • 13. Chantal Thomass

    Louvre | Clothing

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

  • 14. Chloé

    Louvre | Clothing

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

  • 15. Cire Trudon

    St-Germain-des-Prés | Household Items/Furniture

    This company has illuminated the great palaces and churches of Paris since the 1600s. Nowadays it provides the atmosphere for tony restaurants...Read More

  • 16. Deyrolle

    St-Germain-des-Prés | Antiques/Collectibles

    This fascinating 19th-century taxidermist has long been a stop for curiosity seekers. A 2008 fire destroyed what was left of the original shop...Read More

  • 17. Dior

    Champs-Élysées | Clothing

    Following in John Galliano's outsized footsteps, Raf Simons did a brilliant job of redefining the label, but himself decamped in late 2015,...Read More

  • 18. Dior Joaillerie

    Champs-Élysées | Jewelry/Accessories

    When Victoire de Castellane was signed to create Dior's first line of fine jewelry, she brought a big dollop of wit and panache to the venerable...Read More

  • 19. Diptyque

    St-Germain-des-Prés | Household Items/Furniture

    A Paris mainstay since 1961, Diptyque's flagship shop is famous for its candles, eaux de toilette, and body fragrances in a huge range of...Read More

  • 20. Galerie Vivienne

    Louvre | Shopping Centers/Malls

    Located between the Bourse and the Palais-Royal, Galerie Vivienne is the most glorious glass-capped arcade in Paris. The 19th-century beauty...Read More

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