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. agnès b.

    Canal St-Martin

    A household name in Paris, agnès b. has earned rock-star status among two generations of fashionistas. Her artsy-yet-classic aesthetic translates to a slew of well-made...Read More

  • 2. Balmain

    Champs-Élysées

    Slinky silhouettes, bare midriffs, sequins, crystals, frills, and furbelows, not to mention plenty of silver, patent leather, and cutouts. In other words, Balmain is not...Read More

  • 3. Bamyan

    Île Saint-Louis

    A shopping destination since 1986, this stylish purveyor of "ethnic chic" showcases the work of talented young Indian and Middle Eastern designers whose multicolored creations...Read More

  • 4. Carel

    St-Germain-des-Prés

    This company made a name for itself in the 1950s with its youthful designs that were made to match with the modern fashions of iconic...Read More

  • 5. Céline Wright

    Île Saint-Louis

    Poetically binding thousands of strips of washi (Japanese paper) into handcrafted, one-of-a-kind lighting fixtures has made Céline Wright a familiar name in Paris's art and...Read More

  • 6. Clair de Rêve

    Île Saint-Louis

    Stepping into the pleasantly cluttered shop of this maker of marionettes and restorer of automata is like time-traveling to the Belle Époque. Music boxes and...Read More

  • 7. Cornerluxe

    Eiffel Tower

    If new Parisian designer duds are a bit out of your price range you might consider this classy depot-vente (consignment shop), where chic neighborhood ladies...Read More

  • 8. La Trésorerie

    Canal St-Martin

    No place outfits chic Canal St-Martin lofts better than this soaring eco-friendly boutique. Housed in a historic treasury, it assembles the crème de la crème...Read More

  • 9. Mademoiselle Chapeau

    Marais Quarter

    This is the only hatmaker in Paris where you can see jaunty cloches, fedoras, and flat-topped straw boaters being made with centuries-old techniques in an...Read More

  • 10. Maison Ullens

    Champs-Élysées

    A glam Golden Triangle location, a Rem Koolhaas–designed boutique, sumptuous clothes—the Belgian label's first Paris outpost hits all the marks and then some. Founded in...Read More

  • 11. Patricia Blanchet

    Canal St-Martin

    Do not hesitate to run for that taxi in a pair of superchic pumps, flats, or booties from Patricia Blanchet, which are neither too high...Read More

  • 12. Sessùn

    Charonne

    Designer Emma François's main inspiration is traveling to faraway places, where she picks up ideas for the textures, prints, and colors of her versatile collection...Read More

  • 13. The Broken Arm

    Marais Quarter

    Like the ready-made Duchamp "artwork" for which it is named, the Broken Arm projects a minimalist cool that puts the concept back in concept store....Read More

  • 14. Claudie Pierlot

    Louvre

    This designer is deservedly lauded for her smart, urban clothes that unite youthful chic with solid designs; they also successfully transition over several seasons. The...Read More

  • 15. Inès de la Fressange

    St-Germain-des-Prés

    Paris's style icon now brings her legendary chic to an eponymous boutique in the heart of St-Germain-des-Prés. Along with her limited-edition fashions, de la Fressange...Read More

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