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. Isaac Reina

    Marais Quarter

    It takes up to several days of painstaking work to create one of Isaac Reina's refined handbags, satchels, totes, backpacks, or small leather goods. Meticulous...Read More

  • 2. Louis Vuitton

    Champs-Élysées

    Louis Vuitton has spawned a voracious fan base from Texas to Tokyo with its mix of classic leather goods and saucy revamped versions orchestrated by...Read More

  • 3. Philippe Roucou

    Bastille

    By turns bold and dainty, these exquisitely constructed vintage-inspired bags are some of the yummiest in Paris. A python-and-calf tote is demure in storm gray:...Read More

  • 4. Renaud Pellegrino

    Louvre

    Just steps from the Arc de Triomphe, Renaud Pellegrino is a black-book address for style icons like Catherine Deneuve and Paloma Picasso, who eschew status...Read More

  • 5. Goyard

    Louvre

    These colorful totes are the choice of royals, blue bloods, and the like (clients have included Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Gregory Peck, and the Duke...Read More

  • 6. Jamin Puech

    St-Germain-des-Prés

    Nothing's plain Jane at Jamin Puech, which thinks of its bags not just as a necessity, but as jewelry. Beaded purses swing from thin link...Read More

  • 7. Jamin Puech Inventaire

    Canal St-Martin

    These are last season's models, but no one will guess; savings are 30% to 60%....Read More

  • 8. Jérôme Dreyfuss

    St-Germain-des-Prés

    The newest star in the city's handbag universe has captivated le tout Paris with his artsy take on hobo, Birkin, and messenger bags. Unique styles...Read More

  • 9. Lancaster

    Louvre

    A household name in France for 100 years, Lancaster has a reputation for style and craftsmanship. Its bags are chic and sporty, with an emphasis...Read More

  • 10. Les sacs de Louise

    Île Saint-Louis

    A warm welcome is guaranteed at this appealing little boutique, which specializes in a well-curated selection of designer handbags and other leather goods....Read More

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