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. 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

  • 4. 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

  • 5. 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

  • 6. Dior

    Champs-Élysées

    Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior's first female designer for a label that's traditionally defined the feminine, has quickly made the House of Dior thoroughly her own....Read More

  • 7. FrenchTrotters

    Charonne

    A handpicked selection of the best in French and European fashion for men and women (hard to find outside Europe) is gathered in this sleek...Read More

  • 8. Lemaire

    Marais Quarter

    Even during his time as creative director at Hermès, Christophe Lemaire kept his own eponymous label, designed with his wife, Sarah-Linh Tran. Their refined little...Read More

  • 9. Louis Vuitton

    Louvre

    The Paris-based luxury leather goods and fashion house par excellence is resplendent in an 18th-century mansion on the elegant Place Vendôme. Part fashion boutique and...Read More

  • 10. Merci

    Marais Quarter

    Paris's favorite concept store assembles top fashions for men and women, home furnishings (including those irresistible French bed and bath linens), vintage, jewelry, and housewares...Read More

  • 11. Petit Bateau

    Champs-Élysées

    This iconic clothing store, originally for kids, provides a fundamental part of the classic French wardrobe from cradle to teen and beyond. The signature T-shirt—cut...Read More

  • 12. Thanx God I'm A V.I.P.

    Canal St-Martin

    If you don't find something you absolutely love among the color-coordinated racks jam-packed with vintage designer and simply fabulous clothing here, we'll eat our cashmere...Read More

  • 13. The Frankie Shop

    Marais Quarter

    This small-but-mighty boutique has quickly become chic Parisians' go-to place for affordable, eminently wearable, and ever-stylish urban classics. From stunning leather trenches to flowing suits...Read More

  • 14. Y's Yohji Yamamoto

    Grands Boulevards

    Yamamoto's voluminous, draped, and highly coveted Y's label fully expresses itself in this sleek backdrop of white and chrome. Don't expect a varied palette; the...Read More

  • 15. & Other Stories

    Louvre

    H&M’s upscale "style lab" covers all the major fashion bases, appealing to women of different tastes and ages. Unlike the minimalist COS—another H&M spawn—& Other...Read More

  • 16. A.P.C.

    St-Germain-des-Prés

    The A.P.C. brand may be antiflash and minimal, but a knowing eye can always pick out its jeans in a crowd. The clothes here are...Read More

  • 17. A.P.C. Surplus

    Montmartre

    A.P.C. opened its surplus store steps away from Sacré-Coeur. No need to wait for sales; funky classics can always be found here for a whopping...Read More

  • 18. 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

  • 19. agnès b.

    Louvre

    This shop embodies the quintessential French approach to easy but stylish dressing. There are many branches, and the clothes are also sold in department stores,...Read More

  • 20. 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

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