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. Guerlain

    Louvre

    The world's oldest perfumer has a gorgeous Parisian flagship store, just blocks from its very first shop founded by Pierre-François Guerlain in 1828. The outpost...Read More

  • 2. Les Salons du Palais-Royal Serge Lutens

    Louvre

    Every year, Serge Lutens dreams up two new fragrances, which are then sold exclusively in this boutique. Each is compellingly original, from the strong somptueux...Read More

  • 3. Nose

    Grands Boulevards

    Off the bustling Rue Montmartre, this unique concept store is Paris's perfume and skin-care central—a must for seekers of that elusive perfect fragrance. After installing...Read More

  • 4. Officine Universelle Buly 1803

    Marais Quarter

    This elegant little "pharmacy" could have been here for a hundred years, thanks to the genteel ambience of the shop featuring a line of irresistible...Read More

  • 5. Annick Goutal

    Louvre

    Annick Goutal sells its own line of signature scents, which come packaged in gilded gauze purses. Gardenia, Passion, Petite Chérie, and l'Eau d'Hadrien are perennial...Read More

  • 6. Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle

    St-Germain-des-Prés

    This perfumery is based on a simple concept: take the most famous noses in France and have them edit singular perfumes. The result? Exceptional, highly...Read More

  • 7. Guerlain

    Champs-Élysées

    This opulent address is a fitting home for Paris's first—and most famous—perfumer. Still the only Paris outlet for legendary perfumes like Shalimar and L'Heure Bleue,...Read More

  • 8. Jovoy

    Louvre

    Representing 100 artisanal perfumers, Jovoy is the largest independent purveyor of fragrances in the world—indeed, the brand calls itself the "embassy of rare perfumes." Owner...Read More

  • 9. Parfums de Nicolaï

    Louvre

    This perfumerie is run by Guerlain family member Patricia de Nicolaï. Children's, women's, and men's scents are on offer (including some unisex), as are sprays...Read More

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