A shopaholic's idea of heaven probably resembles Paris. The sheer choice is incredible and the best things to buy reflect what Parisians love best – clothes and accessories, food, books, high-end tablewares, sumptuous fabrics.
Follow these links to read three of my shopping guides: Shopping in Paris: where to shop on the Right Bank, Shopping in Paris: where to shop on the Left Bank and Shopping in Paris: a gourmet guide to street markets.
Although many places now have a Left Bank and a Right Bank outlet, and international clothing chains and practical supermarkets exist on high streets, the true charm is the wealth of individual boutiques. Just as Paris is often described as a collection of villages, so does each area have its own distinctive style.
There is also a tradition of craftsmanship where you can still find milliners' workshops, bookbinders or furniture-makers tucked down side streets or hidden in courtyards or quirky ateliers where young designers make and sell their own clothes or jewellery.
Some shops reflect an area's history, such as the furniture outlets that haven't yet quite been swamped by fashion on Faubourg-St-Antoine, ecclesiastical candleshops in St-Germain, kitchen supply specialists around Les Halles. Others reflect more recent immigration in the Asian supermarkets of the 13th arrondissement Chinatown or the satin wedding dresses and snappy suits around Gare du Nord for sapped-up West African weddings, and every quartier has its own food market (see Shopping in Paris: a gourmet guide to street markets).
What you need to know
Most Paris shops open Monday to Saturday from around 10am to 7 or 8pm. Small shops, notably food shops, and markets may well close for lunch; department stores usually have one later evening opening, often Thursday, and some supermarkets stay open till 10pm.
Every district will have at least one baker open on Sunday. In some more touristy areas (including the Marais, the Ile St-Louis and the Champs-Elysées), many shops open on Sunday, but may close on Monday morning. All around town many shops open on the Sundays leading up to Christmas.
Annual sales take place in January and late June to July, and last for around six weeks.
Service has a mixed reputation in Paris: some times you will be totally ignored, at others you may suffer from over-attention, as sales assistants comment on your choice whether you like it or not, but on the good side, clothes alterations, gift-wrapping and flowers arranged into bouquets are all expected parts of the service.
Where to shop
See my other guides to shopping in Paris: