Shopping in Paris: where to shop on the Left Bank

by Natasha.Edwards

Enjoy shopping heaven in Paris with my guide to the best areas to shop on the Left Bank

St-Germain-des-Prés

Over on the Left Bank, St-Germain is proof of the rise of fashion over existentialism but the area still keeps up a certain intellectual spirit and the St-Germain café lifestyle.

Shopping here is ideally interspersed by interludes on café terraces (after all, let's face it, that's what you really came to Paris for). Maintaining the area's literary cred, cult bookshop La Hune (170 boulevard St-Germain), which has excellent literature and art sections and is open until midnight, is perfectly situated between the Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots.

You'll find some of the same big designer names as on the Right Bank but without the glitz. Dior, Prada and Yves Saint Laurent are here but also the sort of chic yet wearable lines that are really worn by Parisiennes, such as Gérard Darel (140 boulevard St-Germain, www.gerarddarel.com), Isabel Marant (1 rue Jacob, www.isabelmarant.tm.fr) and almost next door the sculptural leather handbags designed by her husband Jérôme Dreyfuss (www.jerome-dreyfuss.com). Just nearby, quiet rue and place de Furstenberg are the place for sumptuous furnishing fabrics from Pierre Frey (www.pierrefrey.com), Nobilis and Madura and chic home furnishings and tablewares at Belgian transplant Flamant.

Around rue du Buci with its great food shops and cafés, explore little rue Bourbon le Château for vintage couture and jewellery at the Dépôt-Vente de Bourbon-Buci and wine store La Dernière Goutte, while rue de Seine has mix of vintage jewellery, modern art and 20th-century design galleries. 

Heading south around the Eglise St-Sulpice, I love the cool jackets, knitwear and bags at Zadig et Voltaire (www.zadig-et-voltaire.com) at 1 and 3 rue du Vieux-Colombier; also on the street are Agnès b's women's and men's stores (where Tarantino fans can still get the grey suits from Reservoir Dogs).

On rue St-Sulpice, Maison de Famille (www.maisondefamille.fr) has a stylish mix of country house style and more pared-back modern design in chic tablewares, linen and furniture. Fashionistas adore Vanessa Bruno (25 rue St-Sulpice) for feminine girlie clothes and bags, while Comptoir des Cotonniers, which has recently opened a big new branch on place St-Sulpice, markets itself as the store that dresses both mothers and their daughters.

Heading westwards, foot fetishists flock to rue de Grenelle for an almost non-stop array of shoe shops that includes the killer heels and trademark red soles of Christian Louboutin (www.christianlouboutin.com) at 38, Michel Perry at 42, Bruno Frisoni at 34, Sergio Rossi at 22 and Iris, the Italian company that makes the shoes for Marc Jacobs, Chloé, Viktor & Rolf, John Galliano and many other designers at 28.

Faubourg St-Germain

Le Bon Marché (www.lebonmarche.com) at 24 rue de Sèvres, is Paris's oldest and still most Parisian department store, renowned both for its young designer selection and its upmarket deli and supermarket La Grande Epicerie.

The area is also a destination for modern design. On rue du Bac, look for stylish furniture and design items at the Conran Shop and Ligne Roset, classy deco at Blanc d'Ivoire and table linen and household fabrics at Anne de Solène and stripey Toiles de Soleil.  Sentou (26 boulevard Raspail, www.sentou.fr) cleverly mixes reeditions of classics from designers such as Aalto and Nelson, funny tin boxesby 100drine and Tsé et Tsé's ceramics. Just nearby foodies can fall for cheeses at Barthélémy (famed for its excellent brie, the closest Paris has to a local cheese, and creamy Fontainebleau, both made in the Ile-de-France) at 51 rue de Grenelle and the shiny chocolates and gateaux chez Hugo & Victor.

Edifice at 27bis carries a big range of designers including big selection by Philippe Starck.

The Carré Rive Gauche area near the Musée d'Orsay is more antiques territory, as well as the old-fashioned stuffed animal emporium Deyrolle (46 rue du Bac, www.deyrolle.com). Opened in 1831 and resurrected after a fire in 2008, a fantastical mix of old educational posters, insects and butterfly nets are watched over by dramatic stuffed moose, birds and tigers.

Latin Quarter

Although it's just next to St-Germain, shopping in the Latin Quarter couldn't be more different. Given the large teen and student population from the area's university faculties and prestigious lycées, it's good for the inexpensive clothing chains of boulevard St-Michel, such as Pimkie, Promod, Etam and Celio, alongside massive bookstore and stationer Gibert Joseph.

This is the sort of area for hardware stores, specialist bookshops, lighting at Electorama (11 boulevard St-Germain) and shops devoted to chess sets, tiles, door handles or paints. A few gems are worth the trip, like Diptyque at 34 boulevard St-Germain (www.diptyqueparis.com) for its legendary scented room candles, and Trait (35 rue Jussieu, www.trait.fr) for its huge range of notebooks and its handmade paper. Foodies make the queue outside the original and still best branch of bakery Eric Kayser at 8 rue Monge – try the baguette Monge and the creamy/red berry combo Tarte Monge.

Montparnasse

The Montparnasse area is more chainstore and supermarket territory, especially along avenue du Général Leclerc and in the shopping centre by the Tour Montparnasse but there is also some great niche shopping here. Rues Vavin and Bréa between the Jardins du Luxembourg and boulevard Raspail are great for kids, with outlets incuding Petit Bateau, Fnac Eveil et Jeux, Du Pareil au Même Bébé; and colourful Catimini, as well as fine handmade paper at Marie Papier and chocolates at Jean-Paul Hévin (www.jphevin.com).

Rue d'Alésia, near the Eglise d'Alésia in the 14th, is full of 'Stock' shops, selling the previous season's fashions at discount prices - not all are great but Georges Rech Stock and Cacharel Stock are generally worth a look.

Where to stay

I've recommended two of my favourite Left Bank hotels, you'll find these in the Make it Happen box above. You can also see my full list of recommendations here - Paris Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Paris.

You can also read advice on Shopping in Paris: where to shop on the Right Bank or go back to Shopping in Paris.

Natasha.Edwards

I am a regular contributor to Condé Nast Traveller, the Daily Telegraph and Elle Decoration. As well as several guidebooks to Paris, I have also written guides to Provence, the Côte d'Azur, Lille, Biarritz and the Pays Basque, Bordeaux, Reims and French food for, among others, Time Out, Berlitz, Insight Guides, Dorling Kindersley and Thomas Cook.

I came to Paris over 15 years ago for all the wrong reasons (love!) and have lived here ever since. I still adore exploring the city and today write about art, design, food, travel and French culture in general.

My Paris

Where I always grab a coffee: Le Rostand café on place Edmond-Rostand: it's my unofficial second office, right opposite the Luxembourg Gardens.

My favourite stroll: Although I think I know the city pretty well, there are always places to discover or rediscover. The district I always come back to, however, is St-Germain for its mix of history, small streets, cafés, shopping, people watching, the local and the cosmopolitan... in short, Paris.

Fiction for inspiration: Georges Perec's Life: A User’s Manual: a mind-boggling, jigsaw puzzle of life in a Parisian apartment building. For an insight into French character, the Asterix comic strips are pretty accurate, too!

Where to be seen this summer: Café terraces all around town. If your style is St-Germain, then it's between hip Bar du Marché and newcomer Germain on rue de Buci, if you are more Canal St-Martin, then the waterside Point Ephémère. Gourmets are going to be sniffing out the restaurant at Le Crillon, which has just appointed a new, young chef.

The most breathtaking view: The view of the city that gradually unfolds as you rise up the escalators at the Centre Pompidou.

The best spot for some peace and quiet: The Jardin des Plantes for its combination of botanical garden, scientific institution and local park (perhaps not so quiet). The 19th-century greenhouses are reopening this summer, and it's surely the only place in Paris where you see ostriches when you drive past.

Shopaholics beware!: Artfully distressed concept store Merci, for its totally desirable mix of up-to-the minute and second-hand fashion, housewares, oddities and cult design items.

City on screen: Parisians adore cinema and there's something cinematic about the whole city. I love Jean-Pierre Melville's film noir Le Samourai, for its vision of Paris low life, nightclubs and the metro, with Alain Delon as the cool, lean, beautiful hitman, and, for something completely different, brilliant animation film Ratatouille, for its witty, sentimental, tongue-in-cheek evocation of Paris and its restaurant culture.

Don’t leave without...Visiting a Paris food market – one of them, all of them, preferably on Sunday morning, the best time for catching up on gossip as well as gourmandises.