Paris is doing rather well in the department store, if you forgive the wordplay. Printemps and Galeries Lafayette on the Rive Droite both impress with their domes and roof terraces, but if I really want to treat myself, or dazzle visitors, nothing but Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche will do.
As the world’s first department store, Le Bon Marché opened in 1852. Imagined by businessman and hat maker Aristide Boucicaut and designed by architects Gustave Eiffel and Louis-Charles Boileau, the building is quintessentially Parisian and oh-so-beautiful. But let’s get one thing straight: bon marché (meaning cheap), it is not. This is the chicest, most elegant department store of them all. The architecture with its domed glass roofs and the very Instagrammable escalators pair well with the high fashion that is at times difficult to wear, nearly impossible to pay for, but fabulous to look at. Scores of covetable accessories make browsing fun and the odd treat possible.
There are gifts and kitchen wares that make you want to move to a new apartment, just so you can re-decorate. Across a glass walkway joining two buildings, there’s the Grand Épicerie, the food court to end all food courts. Even the water bottles and vegetables are displayed so artistically that you want to buy everything. Pricey, but considering the feast for the eyes, it’s worth buying a little something like a freshly made sandwich for lunch. And to think, there are plenty of très chic Parisiennes, who obviously live nearby, filling their shopping trolleys full of groceries for the week. You know you’ve arrived when you can afford that!
Although always a treat, Le Bon Marché really shines at Christmastime when they decorate just so. But any day or season, Le Bon Marché is simply a dream department store that is a must on anybody’s list, whether a local, expat, or tourist.