Galeries Lafayette Cheat Sheet: Top Tips for Exploring the Department Store

Galeries Lafayette Cheat Sheet: Top Tips for Exploring the Department Store
Jet setting to Paris? Cuckoo for old-school department stores? Join the club! Nothing gives me more pleasure than browsing in one of Paris’s great 19th-century retail palaces. For years, I’ve celebrated shopping at the City of Light’s grand magasins like there’s no tomorrow. Based on my experience, here are a few tips to help spark a spree and the kind of magic moments that will leave a lasting memory. Crank up the printer. I’ve created a cheat sheet, perfect for stashing away in your luggage. And feel free to ask questions. Here’s the deal Paris boasts four flagship department stores (in fact, among the world’s first). Bon Marché, Printemps, and Galeries Lafayette are located along the Métro 12 line, while Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville (Le BHV Marais) holds court next to the Hôtel de Ville (naturally). Besides being crammed with nearly every desirable object a shopper could possibly want, these fab four offer art exhibitions, window displays, fitness challenges, cooking classes, DYI workshops, and interactive pop-up ateliers throughout the year. With planning, it is possible to have it all: That bauble you’ve eyeballed and a story to tell. So where to start? They say a kid will eat the inside of an Oreo first. Me? I head to Boulevard Haussmann first. Holly Golightly may have had breakfast at Tiffany’s, but whenever I get the mean reds, nothing else will do quite like Galeries Lafayette. 1. Getting there 40 Boulevard Haussmann (Métro station: Saint-Lazare) 2. Layout of the Land There are three G.L. buildings on Boulevard Haussmann: Magasin Homme (48), Magasin Principal (40), and Magasin Maison & Gourmet (35). Today we’re visiting the Magasin Principal, a.k.a. Galeries Lafayette Coupole. 3. Make your entrance At the corner of Boulevard Haussmann and rue de Mogador. Look both ways before crossing the parking garage side street. I almost lost my dear friend Beth to a speeding Peugeot. She was talking and gawking. #Stayfocused 4. Vibe Over-sized jewelry box, or a glittery birdcage. Swinging with gigantic Dior Sauvage advertising posters of Johnny Depp. A heartbreaker since the nineties! The Gay Nineties, that is. Galeries Lafayette was founded in 1895, and even if you’re not a retail zealot, the Belle Époque flower power here will sway you. In a flâneur-tastique sort of way, soon your wide eye will spy the original elevators and floral plaster and metal work, along with the surviving piece from the grand staircase, sadly demolished during the 1970s. 5. First stop The information desk. Located on the ground level, it’s stocked with maps and tourist discount cards. G.L. still offers its “Client International” card, which knocks 10 per cent off selected items. To score one, flash your passport at the info desk. The process takes just a few minutes. As my grandmother put it, “It all adds up.” 6. Then, aim straight for the heart Don’t be daunted by the throngs of people. Follow the crowd to the maze of beauty products in the center of the store, and then look up. A Belle Époque showstopper with a Byzantine twist, the fabulous stained glass dome (la coupole) was installed by architect Ferdinand Chanut and master glassmaker Jacques Grüber in 1912. But don’t forget to ask for perfume samples. Don’t be shy about testing the waters. This is your chance to try fragrances that are difficult to find outside of France. IMO: Take your shot of the dome next to the Chanel beauty booth. Even after all these years, I still weep. So pack your camera and a hankie. 7. More love on top Hold on to those Spanx leggings! Fitting like a dream: During the warmer months, G.L. often adds “Wellness Classes” to its events calendar: Dance and aerobics in the Opéra Salon, and yoga up on the rooftop. Like the class, the view of the Tour Eiffel, the Opéra, and Sacré Coeur will leave you breathless but yearning for more. Just don’t topple over the edge! Regarding rooftop selfies: #Holdontotheledge Tip: Schedules often change, so visit the website for the current timetable.

Lead photo credit : Holly Golightly may have had breakfast at Tiffany’s, but whenever I get the mean reds, nothing else will do quite like rooftop at Galeries Lafayette (Photo by Theadora Brack)

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Theadora is a Paris-based writer who has a regular column, called “My Life in Paris," in France Today magazine.