The Grand Dame of Parisian department stores, Galeries Lafayette opened it's doors on Boulevard Haussmann in 1896. Under a magnificent Belle Époque stained glass ceiling covering a seven story atrium, this flagship store is the largest department store in Europe. A visit here requires a good chunk of your day and may take an even bigger chunk out of your wallet.
Having witnessed some lean times, the entire store has been brilliantly re-outfitted to cater to every shopping need and then some that you could possibly have. Divided into boutique-like areas, it features cosmetics and fragrances too numerous to mention, handbags and shoe departments that you just have to shake your head in disbelief and wonder 'How am I ever going to be able to make a choice'? Surrounding all this are haute couture boutiques, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, etc. to add to the confusion. Oh, did I mention we are still on the first floor?
As you wind your way up, you will come in contact with some of the most beautiful cloths imaginable--the type that most of don't really have an opportunity to purchase on our runs to Target here in the states. Luckily haute couture and the everyday knockabout kind of clothes peacefully coexist here so you are bound to find a little something for everyone. And while it can be exhausting and require more time than you might think, not to worry. They have ingeniously thought out every detail and there are several restaurants and even a champagne bar (I never wanted to leave once I saw that) which allow you to recharge your battery and keep on shopping.
But wait!! There's more. If you go through the men's department (you are now in a totally different building and either have to walk outside to get there or through a glass walkway connecting the two) you will find the best reason to go to Galeries Lafayette. Lafayette Gourmet is a full gourmet grocery store where you can find just about anything from the simple to the sublime. Not only can you get the goods to take home and prepare a great meal, with numerous food stations/mini-restaurants right there, you can treat yourself to some of the yummiest food in Paris and I say that in all seriousness. The photo above is just one of those food bars that features Spanish Iberico ham that is out of this world and you cannot come by the real thing here in the states due to how it is processed (an FDA thing). A seat at this counter is one of the most coveted of places to have lunch. It took my daughters and I almost a year of trying to find three seats together to partake in a little food heaven. But when we did, oh my! Seriously, as crazy as it sounds, every time we are in Paris we make our way here for a great meal.
OK--how's the arms? Have you had enough? It is overwhelming and if there is anyone who doesn't like to shop traveling with you, I just wouldn't bring them along. Send them in a direction they will enjoy so you can do your thing. Just make sure the right one ends up with the credit card!!
Additional information: Galeries Lafayette
40, blvd Haussmann
Métro: Chaussée-d'Antin-LaFayette, Opera