In medieval days, Paris had entire streets devoted to particular trades and professions — tanners, butchers and the like. The contemporary city has its mini-shopping enclaves, too, if you know where to look.
Walk on the Wild Side: Shopping on the Rue de Grenelle
Ever fantasized about indulging all your designer shoe cravings within one block? Then slip on a pair of your highest heels and stroll down the opening stretch of rue de Grenelle, near the intersection with the rue de Sèvres and the rue du Four, where you’ll find the cult red-soled souliers of Christian Louboutin (no. 38). The flamboyant Parisian shoemaker, credited with bringing the stiletto back into fashion, has created red carpet footwear for celebrities including Catherine Deneuve, Princess Caroline, Angelina Jolie and Madonna, who sports Louboutin’s slinky thigh-high leather cuissardes in her latest video. Across the street, L.K. Bennett (no. 31), a quintessential London brand, strikes a perfect balance between footwear that’s bang-on-trend, like low-cut ankle boots, yet sensible enough to wear to the office, like ballerina pumps in patent leather. Iris (no. 28), one of my favorites, boasts the best multi-brand selection in town, with hot-off-the-runway heels by designers including John Galliano, Marc Jacobs, Véronique Branquinho and maverick Dutch duo Viktor & Rolf. For men, veteran Italian designer Sergio Rossi (no. 22) offers a range of classic brogues and tasseled leather moccasins complete with elegant wallets and travel bags to match. Male dandies looking to make a louder fashion statement head for Jean-Baptiste Rautureau (no. 24) where wilder styles include python loafers and cowboy boots emblazoned with the Stars and Stripes. After splurging on shoes, fashionistas drop in on Carine Gilson for luxurious couture lingerie (no. 18).
Glorious Food: The Place de la Madeleine
Place de la Madeleine gets its name from the 19th-century neoclassical church at its center, but given the abundance of gourmet food stores here it might well have been named after Proust’s little teacake. The historic flagship stores of Fauchon (between nos. 26 and 30), the celebrated food emporium founded by Auguste Fauchon in 1886 and revamped by designer Christian Biecher, elevates food shopping to couture level—as witnessed by the gorgeous pink packaging that rivals the fashion boutiques of Avenue Montaigne. Chocolates, truffles, foie gras, escargots de Bourgogne—it’s all here, along with éclairs glazed with the image of Mona Lisa and honey harvested from Jean Paucton’s beehives on the roof of the Opéra Garnier.
Aristocratic grocer Hédiard (no. 21) is even older than Fauchon. Ferdinand Hédiard introduced Parisians to the joys of exotic fruits in the 1850s and Hédiard jams, marmalades and pâtes de fruit are still bestsellers today, lined up with an enticing array of oils and spices and a fantastic wine cellar. At La Maison de la Truffe (no. 19), a superb tasting menu offers tuber-based delicacies such as scallop carpaccio with Brumale truffles, and a shop for gourmet gifts including truffle-infused Armagnac. Next door two prestigious caviar houses rival for attention—Caviar Kaspia(no. 17) and Café Prunier (no. 15). The tiny Maille boutique, easily overlooked in the corner nook (no. 6), stocks more than 30 different types of mustard flavored with everything from violets to champagne. Oenophiles might like to know that the city’s largest wine store, Lavinia, is a few steps away at 3-5 Boulevard de la Madeleine.
Originally published in the October 2009 issue of France Today; updated in January 2013
View Shopping in the Rue de Grenelle in a larger map
View Table Talk: Rue Royale in a larger map
View Place de la Madeleine in a larger map