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Everyone in Paris has a favorite nook of paradise. So where do I go for a little escapism? Clipping from the fabulous Petula Clark, I make my way downtown to the Galeries Lafayette Coupole’s rooftop, where the lights are much brighter and the view at the top is always free!
Here are a few Theadorable insider tips, surefire to make your tour of my favorite “grand magasin” a breeze. Why, it’s in the bag!
Make your entrance at the junction of rue Mogador and boulevard Haussmann. For stamina’s sake, pack a candy bar. You’ll find complimentary water and restrooms on every floor. (Tip: You can avoid the crowd by shopping on weekday mornings.)
Level 0—Welcome Area and Accessories
Here you’ll find a welcome desk, stocked with store maps. This is also where you’ll find out about all the special promotions. Don’t be daunted by the throngs of people. Like a Mont Blanc climb, the mob will dissipate with altitude as you head up. Keep both your wits and your bag in grip.
Stay focused and fast track it to the cosmetics and perfume area, located in the middle of the store. As you make your way, ogle the handbags, scarves, and hats to your heart’s desire, but don’t touch. Once a silk Kenzo scarf makes its soft and silky contact, you’ll never go Cheapo again. Yes, I have been there.
Level 0, Part II—Scents and Sensibility under the dome
Once you’ve reached the intricate maze of “produits de beauté,” take time to smell the (sometimes synthetic bottled) roses, while gazing up at the stained glass “coupole” (domed ceiling). Installed in 1912, this Belle Epoch beauty with its Byzantine twist has never failed to bring me to tears or goose bumps. But if you’re like me, you’ll soon wipe your tears and then try out the new scents and colors by French classics like Guerlain, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, and Clarins. Free primping just got easier. (Tip: Watch out for uneven flooring and extension-cord coverings.)
Level Minus 1 (basement)—Shoes
Hold on to your hat, Cinderella! Make a detour downstairs to the brand-spanking-new and oh-so-tempting shoe zone, shining with 12,000 designer shoes and LED lighting. It’s the world’s largest shoe selection! Take the marble stairwell nestled in between the Gucci and Prada showrooms at ground level. On your way down, get an eyeful of the shoes exhibited in their little glass boxes. Lose your mind or just your glasses? Lost and found is also located on this level. Check out our Paris shoe shopping survival guide for some tips on how to get the most for your money
Level 1—Designer Fashion
Now, on to the first floor above ground level. Jump off the escalator, and take a quick spin through the fantastic, high-ticketed (but well-worth a window-lick) showroom of Jean-Charles de Castelbajac. Also lean over the Art Nouveau balconies for a rather spectacular aerial view of the perfume and cosmetic booths below. The logos were installed specifically for this bird’s-eye view. You’ll find plush seating, complimentary water and a €1 coffee machine by the escalator.
Level 2—Contemporary Fashion
Here you find additional seating, more free water, a Coca-Cola Light machine, and Parisian closet staples like Kookai, Naf Naf, and Zara. The view keeps getting better with each floor.
Level 3—Seductive Fashion
Yes, Cheapos, you are in France, so this is what the lingerie and hosiery is officially called, and yes, it possesses the alluring goods to back up the name! Don’t forget to take yet another peek of the action below.
Level 4—Life’s a Beach
Happily, the crowd starts to thin out here on the bathing suit level, so take advantage of the empty seating, more complimentary water, and the photo booth. Did I say photo booth? Yes! Why not? On this level, you’ll finally earn your first view of the exterior peak of the dome.
Level 5—Toy Store
Hello Kitty, goodbye heart! Uh oh. Need I say more?
Level 6—Eiffel Towers, brides, and books—oh, my
Here you’ll find the city’s largest souvenir shop (who’d-a-thunk-it?), bridal gowns, and one of my favorite bookstores in Paris. Plus: wide designer tables, lanky stools, and red stylish lamps lining the large windows, with views to a kill (apologies to Duran Duran). Kick off your heels, troll the arts section, and grab a book and stool. Your back and feet will thank you!
Level 7—Vogue under the big top
Galeries Lafayette also offers free fashion shows, lit by a disco ball. They’re usually held during the spring and fall seasons. You can reserve a ticket merely by writing firstname.lastname@example.org and asking for one. (Tip: arrive early to get a front row seat worthy of Anna Wintour.)
Level 8—Up on the roof
This is my favorite city-gazing hot spot. Arrayed for your panoramic pleasure, you’ll find the Tour Eiffel, the Opéra Garnier, and Sacré Coeur. So commandeer a ledge and recharge your spirit, soul, and soles with to-the-horizon boulevards and buildings of Haussmannian architecture, dramatic cloud formations, sunsets, and non-stop people-watching!
Cheapos, repeat after me, “Non, je ne regrette rien!”
Want to know about other places to shop? Read about our 10 favorite shopping districts in Paris.