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The Budget-Minded Traveler: Cheap Shopping in Paris

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Uniqlo Paris
bizmac/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

As one of the world's fashion capitals, you'd expect to find a few good budget shops in Paris. Parisians know that finding the perfect pair of slacks from a discount designer shop or antique lamp from a flea market is tout un art-- a genuine art. Bookmark this page for great ideas on cheap shopping in Paris. When we say "cheap", though, we don't necessarily mean that quality has to be taken out of the equation. Locals pride themselves on finding fine clothes or home items for next to nothing. Here are just a few of their secrets.

Vide Greniers (Attic Sales)

The epitome of bargain shopping has to be yard sales. While you won’t find any front yards in the middle of Paris, the French do have their own version of getting rid of old household items: vide-greniers – literally, “emptying the attic.” Taking over several blocks in designated neighborhoods, vide-greniers feature secondhand clothing direct from the merchant, from very used to practically new. Those motivated to dig will certainly reap rewards, often scoring brand-name items for a fraction of the original price – don’t be afraid to bargain here. Check this website for a listing of vide-greniers. Simply select “75-Paris,” then click on your desired Paris arrondissement to find dates and times.

Paris Summer and Winter Sales

Twice a year, the French hack the prices of a majority of their off-season clothing and open the doors to swarms of eager shoppers. Every January and July, as much as 75% is taken off retail items, for a month of bargain hunting in most stores in the country (home furnishings, books, antiques and any number of items go on sale in addition to clothing). One word of warning-- make sure get to shops fast. French people mean business, and if you wait until the end of the month to pick up that coveted peacoat or swimsuit, there is a good chance your size will be gone. The benefit of waiting it out, however, is getting the really cheap prices. So, decide on your strategy and enjoy the Paris sales (soldes).

Paris Vintage Stores

There are dozens of vintage shops in Paris – far too many to name here. The easiest place to start is by visiting three neighborhoods where you’ll find a plethora of quality vintage items on sale.

In Montmartre, behind metro Abbesses, Chine Machine stands apart as being one of the few vintage shops in the area with a dynamite customer service and appropriately priced, funky clothes for women. Near Hotel de Ville and the Centre Pompidou is another top spot for loads of vintage shops. Free’P’Star offers a no-fuss, decently-priced selection (jeans, shirts and shoes for 10-20 euros, belts and scarves between 1 and 3 euros) and has three locations, all within walking distance from one another. Around metro Jacques Bonsergent, you’ll find another cluster of great vintage stores. Start with Frip Sape, which offers low prices and a treasure trove of secondhand goods, including a nice selection of leather boots. Once you’ve tackled these vintage havens, you’re ready to break out towards the individual retro gems. Goldy Mama offers higher-end pieces from the likes of Chanel and Jean-Paul Gaultier, as well as run-of-the-mill street fashion. Stepping into this tiny boutique is like going back in time, where a friendly staff will help when you need it, but leave you to happily shop when you don’t.

Chine Machine
Address: 100 Rue Martyrs, 18th arrondissement
Tel: +33 (0)1 80 50 27 66
Metro: Abbesses
Visit the website

Frip Sape
Address: 32 rue de Lancry, 11th arrondissement
Tel: +33 (0)1 44 52 02 31
Metro: Jacques Bonsergent
Visit the website

Free’P’Star
Address: 8 rue Sainte-croix de la Bretonnerie, 4th arrondissement
Tel: +33 (0)1 42 76 03 72
Metro: Rambuteau, Hôtel de Ville, or Saint-Paul
Additional locations are nearby on 61 rue de la Verrerie (4th) and 20 Rue de Rivoli (4th) Visit the website

Kookai Stock

Kookai ready-to-wear boutiques offer some of women’s fashion’s most up-to-the-minute trends, but prices can be steep for the average shopper. Here at its outlet store, you’ll find those stylish wears for around half the price of the boutiques – with items from last season or surplus stock from the latest collection. While some outlet shops in Paris sell defective pieces or out-of-date styles, Kookai Outlet is definitely a diamond in the rough.

Address: 82 rue Réaumur, 2nd arrondissement
Tel: +33 (0)1 45 08 93 69
Metro: Réaumur-Sebastopol, Sentier, Strasbourg-Saint-Denis
Visit the official website

Designer Knock-Off Global Chains: Promod, H&M, Zara

If you’re not really into rifling through bins of secondhand clothing or last year’s fashions, check out these chains for year-round, low-end prices on the latest styles. While each store has its own slightly different style, they all have sections for trendy, casual or professional wear, and all of the collections at these global chains are inspired by runway trends. You'll find at least one branch of these chains in most of the major Paris shopping districts, especially on Rue de Rivoli (1st and 4th arrondissements) or the Champs-Elysees.

Paris Flea Markets

Flea markets are another great way to find bargain items in Paris-- and are part of a true cultural tradition. The most famous of the "puces" (literally, fleas) is the outdoor market at Clingancourt/St Ouen. Stepping out of the métro at Porte de Clignancourt can be overwhelming at first, but it will be well worth your while to check out the markets here. There are 14 markets englobed in the Marché aux puces, as it is known locally, and they offer enough variety to strike just about anyone’s fancy. From cheap, imported goods to antique wears and used clothing, strolling through the massive Marché aux puces is a great way to spend an afternoon. Just be sure to take care of your belongings here-- and beware of pickpockets.

Read more on Paris Flea Markets here

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