This is the third and final part of our special series of holiday tips for New York (thanks to the Manhattan User’s Guide), London (thanks to Urban Junkies) and Paris, and this one is all about shopping and gifts!
If you’re unable to attend the previously mentioned Salon Saveurs but still want to find food gifts that will travel well, the classic recommendations are La Grande Epicerie de Paris and Lafayette Gourmet: these never disappoint and the broadness of their product range will guarantee you don’t come out empty-handed. If you feel more comfortable in smaller shops, Da Rosa is a great purveyor of interesting condiments, vinegars and spices, and I have to put in a good word for G. Detou as well, which specializes in baking supplies sold in bulk, but also offers regular-sized and very reasonably-priced fine goods — chocolate, mustard and a variety of canned items.
La Grande Epicerie de Paris
38 rue de Sèvres, 75007 Paris
01 44 39 81 00
48 bd Haussmann, 75009 Paris
01 40 23 52 25
62 rue de Seine, 75006 Paris
01 40 51 00 09
58 rue Tiquetonne, 75002 Paris
01 42 36 54 67
Les Créateurs des Abbesses
For non-food presents — you know, clothes, jewelry, decoration items, we need those too — you can opt for the unique experience of being squished to death in the insanely crowded department stores (Le Bon Marché, Le Printemps, Les Galeries Lafayette, Le BHV — note that La Samaritaine is now closed because the building threatened to collapse, which was kind of a problem), or you can choose to take a walking and shopping tour of the small designer stores nested in the streets of Montmartre. Rue des Martyrs (start at the very bottom, in the 9th), rue Houdon, rue d’Orsel, rue des Abbesses, rue Yvonne-Le-Tac, rue des Trois-Frères, rue de la Vieuville, all of them are peppered with little boutiques where you will find unique gifts and stocking-stuffers.
Do you feel uneasy about the consumerism that surrounds the holidays while you ponder the profoundly unjust state of the planet? Buying fair trade gifts will probably not change the world overnight, but it’s a start. Artisans du Monde is an independant network of stores that was created 30 years ago, and works with artisans from emerging countries to sell their goods and educate the public about the principles of fair trade. In their stores you will find clothes, jewelry, sculptures, music instruments, toys, tableware, as well as food items, which were purchased at an equitable price and produced under decent conditions. They are accompanied with a little label that tells you about the product and where it comes from.
Artisans du monde
84 rue Claude Bernard, 75005 Paris
01 47 07 55 95
20 rue Rochechouart, 75009 Paris
01 48 78 55 54
42 avenue Félix Faure, 75015 Paris
01 45 57 82 44
If you want to break away from the highways of huge toy stores, which sell the same plastic crap in every Western country, you will enjoy this little store called Pain d’Epices, located in the Passage Jouffroy (an early 19th century shopping arcade in the 9th): it sells a variety of wooden toys, puppets, dolls, dollhouses (with all kinds of tiny objects to furnish them), miniatures and teddy bears, which will delight the kids around you (or in you).
29, 31, 33 Passage Jouffroy, 75009 Paris
01 47 70 08 68
Marchés de Noël
The tradition of open-air Christmas markets, which start to appear at the beginning of the Advent (four Sundays before Christmas day), dates back from the Middle-Ages in Germany and Alsace. The Strasbourg market is probably the most famous, but Paris does have its fair share of little log cabins, grouped together on squares or along streets. They are meant to provide everything you need to prepare for the upcoming celebration (Christmas decorations, traditional food specialties and gifts) and offer snacks and drinks to keep you warm and happy while you wander around. Some merchants depart from this charming tradition and just use it as an opportunity to sell random stuff, but I just ignore them and walk straight on to the mulled wine stand.
Parisian Christmas markets for this year:
– Rue de Rivoli, rue de la Monnaie and quai du Louvre in the 1st (with a special focus on artisans from the region of Languedoc-Roussillon). Dec. 5-31.
– Place St-Sulpice in the 6th. Dec. 15-18.
– Boulevard St-Germain in the 6th (on the St-Germain-des-Prés end). Dec. 1-28.
– Boulevard Richard-Lenoir in the 11th(on the Bastille end). Dec. 6-25.
– Place de la Nation in the 11th. Dec. 3-24.
One final shopping tip if you’re going to stay on after the holidays, keep in mind that the winter sales will start in early January: the exact launch date is still to be announced, but it is likely to be the 11th or 12th.