#25 (of 25)

Shopping in Paris is hardly an original concept, but if it’s life-altering retail therapy you seek, then this is indeed the place to find it. If you need a fresh rationalization, try this: Since the Parisians invented shopping, consider your excursion an exercise in cultural anthropology.

How best to pursue your studies? Start with three shoe shops sprinkled along the Right Bank (the itinerary here can be done in a fast day or a leisurely weekend). First, try the new Roger Vivier boutique on the Rue du Faubourg St-Honoré. Vivier was sort of like Manolo Blahnik before Manolo Blahnik, and his line has been relaunched with the help of the talented young designer Bruno Frisoni. Move on to Rodolphe Menudier at the Place Vendôme; his toe cleavage makes a pair of Louboutins seem positively prudish. Then walk to the Palais Royale, where, nestled in an arcade, is a Pierre Hardy boutique. This man knows how to work neon into a sexy pump.

Cross the river to St-Germain, where an excursion down that boulevard and along the complicated web of streets that stretch beyond it is sure to yield something you can’t find at home (and what’s the point of shopping in Paris if all you’re going to come home with is Colette’s decidedly common selection of on-trend Gucci and Prada?). On the boulevard itself, the tiny storefront of Madeleine Gely is packed with umbrellas and walking sticks—fancy ones, with carved wooden handles and resounding snaps. Around the corner, for those feeling terribly flush and/or terribly sexy, there’s Sabbia Rosa, a tiny boudoir of a lingerie store that deals in outrageously luxe and pricey made-to-measure slips and camisoles in great, heavy silk, the kind that shines with a dull luster and falls slowly. It’s all trimmed in the softest calais lace, and the colors—cerise noir, rouge cardinal—are perfect. If you are inspired to walk through the Luxembourg Garden, you can pop out on the Rue Vavin to Marie Papier, a stationery store filled with classic hardbacked agendas and thick, brightly colored card stock.

On the Rue de Grenelle, freshen up with a scent from Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle. The legendary perfumer swears that girls (and boys!) who wear the Musc Ravageur all wind up being chased, ardently, through the streets of the city. The more demure opt for Iris Poudre.

The Rue Guisarde—a tiny rue, half a rue, really—is home to resale shops Les Trois Marches and Catherine B, where the secondhand Chanel bouclé jackets and Hermès cuffs feel like genuine castoffs from Catherine Deneuve and Leslie Caron. (Needless to say, these bouclé jackets look tremendously chic over new Sabbia Rosa camisoles.)

Finish with a trip to two fabulous boutiques on the river side of St-Germain: If the soft dresses and sweetly nostalgic cashmere sweaters at Les Prairies de Paris on Rue du Pré aux Clercs fail to enchant on a particular day, the hidden, ivy-colored street never does. And at the end of the Rue Jacob, where it abuts the Rue de Seine, is Isabel Marant, two floors of chic Parisian streetwear with a Jane Birkin– in–Morocco bohemian flair. Both lines can be found, with considerable effort, in New York, but only in small selections. Besides, in New York you don’t get to marvel at the salesgirls’ unique senses of style. Study them closely; you’re here to reinvent yourself.

Never mind restaurants (you’re here to shop), but you may want some snacks. On the Rue du Cherche Midi, try Poilâne (33-14548-4259), which is famous for its perfect bread but also makes a perfect apple tartlet. And speaking of perfection, not only is a box of bonbons from A la Reine Astrid across the street (33-14563-6039) insanely delicious, but the packaging—peach, trimmed in ivory—is divine. Hôtel Montalembert (33-14549-6868;; from $406) and Hôtel Duc de Saint Simon (33-14439-2020;; from $292) are chic, small, and centrally located. At the Duc de Saint Simon, each room is done in a unique toile. If such preciousness cloys, the Montalembert offers a similarly quiet vibe in a far sleeker setting.