Paris is a wonderful city to stroll around. It’s full of gardens, monuments and beautiful shops – galleries, boutiques, perfumeries, bookshops, antiques, bric a brac and some really quirky stores. Wandering aimlessly in a city this size can seem a bit daunting though, so on my last visit I created a DIY walking tour centred on some of the more unusual and historic shops. The point wasn’t so much to tick each one off the list, but to give a general direction to my wandering, knowing I’d discover so much more along the way; and I did. Here’s a list of five quite quirky shops in Paris (most of which now sell online). A walking tour of these is about 7km and will take about 1½ hours if you don’t stop – but the whole point is you will stop and make your own discoveries and detours along the way (email me for a map). Bon Chance!
Shakespeare & Company (5th arrondissement)
This English language bookshop in a 17th century warren of rooms near Notre Dame opened in 1951 and quickly became a centre for expat literary life, even offering accommodation to travelling writers on portable beds among the shelves. A ‘Kilometre Zero’-stamped book from here is a great souvenir.
E.Dehillerin (1st arrondissement)
Copperware fans will love this unassuming warehouse that’s supplied Parisian cooks with tools of the trade since the early 1800s. Alongside traditional cookware (and much lighter to pack) is an impressive array of silicon moulds, from pineapples and strawberries to pearls and flowers. Nearby Nelson Mandela Gardens are beautiful too.
Galerie Fayet (9th arrondissement)
The covered passages of Paris offer some of the most interesting shops, not least this beautiful one in Passage Jouffroy dedicated to walking canes. Silver, pewter, bronze, horn and exotic woods appear in all manner of creations atop antique and modern canes. Beautiful umbrellas too.
Les Drapeaux de France (1st arrondissement)
With over 30,000 hand-painted tin soldiers from every historic period of France, this shop at the gateway to the beautiful Palais Royal is like an Aladdin’s cave. Beyond the military are cartoon characters and a lovely collection of handmade Steiff soft toys, from bears to wolves and kangaroos!
Le Cabinet de Porcelaine (7th arrondissement)
At first glance this looks like another tiny florist shop, then radishes, peas and chestnuts catch your eye and you realize everything is porcelain! Made by two artisans near Limoges in southwestern France who have revived this 18th century art, the flowers are more lifelike and the vegetables more whimsical. Many antique shops nearby to explore.