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Paris Shopping

The Parisian ideal is elegant rather than funky. Trends come and go but Paris is always at the forefront and there are few cities where you can find so many top-quality designers. These include some British designers - John Galliano at Dior, Julian McDonald at Givenchy and McDonald's predecessor, Alexander McQueen, as well as that ever-controversial Frenchman, Jean-Paul Gaultier, with his own store near Bastille. The exclusive designer shops are in the 8th, enclosed in the golden triangle formed by avenue des Champs-Elysées, avenue Montaigne and rue François 1er and along rue du Faubourg St-Honoré.

A less rarefied but typically Parisian shopping experience is to be had at the main department stores situated on boulevard Haussmann, 8th. These include Les Galeries, with its huge coloured dome, and Au Printemps. Métro Temple or Republique take the bargain shopper to the cheapest department store in the city - Tati, 172 rue du Temple, 3rd. Cut-price designer gear can be snapped up at the Mouton à Cinq Pattes, 8 rue St-Placide, 6th. The sales sweep through Paris in January and July.

Those who enjoy intimate, friendly boutiques should head for the Marais 4th arrondissement. Rue des Francs-Bourgeois in the gay quarter sells designer kitsch, while the winding rue des Rosiers, in the Jewish quarter, has plenty of young designers whose works are displayed at L'Eclaireur. This area is at its busiest on Sunday, with many shops closed on Saturday due to the Jewish sabbath. It is ideal for a quick falafel snack, while the best ice cream is for sale at Berthillon, 31 rue de St-Louis-en-L'Ile, 4th.

The Carrousel du Louvre, under the glass pyramid in the Louvre courtyard, is a good place for shoppers to find tasteful gifts but those determined to take home plastic Eiffel Towers should head for rue de Rivoli, home to tourist kitsch. The American-run Shakespeare & Co, 37 rue de la Bûcherie, 5th, has the city's widest selection of second-hand books in English. French books are best purchased at the city's FNAC stores, one of which is at the shopping arcade, the Forum des Halles, 1st. Bouquinistes sell second-hand books, as well as prints, postcards and gifts, along the River Seine.

Most shops are open Monday to Saturday 0900/1000-1900/2000 and close between about 1200 and 1430 for lunch. Sales tax ranges from 5.21-16.38%, varying widely between what are regarded as essential items and luxury goods. Non-EU visitors can obtain a tax deduction of 12-13% on purchases of over €175 in any one day, by obtaining a form at the relevant shop and presenting it to customs on departure.


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