Parisians may flee the city for the summer, but not before taking part in the biggest event of the season -- les soldes.
Unlike the U.S., sale season is a statewide event that takes place every summer and winter in France, rivaling the infamous Barneys New York Warehouse Sale. Parisians gear up to score everything from housewares to designer fare at a discount of up to 80 percent. But there's a catch: If you get to the sales when they start, you'll have more inventory...but at a higher price. As the six-week event carries on, shops slash prices twice more, but stock dwindles -- so that Balenciaga bag you've been eyeing probably won't be on the shelves when prices finally drop to half off.
Merci: Imagine a French version of Anthropologie, and voilà -- you have the uber cool concept store Merci, tucked away in the Haut Marais near the Bastille. Start your visit with an espresso at the used book café downstairs, then browse through the shop's array of up-and-coming designers, vintage furniture and wallpaper, and beauty products à la Annick Goutal and Aesop. You may have to dig a bit through piles and racks of clothing during the sales, but the rest of the store is so beautifully displayed that it won't be too much of a bother to come away with a great find.
Colette: While the sales at the smaller boutiques aren't as grand as you'd find at the major department stores and chains, it's definitely still worth taking a glance at the carefully curated collection of clothing, accessories, and beauty items at fashionista favorite Colette on the rue Saint-Honoré. The display of clothing brands like Givenchy, Comme des Garçons, and Stella McCartney is pretty spectacular, of course, but the jewelry and accessories are the real winners when it comes to scoring a piece here during the soldes.
Galeries Lafayette: If you're not familiar with the department store Galeries Lafayette, it's basically a French version of Saks or Neiman Marcus -- and the flagship store on the boulevard Haussmann is worth a visit even if you're not going for the shopping. Inspired by the Paris Opera House, the Art Nouveau-style building dates back to 1912 and was designed to be a luxury bazaar with stained glass windows, iron balconies lining each level, and a glass dome lighting up the grand hall. This is the spot where you'll snag off-the-wall designer pieces from last season at incredible deals.
The Kooples: If you've been trying to get that edgy Parisian look but can't cough up a few hundred Euros for a studded dress, now is the time to invest in a discounted piece from The Kooples. Exuding ultimate French girl (and guy) cool, this brand is a favorite among the young hipster set and has shops scattered around the city. One of our favorite spots is in the Marais (and right next door to the equally cool A.P.C.), but you can also find the brand in department stores like Galleries Lafayette and Printemps.
Sandro: With their feminine dresses and slick suits, the mother and son duo behind Sandro have made the French brand synonymous with Parisian chic. Just like The Kooples, you're sure to come across these boutiques all around town, but if you happen to be strolling along the famous rue Saint-Honoré shopping street, stop into the boutique there and stock up on staples.
Final shopping tip: Remember, if you spend over €175.01 at one store in the same day, non-EU citizens can receive a 12 percent tax refund.