With his creation in 1852 of the first department store, le Bon Marché, Aristide Boucicaut ensured that shopping in Paris was leading the world. In 1923 the store took up residence in its fabulously elegant building at the corner of rue de Sèvres and rue du Bac. It is a huge treat to visit, and along with places like Marshall Field’s in Chicago, was part of the early-19th-century revolution in grand stores.
Consummate foodie that I am, it is la Grande Epicerie that interests me most. It began life as the unprecedented inclusion of a food section in le Bon Marché. It has subsequently mushroomed and blossomed into a destination in its own right. With its peerless collection of gourmet treats, it is truly one of the joys of shopping in Paris.
Located next to le Bon Marché, it occupies a large ground-floor site that is well laid out. On my most recent visit, I was able to view the new basement, which had opened only weeks before as a dedicated wine store. It is beautifully designed and, like the whole of la Grand Epicerie, very visually appealing.
It is the first place I would go to buy a treat for a foodie friend. You may not have the budget to do your weekly shopping here—the top brands and exceptional produce in a prime 7th Arrondissement site don’t come cheap—but you could, as nothing is missing. The coffee is ground to order; fruits and vegetables are vibrantly fresh; the cheese, fish and meat counters are serviced by staff willing and knowledgeable enough to guide you toward the best purchase. The baked goods range from the finest pâtisserie to your daily loaf of bread. There are lots of tempting dishes already made, so you could fit out the ultimate picnic or un dîner à deux. Also, should you be doing the cooking yourself, there is every staple and ingredient, including some very intriguing items. I was toying with a packet of rice that was black as licorice, something I haven’t seen before. I couldn’t resist a plump pomelo, a fruit I love.
Prices aside, I struggle to fault this place. It is a joy to visit, with spacious aisles, clear displays and a wealth of temptation for a foodie of any persuasion. In Paris there is little to rival it. Lafayette Gourmet, however, is probably the only place that comes close.
The food department of the famed Galeries Lafayette department stores, Lafayette Gourmet sits alongside its parent store on boulevard Haussmann. It is also in one of the most visited areas for shopping in Paris, but without quite the style or exclusive feel of la Grande Epicerie’s 7th Arrondissement location. There is no question that you could get almost everything here you could imagine wanting to eat. It is strong on prepared foods, and has concessions of many top brands, such as Eric Kayser bakeries and the Aoki pâtisserie, and others specializing in sushi, Lebanese food and Strasbourg sausages, to mention a few.
Both Lafayette Gourmet and la Grande Epicerie are meccas for food, wonderful to wander around and a treat to choose items from. If I had to pick one, I would go for the latter. Its 3,000 square feet of breads and teas, traiteurs and chocolates just seem wonderfully extensive, and I like the modern design in the beautiful early-19th-century space. Don’t miss it next time you are shopping in Paris. I dare you to leave empty handed!
In sum, whether shopping to eat or to cook, for yourself or a gift, this is a top delight.
La Grande Epicerie
38, rue de Sèvres, in the 7th Arrondissement. 01 44 39 81 00.
Opening Mon–Sat, 8:30 a.m.–9 p.m.
48, boulevard Haussmann, in the 9th Arrondissement. 01 42 82 34 56.
Opening Mon–Sat, 8 a.m.–9:30 p.m.
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