This Department Store Is Paris's Hidden Architectural Treasure
Galeries Lafayette, the grand department store complex in central Paris, is a great place to take visitors — and not just for shopping. It must be seen for its architectural masterpiece: a neo-Byzantine dome designed by artists of the Art Nouveau school of Nancy, in northeastern France, early in the 20th century. Soaring 141 feet above the topmost shopping floor, it consists of stained glass inside a metal frame carved with elaborate floral motifs.
You can now get closer to the dome via the Glasswalk, which opened late last year. Suspended 52 feet in the air, the 30-foot-long bridge has a glass strip in the floor for viewing the action below. It’s also the perfect perch for seeing the coats of arms adorning the base of the dome, which represent the 10 French cities that were most important in the textile industry a century ago.
A more self-indulgent way to enjoy the view is to sit on the second-floor balcony at Kaspia, a branch of the restaurant on Place de la Madeleine. Caviar is Kaspia’s specialty, though a plate of tarama with a flute of champagne as you look down over the vast expanse of shops and above to the colored dome is no less perfect. Head to the Ice Cube Bar on the rooftop terrace for cocktails and arguably the best free-of-charge view of the city.
Galeries Lafayette (40 Blvd. Haussmann) carries 3,500 brands of women’s wear, menswear, beauty products, and housewares. When you need the perfect handbag but haven’t decided on a designer, you can find the highest-end offerings, from Bottega Veneta to Louis Vuitton and Chanel. Unlike some boutiques, where you can only look at beautiful clothes, here you can touch them and try them on for fun. On rainy days it’s a great place to go to lift your spirits.