Printemps is less immediately conjured up in the popular imagination when you say “famous Parisian department store” than the city’s other legends, Le Bon Marché and Galeries Lafayette. Worldly Parisians, however, would make no such mistake. Printemps does share a certain Belle Epoque grandeur with the latter and its proximity makes for a good compare-and-contrast shopping jaunt. However, as purists will tell you, it is in fact Printemps that was the original resident on Boulevard Haussmann.
It’s not just a matter of which arrived first. Originally opened in 1865 on the very avenue that bears the name of the man whose blueprint invented what the world thinks of as the Parisian cityscape even today, Printemps is very much a birthplace of modern shopping.
It ushered in the subsequent eras of both the department store and the shopping mall. In fact, even before one gets to the shopping opportunities – which remain second to none- Printemps is something of a living museum to Parisian architecture, from the froufrou of Jules and Paul Sédille’s original edifice to René Binet’s Art Nouveau extensions and the numerous alterations that have occurred with each subsequent generation in whatever style was the height of fashion. The awe-inspiring pinnacle however is the elaborate decorative cupola that was installed in 1923 above the restaurant. No wonder all of these have been protected as historical monuments since 1975.
Like other grand department stores in world cities that have weathered the storms of lifestyle and economic change, Printemps has always understood the importance of animating a building in addition to keeping quality high. Thus, a variety of special projects, spectacular window displays and exclusive events are a daily part of the offer, together with top quality luxury goods of all sorts. David Byrne once penned the lyric that “shopping is a feeling.” Printemps reminds us that it was in this store in the nineteenth century that Paris first understood exactly that and modern shopping was born.