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Shopping for Antiques in Paris

Aug 17, 2007
One of the most exciting things you can bring home to remind you of your trip to Paris is a piece of French history, whether it's a console table, an example of Art Deco pottery, or a 19th century lithograph or book. Paris has a large number of interesting antique shopping districts.

Rue du Faubourg St Honore

This Right Bank shopping mecca is the place to go for high-end goods in Paris, including antiques. The many elegant shops here are worth browsing, even if you can't afford the prices. Of particular interest are Didier Aaran for 17th and 18th century furniture, La Caliniere for French objets d'art and old lighting fixtures, and Verreglass for 19th and 20th century European glassware. Just down the street, across from the Louvre, the Louvres des Antiquaires is a three-story antiques "department store" with everything from fine art to furniture.

St. Germain

The Left Bank, especially the streets leading off of the Boulevard St. Germain, is home to a fun and quirky collection of antique stores, some of which are surprisingly affordable. La Hune is popular for antique and collectible books. Anne-Sophie Duval is a good place to find Art Nouveau and Art Deco items.

Le Marais

This trendy neighborhood in eastern Paris centers around the magnificent 15th century Place des Vosges. Along the square and in the streets leading from it are a number of eclectic and interesting antique shops. Here you'll find lithographs, leather-bound volumes, hotel silver, linens, and other smaller items. There are also some excellent art galleries along the Place des Vosges arcade.

The Flea Market at St. Ouen

The oldest and best known of Paris' flea markets, St. Ouen is a collection of over 2000 merchant stalls, divided into specialties, such as furniture, glass, Art Deco, and such. The 15-acre market is located north of the city center, a short walk from the Porte-de-Cligancourt Metro station. There is a little bit of everything here, from inexpensive baubles to elegant furniture. The market here is particularly known for its Second Empire pieces.

Drouot-Richelieu Auction House

For serious collectors, a trip to the great Paris auction house of Drouot-Richelieu, located off of the Boulevard Haussmann near the St. Lazare station, is a must. The proceedings are fast-paced and in French so if your command of the language isn't the best, it's wise to bring along a French friend or acquaintance. This venerable auction house, opened in 1858, is lesser-known, but of the same caliber as Christie's in New York and Sotheby's in London.

Shipping, the VAT, and Customs

In order to export a French antique, you'll need to obtain a certificate of authenticity for any object older than 20 years. In addition, keep in mind these tips about shipping, taxes, and customs.

- Shipping. An important factor to consider is shipping when shopping for larger antiques. Most of the larger (expensive) stores can arrange shipping for you and can quote prices. With items such as furniture, you generally have the option of filling a single container or waiting until the store can combine enough items bound for the US to fill a shipping container. Sharing a container is almost always less expensive.

- VAT. The VAT (called the TVA in France) is a tax imposed on most goods and services sold in European Union countries. Non-EU residents staying in France less than six months are entitled to a refund of this tax if they spend at least 1,200 French Francs (approximately 183 euros) in one store in one day. Most stores carry the necessary form. You simply complete the form and drop it at the airport when you leave the country. Your refund, which varies from 13 to 19.6 percent, will be credited to your credit card or mailed to you in approximately three months.

- Customs. Authentic antiques, original art, and books are exempt from U.S. custom taxes. To avoid paying duty, you'll need a certificate of authenticity from the dealer for any item over 100 years old and/or worth more than 1,000,000 French Francs (approximately 152,449 euros).
About the Author
Gerald Robinson has a passion for Paris and provides help for planning and enjoying travel to Paris at his website, www.paris-travel-insider.com . The content is derived from his trips to Paris and exhaustive research.
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