Let’s start by saying Galaries Lafayette is not a secret nor is it hidden but there is more to this monster department store than an amazing stain-glass skylight. Near the Opera Garnier (think Phantom of the Opera) the home to the French National Opera, Galeries Lafayette operates 3 huge stores on Rue du Lafayette. It is always mentioned in the shopping sections of guide books as ‘the’ department store in Paris, and really in all of France. That being said it can be much more than a basement full of women’s shoes, and we mean the entire basement floor is stall after stall of brands of women’s shoes. It is near the Paris Metro stops of Opera and Chausse d’Antin de Lafayette.
Near the roof of the store there are multiple cafeteria style cafes. You won’t find high cuisine here but what you will find is a reasonable place to eat a meal or grab a snack, and that place has amazing views of the heart of Paris. Venture up to the roof you will find lounge chairs set up on AstroTurf and 360 degree view of the City of Light. This is a free view of the city where as most other view points are ticketed and have huge lines. We visited on a rainy day in March and the views were a little obscured by clouds but because most of Paris was built 5 stories or less you can still see all the sites that you would want to see.
Across the street from the main store which is geared toward Women you will find the men’s (Homme) store and kiddie corner from the main store is the home store. These are fun places to wander on a rainy day. The main store has a pretty fun toy and souvenir section as well. While we wouldn’t say that it is a must do we have always enjoyed the spectacle of the store and it is a great place to rest from the elements for a while.
During our last trip to Paris we were standing near Notre Dame wanting a treat. Having already eaten crepes for breakfast and lunch we decided it was time for a change, at least until right before bed. In every travel book we have read Berthillion is always listed as a place to get ice cream in Paris, ALWAYS. Even though we tend to follow these books as if Napoléon himself wrote them, in the past when it came to the best ice cream in Paris we were skeptic. But this day we weren’t, so we wandered from Isle de la cite to Isle de Saint Louis, a short walk but worlds apart. Soon we were in narrow streets and there were very few tourists or really people. The only place one could see a crowd was in front of 29-31 rue saint Louis en l’ile, which is the location of Berthillion. We were not in the mood to wait in line for any treat but good news is that any purveyor of ice cream on the island carries Berthillion and it all made in the same place by the masters at Berthillion.
So for our first foray we shared a scoop of Salted Caramel and Pink Grapefruit. Not to oversell it but it was the best ice cream ever. Better than any ice cream we had had from the Tillamook factory in Oregon, to Bassetts in Philadelphia to any thing we had ever had in Europe. If we add Gellato to the mix there are some places that will give it a run for its money. But if we have to go across Europe seeing where the best ice cream is to settle a spat we are in!
So the next day we went back, luckily it was less busy. We sat in the salon and did not share this time. We ordered Vine Peach and Pink Grapefruit and Salted Carmel and Pink Grapefruit. The salon at the Berthillion was fun, it would be a great place to take kids as a reward for not damaging the Venus de Milo. When you look at the many reviews on Trip Advisor the most common thing people say it is a little pricey for the portion, but in our opinion worth it.
Long story short Berthillion is a must do.