Inside La Samaritaine: Paris’s Iconic Department Store Opens After 16 Years

After a 16 – year wait, Parisians will finally see the city’s 19th – century landmark Samaritaine department store reopen its doors. A much – anticipated event, the closed building left a nostalgic gap on the city skyline between the Seine and on the busy Rivoli high street.

Owned by French luxury conglomerate LVMH, which partnered with luxury retailer DFS, the Samairitaine Paris Pont – Neuf’s renovation is rumored to have cost as much as $750 million. The original Art Nouveau building was painstakingly restored and the new contemporary wing built from scratch, which took more than five years to complete. Today, the signature sunflower – yellow mosaic slotted in at the top of the glass and wrought iron building has been dusted off and gleams in the sunlight, signalling the building’s open for business once again.

A Historic Icon

Although originally inaugurated in 1910, the beginnings of the store date back to 1870, when its founders Ernest and Marie – Louise Cognacq – Jay set up a stall on the corner of the rue de la Monnaie (wherethe Samaritaine stands today), which they eventually grew into the department store. However, when Les Halles, Paris’ former food market opened in the same catcment area, the store struggled to retained its customers, eventually fell into disrepair, and was forced to close in 2005 for safety reaseons.

Bringing The Paris Streets Inside

A beacon for French fashion, there are seven floors and two interlinked buildings, however, despite its size, every space is light and airy. Thanks to neutral light pouring through glass ceiling and wrap – around windows inviting in staggering views of the rooftops and puildings previously gone unnoticed like the magnificent Church of Saint – Germain – L’Auzerrois, on every floor, strolling through the levels feels very much like being outdoors. Accentuating that feeling are nods to the Paris streets, like an abstract flooring pattern of cobblestones and a playfull take on the city’s iconic street lamps which bend like bouquets of flowers, so the experience feels like a continuation of a walk through the streets.

A Glimpse Of Each Floor

As the enter, shoppers are met by swirling wrought iron staircase that roll up to each floor, the Eiffel structure’s iron details – previously dark green – now a luminous light gray, part of the Samaritaine’s new signature palatte.

The basement is scattered with beauty brands, frum your Parisian staples to more offbeat, hard – to – find ranges as well as natural beauty products. There’a also a Cinq Modes spa, and various services including hair salon, On the grand floor, the Loulou concept store offers gifts for a range of budgets, as well as handbags and accessories. Upstairs is women’s fashion, watches and jewelry, men’s fashion, women’s shoes packed with high – end brands, as well as more niche labels, the aim being for shoppers to discover lesser – known designers.

Where the store breaks the mold is in tightly curated brands, meaning that instead of having multiple concessions each with its own identity, there’s a refreshing unity that creates a soothing feeling, rather than one of utter panic as you dash from space to space trying it all in.

Ushering In Contemporary Tastes

While some Parisians were in uproar about the Samaritaine’s new building, its glass front sending shick waves through the city, it’s come to replace a dilapidated more modern building without any real historical interest. It was torn down and rebuilt entirely by Japanese outfit Sanaa. This wing is a playground for the latest streetwear brands, with designers customizing corners and pop – ups, and Insta – ready corners for various events to come.

The VIP Apartment

If you’re in the Samaritaine personal shoppers’ little black book, then you;ll be invited to shop from this private apartment scattered with brightly colored rugs and bespoke furniture by designers Chloe Negre (behind several hotels in Paris), Karine Chahin, and Virgine de Graveron, who met during their time at India Mahdavi’s studio.

The Food Scene

Tucked under the great big slab of sky apparent through the glass roof and the enormous signature bright blue peacock mural, are the core of the Samaritaine’s dining spots Ernest and Voyage.

For shoppers who don’t want a sit – down affair, there are 10 other more casual options, from tea salons to a coffee shop which roasts its own coffee beans, and a backery, where an army of bakers make fresh bread daily, supplying the entire building’s outlets.

Le Cheval Blanc Hotel

Separate to the department store, it the much – awaited five – star Cheval Blanc Paris hotel, which will have four restaurant and a Dior spa. It’s slated to open on a September 7 with 72 rroms and suites offering Seine River views and a starting rate of just over $1,700 (1.500 euros).

While the Samaritaine waits for the steady flow of tourists to return to the city and flood its floors, it’s certainly a luxury for Parisians – be it to shop or seek out inspiration on their lunch break – to have their newly reopened icon all to themselves, at least for a moment.