La Samaritaine: The Classic Paris Department Store Returns in Style
Last Updated: | Published: October 14th, 2021
Department stores in Paris are wonderful shopping destinations, and iconic beauty La Samaritaine is a must-visit. Relaunched recently after a major redesign, this elegant emporium now boasts a strikingly modern look to match its inspiring wares.
One of the most beloved department stores in Paris, historic Samaritaine has recently reopened after a stunning redesign commissioned by French luxury goods company LVMH. Japanese architecture studio SANAA’s brilliant renovation includes an undulating glass façade wrapped around part of the heritage buildings. Marrying past and present, restored Art Deco and Art Nouveau details shine alongside contemporary touches.
History of La Samaritaine
La Samaritaine was founded in 1870 by merchant Ernest Cognacq and his wife Marie-Louise Jaÿ (a former saleswoman at Le Bon Marché). Its original buildings, occupying a prime position on the banks of the Seine, were designed by architects Frantz Jourdain and Henri Sauvage. Bold lettering promoted its name, which hailed from an ancient water pump on nearby Pont Neuf bridge featuring a bas-relief of a Samaritan woman pouring water for Christ. Cognacq once sold fabrics on a stall at this spot, although the pump is now long gone. Offering quality, affordable goods, the store proved hugely popular, thanks to innovations such as clearly marked prices and clothes customers could try on before buying. Its slogan “On trouve tout à la Samaritaine” (“One can find everything at Samaritaine”) won over the people’s hearts.
When the old-fashioned store closed in 2005, dismayed locals feared losing this famous 19th-century shopping destination. Luckily, LVMH has restored Samaritaine Paris Pont-Neuf to its full glory, creating a glam multibrand store for the 21st century.
Design – Bridging Old & New
Architects SANAA united the eclectic complex, spanning Art Nouveau, Art Deco and contemporary buildings, connecting them with two airy, glass-domed courtyards. The site closest to the Seine is a historic monument and has been dazzlingly renovated. A highlight is its rectangular glass roof with an Eiffel-esque iron frame, designed by Frantz Jourdain in 1907, now shown off in style. It crowns a sublime atrium, crisscrossed with staircases and topped with a 115-meter-long, gold-hued peacock mural. Cast-iron signs, ornate pillars, ceramic decorations and enamel tiles were all painstakingly restored.
Numerous artisans worked on the project, from sculptors to painters, gilders and ironmongers. They crafted 16,000 gold leaves to restore the oak railing of the dramatic central stairway. For the wavy façade facing Rue de Rivoli, SANAA produced 343 screen-printed glass panels; this glistening curtain marks the entry to the revamped retail spaces, echoing the shape of neighboring Haussmann-era buildings. Alongside the chic department store there’s a smart hotel, while a new pedestrian plaza offers direct access to Pont Neuf opposite.
Luxury Shopping at La Samaritaine
La Samaritaine’s central location in the first arrondissement commands the Right Bank, a skip from Paris Perfect’s charming vacation apartments at Île de la Cité’s Place Dauphine. Shoppers can enjoy one of the most fabulous department stores in Paris, with around 650 brands displayed over seven levels, embracing luxury labels and exclusive designers. Curated women’s and men’s ready-to-wear, shoes, watches, jewelry and accessories are up for grabs. Retail thrills include continental Europe’s largest beauty space, concept store Loulou for pretty gifts and homewares, a beauty studio and Cinq Mondes spa, personal stylists and private shopping experience L’Appartement with a refined residential setting.
Tempting Dining Options
Appealing to Parisians and international visitors, the reborn Samaritaine by DFS is handy for a bite to eat after exploring nearby attractions such as the Louvre. Foodies will love its 12 tempting restaurants. Bar/restaurant Voyage is the flagship, under the fifth floor’s soaring Art Nouveau glass roof, with Michelin-starred chefs whipping up day-long lunch and dinner menus inspired by celebrity travelers, accompanied by cocktails. Dining options include vegetarian, organic dishes at Source by Joie; caviar baguettes at Street Caviar by La Maison Prunier; healthy local Parisienne by Petit Plisson; upscale gastronomy at Dinette by Dalloyau; and breakfast bakery-to-brasserie Ernest by Naoëlle d’Hainaut and Eric Kayser, which serves wine and tapas until late. Refuel with a coffee at roastery Zinc by Brûlerie des Gobelins, a pastry at Pâtisserie l’Exclusive by Dalloyau or dainty treats at Sweet Corner by Bogato.
Exciting pop-ups, collaborations, exhibitions and events animate the store. Cultural guided tours also bring Samaritaine’s history to life. For insights into the family behind the brand and 18th century Parisian style, visit Musée Cognacq-Jay in the Marais’s Hôtel Donon (8 rue Elzévir, 75003), which showcases the couple’s personal collection of art, furniture and accessories. For more iconic shopping experiences, see our earlier post for more on Les Grands Magasins department stores in Paris. You can catch lovely views of Samaritaine from Pont Neuf and stroll there easily from our luxury vacation apartment rentals at La Place Dauphine.
La Samaritaine, 9 rue de la Monnaie, 75001 Paris