Shopping for souvenirs is one of the joys of travelling the world. Buy food and drink to bring a little taste of France back with you, or mementos to showcase in your home. In our guide we recommend a wide range of French souvenirs from cheese, wine and charcuterie to French linen, soap, and perfume. If you are planning a trip France, here are our recommendations for things to buy.
The Best Souvenirs to Buy in France
Absinthe | Bouquinistes Postcards & Books | Champagne | Charcuterie | Cheese | Chocolate | Crêpes | Eiffel Tower Souvenirs | Fleur du Sel (Sea Salt) | Fragonard Perfume | Lavender Oil | Lemon Products from Menton | Linens from Provence | Macarons | Mustard | Santons de Provence | Savon de Marseille | Tea | Wine
Also known as the ‘Green Fairy’, Absinthe is a potent spirit that became a European obsession in the 19th century. Although it was originally created in Val-de-Travers in Switzerland, it was thanks to the French town of Pontarlier in the Jura Mountains, that Absinthe was put on the map. After being banned for 100 years, production started again in the 1990s and today, the town of Pontarlier close to the city of Besancon, is great for those who wish to visit the distilleries.
You can watch the spirit being carefully prepared, drop-by-drop by passing ice water through a sugar cube placed on a delicately-chiselled flat spoon and balanced on the edge of a glass.
As most absinthes are bottled at or above 70% alcohol, a souvenir bottle is meant to last! I recommend A. Junod, this absinthe is made in the traditional way and a large 70cl bottle will set you back around 60 euros, its easy to find anywhere in the Jura Mountains.
Bouquinistes Postcards & Books
Besides some dry wine, tasty cheese, or sweet macarons there is no more unique and traditional souvenir from Paris than a book or a postcard bought from a bouquiniste.
But who are bouquinistes? They’re second-hand booksellers running small sales stands along the bank of the River Seine. The tradition, officially approved by the authorities, started in the XIX century but they appeared in the city of Paris for the first time in the XVII century.
You can find their tiny shops, which looks like simple green boxes while closed, between Pont Marie and Quai du Louvre on the right bank of the river, and between Quai de la Tournelle and Quai Voltaire on its left side. Their prices vary on products but usually you can find second-hand, quality books for only a few euros. Postcards are even cheaper but fabulous. You can also buy prints of iconic French posters.
Today, the view of bouquinistes’ sale stands is one of the most picturesque in Paris. Because of their history, buying a souvenir from them – a book, a painting, or a postcard – instead of popular plastic gadgets like key chains of the Eiffel Tower, or another magnet with berets and baguettes (which are most probably made in China), will give you the real experience of the original French lifestyle from the past.
Personally, from a Parisian bouquiniste, I bought a novel of Charles Baudelaire Le Spleen de Paris in the original language. What souvenir could be more French than this?
No trip to France’s Champagne region would be complete without bringing home a bottle of the country’s most famous product, Champagne. If you find yourself on a Champagne tour or just up in Reims exploring the area, be sure to get a bottle of this renowned and prestigious drink to bring home.
Even though Champagne is available all over the world, there is something particularly special about getting it from its origin and there are plenty of Champagne houses that produce exceptional quality Champagne that does not make it as an export and is kept in the region itself. You will find various tiers of Champagne, from your average bottle that tends to be a standard blend to vintage prestige bottles which were bottled with grapes from a single year’s harvest. You can learn more at local Champagne shops in the region on in specialty shops in Paris.
You should look to spend between 30-60€ for a good bottle of bubbly that will impress any guest you have over after your visit to France. It also makes for the perfect souvenir from France for friends and family. And, if you’re not ready to drink it just yet, the bottle of Champagne will be ready to be popped open on a special occasion.
By author Megan Starr.
In France, as in much of Europe, there are many hundreds of local and regional charcuterie products to buy from farmers markets, delis and supermarkets.
From the little saucissons grelots (bells) of walnut and pork made in the Haute-Savoie, to the boudin blanc (white pudding) of the Auvergne, from petits bâtons de berger (sheperd’s poles) and cervelas pistaché de Lyon to belle de Morteau, a traditional smoked sausage from Franche Comté, it’s a joy to seek out the more unusual varieties, especially those with unusual names.
Then there are more universal products such as saucisson sec (dry sausage aka salami), though even this has regional variations in the spices used to flavour the meat, and the size and shape of each sausage. Andouillette is an acquired taste, this coarse-chopped, smoked tripe sausage is made from pork and chitterlings, needs to be fried before eating, and has quite a funky flavour and smell.
There are many other preserved meat products that are often sold alongside cured sausages. Look for jambon de Bayonne (Bayonne ham) from the famous port city in South West France, or any of a range of other regional hams. Smoked meats such as magret de canard fumé (smoked duck breast), last well. Try rillettes of pork or rabbit; made by dicing the meat, salting and cooking it slowly in its own fat, then shredding it and combining with enough of the fat to form a spreadable paste. Similarly cooked, but not shredded, confit gesiers and foies (gizzards and livers) are also a good buy. Pâtés, terrines and mousses are always delicious but fresh ones are best enjoyed soon after purchase. Longer life ones are available in jars and tins.
We usually bring home a mix of products with shorter shelf-life, and several that will last for longer. The first we enjoy in a picnic with some of the cheese and wine we also buy in France; the rest we savour over coming months.
By Kavita Favelle, author of Kavey Eats. Find me on Instagram.
France prides itself on its wide range of cheeses, indeed Charles de Gaulles famously asked how anyone could be expected to govern a nation with so many cheeses!
Like charcuterie, you can find cheese at local markets, delis and supermarkets and also from fromageries – shops specialising in cheese, often known not only for buying and selling cheese but also for their skills in ageing the cheese and selling it at just the right stage of ripeness.
Indeed, when buying cheese in France, I always let the vendor know when I’d like to eat the cheese – the same day, a few days time, or longer – so they can select a cheese that will be at its best when I want to eat it.
There are so many different cheeses on offer, and like charcuterie, many are very regional, made only in one locale to long-standing traditional recipes. Try cheeses made from cows milk, sheeps milk and goat milk; try hard, soft and semi-soft types, look for washed-rinds and mouldy blues. Most fromageries and market vendors will let you try two or three before you buy, and if you tell them what you like and don’t like, most are usually willing to give you advice on which to choose.
Note that many French cheeses are unpasteurised, and can’t be imported into some countries, so make sure you know your home or onward country’s rules beforehand.
By Kavita Favelle, author of Kavey Eats.
Although travellers associate Belgium with fine chocolate, France has more than its fair share of excellent chocolatiers – people who make confectionery from chocolate. Some of them also make other delicious confectioneries, such as pâte de fruits (a jellied fruit paste), nougat, and caramel au beurre (butter toffee)
There are plenty of long-standing brands well-known for their exceptional quality; look for Pralus, Pierre Hermé, Pierre Marcolini, La Maison du Chocolat, Michel Cluziel, Chocolat Weiss, Alain Ducasse… Don’t be shy to ask which products are their signatures, which are their latest new ranges, and what they recommend for your tastes. You will also find stores across France for Belgian chains Godiva, Leonidas and Jeff de Bruges.
There are also many independent chocolatiers in France, with just one or two shops to their name and located in just one city or town, these are always worth visiting. In some cases, they are more affordable than the very big name brands, though that’s not always the case.
Usually you can pick up a small packet or box of chocolates from 5 to 10 euros, and a medium box for anywhere fro 15-30 Euros.
By Kavita Favelle, author of Kavey Eats.
Crêpes are one of France’s favorite comfort foods. Today, it is possible to find crêpes everywhere in France, but Brittany is the place to go for authentic crêpes. The crêpe is a Breton specialty: a small, sweet or savory gourmet pancake to enjoy on the go or at one of the region’s many crêperies. So if you are visiting Brittany, France, make sure you taste some of these treats.
In Brittany, it is also possible to buy crêpes as a souvenir, and they usually come in packages of 6 that last (unopened) quite a long time. Back home, you can eat these crêpes plain (that’s what most Bretons do) with a cup of coffee or tea or you can fold and fill them with your favorite jam. They can be heated-up but it is not necessary.
Where to buy crêpes as a souvenir? The best crêpes of this kind are from Quimper, the capital of Finisterre in Brittany. Quimper is a beautiful city, with a cute old-town of timbered houses, so there are no excuses not to head to Quimper to buy delicious souvenir-crêpes. We recognize that these packages of crêpes (less than 5€) are not the fanciest souvenir to bring back home so we recommend completing the present with a bottle of cider, also typical of Brittany.
By Elisa Subirats, author of France Bucket List.
Eiffel Tower Souvenirs
These can be found all over France, but the biggest selection is in Paris from vendors outside the monument itself. Whether you are on the lawn or near the monument’s viewpoints, there are always various vendors who are walking around with Eiffel Towers and other small souvenirs.
Buying one of these is mostly to evoke a memory when you return home. They are all imported products and there is not really much difference between them. When buying, take into account the weight of them as some are quite heavy, and airlines are strict on weight allowances!
I bought the biggest one I could manage in my suitcase and a few keychains for friends!
By Lindsay Nieminen, author of Step into Jordan.
Fleur du Sel (Crystallised Sea Salt)
Fleur du sel (literally, flower of salt) is a type of crystallised salt produced from sea water by evaporation. Sea water is drawn into vast shallow basins or salt pans where it evaporates in the heat of the sun, leavig behind a layer of salt. Most of the salt is collected and sold as ordinary sea salt, but the crystals that floats to the top in the salt pans forms a crust of delicate pyramid-shaped crystals, and these are sold as fleur du sel. These surface crystals need to be harvested gently by hand using traditional wooden rakes, and can only be collected when it is dry, sunny and with low or no winds, and as such fleur du sel is made in smaller quantities than regular sea salt.
Because the salt is not refined, it’s not pure sodium chloride, and the flavours of other minerals such as calcium and magnesium chloride contribute to the flavour.
Buying it locally to where it’s made is the cheapest way to purchase. In France, key areas that make fleur du sel are Guérande in Brittany, Noirmoutier in the Vendée, Île de Ré in Charente-Maritime and the Camargue in Bouches-du-Rhône. A 250 gram bag will cost anywhere from 4 to 6 euros.
By Kavita Favelle, author of Kavey Eats.
For a sweet-smelling souvenir, buying perfume from the Fragonard Factory in the French city of Grasse makes a lot of sense. Or should that be ‘scents’? You’ll have a hard time choosing just one fragrance from this world-renowned parfumeri, which makes its home in this South of France city.
Buying perfume in Grasse is as much a learning experience as it is a fun shopping spree. At the Fragonard Factory on 20 Boulevard Fragonard, you’ll see exhibits detailing the history of the perfume industry. You’ll also learn about the detail and thought (and huge amount of petals) that go into creating the complex layered scents that are so sought after around the world.
To avoid spending your hard earned money on inferior or counterfeit products when buying perfume, it helps to stick to reputable brands. This is easy to do in Grasse, which is known as the Perfume Capital of the World, and where, in addition to the popular Fragonard Factory, you can find other good choices such as Galimard and Molinard.
Buying perfume in Grasse doesn’t need to be an expensive souvenir. A Violette Eau de Toilette (my favourite) runs around 26 €. Just beware of the lure of the gift shop testers, or you’ll come out like I did, with so many spritzes on every part of your arm and neck you’ll smell like an untamed field of wildflowers rather than a perfectly curated rose.
By Carol Perehudoff, author of Wandering Carol.
When we were in Southern France, we drove through many villages from Marseilles to Aix-en-Provence, stopping at Sault, Gordes and Roussillon. We enjoyed coffee, crepes, ice cream and goofed around in village squares listening to church bells and shopped for soaps and lavender parfums. It was the beginning of August when we embarked on our little road trip in Provence, which was well beyond the prime lavender season. But one of the vendors at a market who owned some lavender fields in the area told us that there were a few fields near Sault that are harvested later in the season, so we decided to drive to go find them the next day. A spontaneous trip to hunt for Lavender!
Evening market in Aix-en-Provence near Cours Mirabeau was one of my favorite spots (we chanced upon the friendly vendor here as well). We bought lavender everything at the shops here. I bought some lavender soap and small bottles of lavender oil as gifts. They were so inexpensive too – about 5 Euros for a 50ml bottle and 1 or 2 euros for the handmade soaps. The smell of lavender always brings back memories of walking through the lavender fields in Provence!
Lemon Products from Menton
Every February, the beautiful town of Menton on the south coast of France comes alive. The weather is warmer, days are longer and the air is filled with the delicious scent of lemons. Over one million of them to be exact!
For one week, the town hosts the Menton Lemon Festival. Huge sculptures are created out of lemons (and other citrus fruit) and you would not believe how many people come to visit! The sculptures are different each year; when we went, we saw Aladdin and Jasmine, dragons, a giant phoenix and druid warriors.
But it’s the smell which most captivated me and I wanted a souvenir to take home to remember it.
There are hundreds of souvenir stalls both inside and outside the festival walls. My preferred souvenir was a lemon tree, but as we were travelling on motorbikes it wasn’t very practical! So instead I settled on some lemon-scented soap. I wish you could smell this through the page because it’s delicious, and the decoration is so beautiful. These lemon soaps also made excellent gifts for friends, although they were so hard to give away!
Top tip: buy an extra bar; that way you can use one and keep one to sit prettily on your bathroom shelf.
You can buy various sizes of soap. Mine cost me 7.99€ per bar but there are bigger and smaller ones too. There are also lemon hand creams, lemon body lotions and lemon bath salts to buy – guess I need to plan another visit!
By Kat, author of Wandering Bird. Find her on Instagram.
Linens from Provence
One of the most iconic products to take home from your travels in Provence is table linen. Whether it’s the bright olive-adorned cotton napkins that catch your eye or a delicate pastel-coloured fine linen tablecloth, it’s a fabulous place to pick up this typically French souvenir. And while there are many stores dedicated to selling French linens, one of the most fun places to pick up unique and well-priced linen is at the Provence markets.
I personally bought two large linen tablecloths at the markets in Aix-en-Provence for €40 – a price you just wouldn’t find in any mainstream store. Be aware that you should expect to pay a bit more for hand-printed, or embroidered items – but the quality makes it a worthwhile investment.
If it’s antique linens you’re after, any of the brocantes (antique fairs) in the region will fulfill your wishes as there’s often more than one vendor piled high with pure white tableware and delicately scalloped cloths.
Just watch out for where the linens are made. There’s nothing worse than thinking you picked up a locally made treasure from a market in Provence, and then getting home to realize it’s been flown in all the way from some far-flung shore and simply passed-off as local!
Macarons are sweet treats very popular in Paris and elsewhere around France. Made from ground almonds, they are small, colorful, and come in a variety of tastes, perfect for a tea or coffee break. Macarons are usually sold in beautiful packages of 6-12 units, that’s why macarons are the perfect Parisian present to bring back home.
From neighborhood bakeries to exclusive macaron-boutiques, it is possible to find macarons everywhere in Paris. When buying macarons it is important that you like the flavours listed in the packaging and that they are fresh. Buying from a specialist rather than the supermarket is best.
There are many famous macaron-boutiques located all around Paris, like Ladurée, Carette or Pierre Herme. Prices in these boutiques are exorbitant but this seems not to be an issue for tourists as places like Ladurée in Champs Elysées often show long lines.
Personally, I buy macarons in Paul bakeries (which is part that the same group that owns Ladurée, by the way) and for 8€ I get a beautiful black package with different flavors, sometimes with a ribbon included. I have to say that these macarons are always good and French and very appreciated by my friends and family.
My tip: avoid last-minute purchases at the airports or train stations, these macarons are 10% or more expensive than in Paris!
One of my favorite souvenirs to give from France is also one of the cheapest. But it doesn’t look cheap, and it actually tastes amazing: Fine Mustard.
This is not the bland yellow mustard that you find at the hot dog vendor, but fine mustard originating from the city of Dijon, in Burgundy, France.
The most common flavours that you will find almost every large grocery store and supermarket in France are: original which is thick and creamy, fine gourmet which has a spicier flavor, and honey mustard for a tangy, sweet taste. Prices start at around €2 for a glass jar, with plastic jars being slightly cheaper and easier to transport home.
But you have a bigger budget, and would like to take home a fine mustard packaged in a beautiful box, head over to one of the outdoor farmers’ markets, a gourmet grocery store such as La Grand Epicerie in Paris, or a specialist mustard shop in Dijon itself. In these places you will see many more flavors such as mustard with truffles, pesto or blue cheese. There are more flavors to try than you could possibly want, something to appeal to every palate, and every wallet!
Santons de Provence
One of my favorite souvenirs of France are the Santons de Provence. I first discovered Santons in Nimes when a shop window came alive with scenes of French life in miniature. Santons, meaning “little saints”, are tiny hand-painted clay figurines ranging from 2-25 centimeters tall.
I was captivated by these small figurines of farmers, washerwoman, animals, and farm buildings.
The idea of Santons was created by Marseille artist Jean-Louis Lagnel when public nativity scenes during the French Revolution were banned. And one of the best places to shop for Santon souvenirs is the oldest annual fair of Marseille between November and December. The range is impressive with so many scenes of French life available from different vendors.
To check the quality of the Santon, look for an artist stamp at the bottom of the figurine, and examine the figurine painting for its quality. The cost of a figurine can range upwards from €4 per piece — to most expensive ones at €40. These are usually Santons Habillés (dressed figurines) for which all accessories are hand made.
I love these cute souvenirs, as you can recreate a French scene, find a cheeky Santon for your desk, or give as gifts to family and friends.
By Maura McKenna, author of Travel Kiwis. Find her on Instagram.
Savon de Marseille (Soap)
Savon de Marseille has been around for 600 years. It is a traditional hard soap made from vegetable oils, produced in Marseille, France. This soap is made only with natural oils, mostly a mixture of olive oil, alkaline ash from sea plants and Mediterranean sea salt.
This soap is my go to to bring home as souvenir from France. I really enjoy remembering my trips in a practical way. Having Savon the Marseille in bathroom gives me the opportunity to indulge myself in a sense of pleasure while taking a nice shower smelling of Provence.
If you buy the Savon the Marseille in France, you will get a very good price for an artisanal product, and many are still handmade. They cost about 3.50€ per bar of soap. This is easy to bring as a gift to family and friends. They will love it!
Tea from Traditional French Tea Houses
What can be better than bringing home the finest tea to enjoy home or as a gift to your beloved ones? Paris has wonderful tea shops, as do many other cities and towns across France. The most famous are Mariage Frères and Dammann Frères. These tea shops, both founded more than 100 years ago, are full of history and tradition. You will find several shops in Parisfor these two brands.
They sell several gift boxes that you can assemble according to your taste and budget. The teas are delicious, and come in different flavours and blends, for hot tea or thé glacé (iced tea). You can buy loose tea by weight for as little as 9 euros for 100 grams, making tea a souvenir that won’t weigh down your luggage or your budget.
In the case of Dammann Fréres, my favorite shop is the Place des Vosges – Marais (15 Place des Vosges, 75004).
By Sheila Pimenta, author of Dicas de Paris.
I’ve visited several wine-producing regions of the world – in Canada and the USA, in Italy, even in Japan – but there’s something particularly wonderful about the experience in France.
Of course, there are a great many wine regions across France, from Bordeaux to Burgundy, from Champagne to the Côtes du Rhone, from Languedoc to Medoc and many more. Our favourite area for wine is the Loire Valley, a large region encompassing over 600 miles of the Loire River, and the verdant lands around it.
This area has a range of different climates and terrains, and there are over 4000 producers making a similarly diverse range of wines, from whites and rosés to light and bright reds. For white, try Muscadet and Gros Plant, for pink look no further than Anjou Rosé. You may also be interested in vin gris (grey wine), a white wine made from black grapes, with a tinge of rose to the colour. There are a great many reds of note, including the light reds of Angers, Chinon, Saumur and Tours, and our personal favourites, Bourgueil and St. Nicholas de Bougueil. There are also many much-loved sparkling wines, les crémants, including Crémant de la Loire, Saumur Mousseux, Touraine Pétillant and Vouvray. And to the east, a region that shares growing characteristics with Burgundy, you will find the famous white wines of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé
A popular tourist area, both for the French and overseas travellers, most towns and villages have well-signposted specialist wine merchants where you can taste before you buy. Better still, the vineyards themselves are often open to adhoc visits, and will also provide degustations (tastings) to help you select. Ask for guidance on wines that are ready to drink now versus those that benefit from being stored for a few years to mature – if you have space, buying wine to lay down for a few years is a great way of paying less than you will when that wine is mature.
By Kavita Favelle, author of Kavey Eats.
Read more posts on the best souvenirs to buy around the world.
Images contributed by authors of each souvenir, or used with attribution.
Please check the customs restrictions of your home country before your trip, so that you know which food and drink souvenirs you are permitted to import.