Here are our top choices for the perfect Paris mementos.
There's certainly no shortage of souvenirs for sweet-tooths in Paris. Pack chocolates in your checked luggage, not carry-on, to keep cool. Pralines, ganaches and fruit chocolates from La Maison du Chocolat or 44 flavours of chocolate from Alain Ducasse’s bean-to-bar La Manufacture de Chocolat are wildly popular. Or try artisan chocolates made with 100% cocoa butter (no milk, butter or cream) from Charles Chocolatier, otherwise pick up some miniature sculptures by chocolate artist Patrick Roger.
Brightly coloured feather-light macarons from Ladurée or Pierre Hermé are a favourite gift – note they are eggshell-fragile and must be eaten within three to five days of purchase. More practical to take home are candy and caramels from Paris’ oldest confectioner À la Mère de Famille (1761) or bijou jars of syrupy caramel au beurre salé (butter caramel) sold with a small spoon at Maison Georges Larnicol.
Should you have fallen hopelessly in love with the decadent hot chocolate served at aristocratic 1903 tearoom Angelina, its adjoining épicerie sells it bottled (minus the whipped cream). And if you wish to remind yourself of visiting the Musée d’Orsay, take home a jar of honey harvested from beehives on its roof. Again, these will need to go in your checked luggage.
Coffee and tea
Conjure up the charm and romance of Parisian cafe life back home with a bag of coffee beans from trendsetting roasteries Belleville Brûlerie or Coutume. Tea drinkers will prefer a caddy of tea from an historic Parisian tea house such as Mariage Frères (1854), which sells 500 varieties in muslin sachets or as loose leaves in iconic black Mariage Frères tins. Taste before buying in its adjoining tearoom or enroll in a Saturday-morning tasting workshop.
Souvenir shopping doesn’t get more elegant than at Dammann Frères (dammann.fr). The 17th-century maison de thé is known for its perfumed teas evoking Noel à Paris (Christmas in Paris), Nuit à Versailles (Night at Versailles) and Jardin du Luxembourg.
Books and paper
Books are not the lightest souvenirs to haul home but the quintessentially Parisian shopping experience justifies the extra kilos. Browse Paris-related fiction in English at mythical bookshop Shakespeare & Company, sift through antiquarian books at the green box stalls of Seine-side bouquinistes, or devour secondhand books over coffee at Merci.
Pictorial art books are an easy way of taking a bit of Paris’ world-class art home with you. The Louvre, Centre Pompidou, Palais de Tokyo and Fondation Louis Vuitton have outstanding museum bookshops.
‘Fabriqué en France avec joie et amour’ (Made in France with joy and love) is the tag on boldly-patterned notebooks, calendars and other creative and eye-catching, paper products – perfect gifts – at Papier Tigre (papiertigre.fr).
The City of Light does bougies (candles) awfully well. The world’s oldest candle maker Claude Trudon (who was the official supplier to Versailles and Napoléon), began selling candles in his Paris shop in 1643. Buy beautiful candles to match every mood: a dozen candles in a rainbow of colours, a perfumed candle in a smart bronze glass, a 22cm-tall high wax bust of Marie-Antoinette to burn …
Luxury Parisian cirier (candle maker) and perfumer Diptyque (diptyqueparis.com), around since 1961, is the essence of Parisian chic. Beautiful objects guaranteed to evoke the French capital long after you’ve left include palm-sized ovals of perfumed wax to slip in your sock drawer, travel-sized perfumes (pop one in your handbag for the trip home) and 50 candle types sunk in a porcelain jar and smelling of French nature (fig, mimosa, lily of the valley, orange). Da Khol (facebook.com/Maison-By-Khol) works with Limoges porcelain to create contemporary and striking pieces.
Fearful the porcelain will break in transit? Opt instead for perfumed candles in a tin mug, handmade by Parisian ‘slow design’ house Maison Maison, from concept stores Centre Commerciale (centrecommercial.cc) and Colette.
Nothing titillates tastebuds pining Paris more than truffle products from La Maison de la Truffe or luxury food shop Hédiard. French mustard specialist Maille and gourmet food paradise Fauchon are on the same foodie square. Check customs regulations in your home country before buying half the shop.
Many fromageries (cheese shops) provide vacuum packing to transport cheese home. Hard cheeses are most practical – forget a gooey round of St-Félicien or fresh goat cheese that must be kept fridge-cold. Seek advice from knowledgeable staff at 38 Saint Louis, Androuet or Barthélémy.
Browse old-world boutiques in the glass-roof passages couverts (shopping arcades) of 19th century Paris to uncover a stash of fascinating Parisian collectibles – vintage stamps, antiquarian books, posters, postcards and autographs you might just fancy as a souvenir.
For contemporary nostalgia hit Paris Rendez-Vous where you'll find toy sailing boats replicating those mucked about with in Jardin du Luxembourg since the 1920s, water carafes, and giant-sized breakfast tea-cups good for dunking croissants in French-style.
Inject a dash of Parisian chic into your everyday wardrobe with a French accessory no Parisian would be without – and easy as pie to pack too. A signature square of silk from Hermès is timeless, as is a linen laundry bag for lingerie from Fragonard (wonderful perfumes too) or a hand-printed Kasia Dietz (kasiadietz.com) tote. For the ultimate Paris souvenir, sign up for a workshop (kasiadietzworkshops.com) with the bag designer and paint your own.
Buy a cover page of imaginary magazine The Parisianer (theparisianer.fr) and hang above your bed at home to inspire sweet dreams of Paris. The 50 original The Parisianer covers were initially published in book form and 26 covers are available as individual posters. Each is by a local artist and illustrates a monument, sight or scene from Paris in eclectic New Yorker style. Admire and buy at concept store Merci, design bookshop Artazart near Canal St-Martin, or left bank Le Bon Marché.
Top shopping tips
- Avoid blatant souvenir-shop streets around major sights like Notre Dame, the Louvre or Montmartre’s Sacre Coeur. Shop instead where Parisians do.
- Almost every shop does free gift-wrapping – ask for ‘un paquet cadeau’ (request the wrapping separate to the gift for you to wrap at home if you’re worried about it getting squashed in transit).
- Check customs regulations of the country you’re travelling to before buying edibles. Rules differ. You can take fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy and animal products (including cheese and charcuterie ) from Paris back to the UK (gov.uk) for example. But you cannot enter the US (cbp.gov) with meat products or soft cheeses.
This article was first published in June 2015 and updated by Daniel Fahey in March 2017.
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