Indulging in the souvenir market undermines the hard work and craft by true artisans that create pieces that actually reflect a culture. Instead, the “Made in China” stamped Eiffel Tower tchotchkes are hurtful to the economy, planet (by being mass-produced with unsustainable materials), and culture.
We’ve compiled a list once before of items that are much more interesting than souvenir-shop memorabilia. Here is volume two of the “don’t be a tourist-shopper” series that takes you on a unique souvenir shopping trip through the streets of Paris. (The best part: it’s mostly affordable too!)
1. Vintage magazines
La Galcante, located just beyond the Louvre, is a treasure trove of magazines, books, and newspapers ranging across topics and decades. A vintage magazine from a birth year or on a topic close to the heart can make a great piece of art to treasure forever, and it will only cost you a few bucks. — 52 Rue de l’Arbre Sec, 75001
2. Saint Laurent Rive Droite iPhone case
This one’s a steal because everyone wants a piece of Paris’ haute couture. This iPhone case is only priced at 45€ and available at the Saint Laurent Rive Droite store (previously Colette location) with plenty of other affordable items. — 213 Rue Saint-Honoré, 75001
3. Chambre Aux Confitures jam
Out of all the foods, this is one that you can for sure transport and it really doesn’t get more Made in France. Even President Macron loves this jam. A fan favorite is the raspberry, but dare to try out some exotic options too. — Several locations available throughout Paris
4. Papier Tigre stationery
Quality stationery doesn’t have to be boring or Muji (which is extremely hurtful to the environment); it can be minimalist chic like at Paper Tigre. Opt for a few of their unique interchangeable pens and giant paper clips for your desk. — 5 Rue des Filles du Calvaire, 75003
5. RATP map
The wonderful Parisian metro system has a flawless app and plenty of good aspects, except it does not sell actual paper maps. Most souvenir stores, however, do sell maps and it is also downloadable online if you want to print it at home. A metro map is great to use flat on a coffee table or to frame as art.
6. Rouje Eyeliner
Jeanne Damas is now making eyeliner and, her being a French icon who sports a winged look every day, we’d say she knows a thing or two. You might have to stock up on this one, L’Eyeliner ($25), from brand Rouje’s store to hold you over until your next trip back to the land of ethical cosmetology. — 11 bis Rue Bachaumont, 75002; also available online
7. Candles from Le Comptoir de la Bougie
If you can find this 12€ candle, you’re sure to get a better scent than even the fancy-pants brands boast. The Jardin Imperial is a heartbreaker. You’re likely to find these in curated souvenir stores or Monoprix. (They are also available on French Amazon.)
8. Museum tote bag
Leather bags are overrated; canvas tote bags are really the staple piece you need. Every single Parisian museum has a curated line of tote bags featuring everything from historical figures to art. A favorite is from the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent (5 Avenue Marceau, 75116).
9. Fleux home trinkets
Paris’ most interesting home decor store is Marais’ Fleux where a vase is never just a vase and you can even get a giant paper butterfly to hang on your wall. Decorating your home with souvenirs is a good way not to let go of the memories. — 52 Rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie, 75004
10. Café Kistuné coffee cups
Café Kitsuné is not only the Franco-Japanese fashion brand’s chic caffeinated spot in three Parisian locations, it also allows you to take a bit of Paris home by purchasing minimalist coffee mugs. — Locations available here
11. Minimalist jewelry
Tiny Parisian jewelry shops hold a world of accessory treasures that always make for good keepsakes. Just keep your eye on the lookout for these stores — there are a few! Popular options include Lõu Yetu (12 rue Volney, 75002) and Les Fleurs (6 Passage Josset, 75011).
12. Vintage books
Don’t forget to stop by the galleries like Passage Jouffroy to pick up a used or vintage book that could only cost you around 5€. A perfect coffee table accessory. — Gallery locations listed here
13. Candy from Monoprix
Treat yourself. They call it mal bouffe, we call it junk food. Stock up on all the LU cookies, the paprika chips, and endless Haribo options. Buy at any grocery store.
14. Trench coat from KiliWatch
There’s nothing more French than a trench coat. Though they usually cost quite a pretty penny. But most Frenchies know that a vintage trench is the one that actually speaks volumes and is much more of a treasure. Plus it’s cheaper. Find yours at KiliWatch. — 64 Rue Tiquetonne, 75002
15. Nougat from Jadis et Gourmande
There is nothing like nougat featuring nuts and simultaneously a marshmallowy and caramel texture. It’s a great airplane snack and a teatime must. While many are quite good, especially if artisanal, we like ours from the chocolate house Jadis et Gourmande. — Several locations available
16. Embroidered shirt from Maison Labiche
We’re allowed at least one stereotype, so we’ll take the Breton striped shirt. At Maison Labiche you can buy an adorably embroidered piece of clothing or even customize a shirt to say whatever you’d like. — 105 Rue Vieille du Temple, 75003
17. French wine
Since French wine is about to get extra expensive stateside, stock up on some DutyFree goodness.