Going shopping in France is one of my favorite pastimes. You can find things there that would cost a fortune in the States, or which you might not even be able to buy outside of l’Hexagone. Do you know what I do every time I go to France? I grab a one-euro baguette, a jumbo jar of cornichons, and a bar of Isigny Ste Mère butter from the nearest Monoprix, and I go absolutely ham on them in the nearest park. Simple things take on a luxury quality, whether because they cost a quarter of the price or because those memories are priceless.
Unfortunately, my love of French shopping is at stark odds with my well-maintained reputation as a Carry-On Only Traveler. It’s hard enough to figure out what you’re allowed to bring back with you, especially without a full size suitcase in which to stash your goodies. (Confession: I’ve never declared anything at customs in my life. The questionable legality of that tin of foie gras in my backpack is between me and my deity.)
But if you are in France this year for the holidays, I encourage you to shop as much as you can. Bring an empty suitcase. (Especially if you’re traveling with kids.) Because no matter where you are in France, this is prime time for shopping. French holiday markets are in full swing, and we have a complete guide to the best ones throughout the country (with a special mention to Strasbourg, France’s Christmas Capital, and its famous Christmas market). We also have recommendations for places to shop in Paris for last minute holiday gifts, and suggestions for non-touristy things to bring back from Paris.
If you’re planning on being in France in January, you can’t miss Les Soldes, the national sales period, where stores everywhere in France drop their prices so they can push out inventory. But if you’re going to miss Les Soldes (January 10 – February 6, 2024), you can still get some great thrifting done, explore some of the most beautiful bookstores in Paris, or even have a custom perfume made for you at one of France’s most esteemed perfume shops. (And don’t forget to fit in a French pharmacy shopping trip!)
I’ll be off next week, celebrating Christmas in South Philly with family, and probably eating more cannolis and coppa than bûche de Noël and bredele. But I’ll be back in the New Year, with some recommendations for celebrating Epiphany like the French.
Managing Editor, frenchly.us
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