There is nothing less Parisian than Parisian souvenir shops flaunting items made abroad with a sly nod at common stereotypes. In bringing back items from France, however, one wants to take with them the atmosphere, feelings, and sensual aspects of the city. Ergo: the style, the food and drinks, the scents, the self-care items, and all the items that will chic-up your life à la Parisienne. Et voilà, a compilation of items to spoil oneself with on a trip to Paris. (And remember to use the tax deductions at the airport!)
1. The Famous Gaufre à la Vanille from Méert
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Fair warning: this is the most addictive, underrated, gourmand sweet in France! It is a stroopwafel from the northern city of Lille that alone is worth a trip to Paris. While ideally you could eat everything in the store, the original Madagascar vanilla waffle will remind you of your visit during breakfast stateside. (They are suggested to be consumed within ten days.)
2. Mariage Frères Tea
The tea house is a perfect example of long-standing French tradition and quality. There is no going wrong with Mariage Frères because it is a world of scents, tastes, and proper tea discipline. At their store in the Marais, instead of buying boxes or cans of tea, ask for tea at the counter that is sold in bags. This will save a penny and space in the luggage too. Look out for Casablanca and Imperial Russia.
3. Tabio Socks & Tights
Tabio has a collection of all the whimsical tights and socks you didn’t even know you needed — perfect for wearing underneath a little black skirt. Even though it’s a Japanese brand, it’s very much Parisian-inspired and worth a splurge on a pair (or 10).
Unfortunately many Parisian essentials don’t actually come from Paris, and soap from Marseille is one of them. Bar soap from Marseille is one of the best gifts you can buy for yourself without splurging on overly expensive skincare from brands like Recherche Biologique (which is great too, if you have the funds.) A brick of pure olive oil soap will have your face young and clean, and if you want to venture out you can even buy bottled Petit Marseillaise.
5. Café de Belleville
Let’s be honest, coffee on French terraces is awfully bitter. Thanks to the bobo‘s (hipsters) there’s tons of new coffeeshop culture popping up, and Brûlerie Belleville is exceptional. Take home a taste of Paris.
6. Parfum: Serge Lutens or Ex Nihilo
French perfume deserves a Nobel Prize for it’s innovation and ability to fool the nose. Of course there are many wonderful parfumeries in Paris like the renowned couture houses of Chanel with No.5 or Dior with J’Adore. However, perfume is meant to be intimate and hint at a bigger secret. Serge Lutens’ atelier in Jardin du Palais or Ex Nihilo have the exact secrets that you’re looking for. Serge Lutens also has exclusive Paris-only scents.
7. Paul Ward
Design-genius Paul Ward makes sunglasses inspired by the 60s, 70s, and 80s that you will take extra care of for only 98€. You’ll get tons of compliments without breaking the bank.
8. Chichi Castelnango Lingerie
This brand, located in the 7th arrondissement (or able to be online), is the perfect mix of sexy and elegant. This is not pricey La Perla or any cheap store in Pigalle, but a real made-in-France product with lovely pieces. Treat yourself!
9. Jane Birkin Wicker Basket
Everyone needs a wicker basket, even if just to go to the marché. In fact, most markets throughout the city sell them.
A striped shirt is called a marinière and you need one. Consider picking up a shirt at Petit Bateau or if you want something fancier then head over to Agnès B. This is really a must-have, essential, staple piece in anyone’s closet.
11. Something from the Brocante or Marché aux Puces
Leaving this one to your imagination. Try the Marché Aux Puces Saint-Ouen to find a treasure.
12. A quality beret
It’s no news that these Breton hats are back in style and you need one. Of course you could buy an artisanal one from Laulhère, or pick up three for 10€ at a shop on Saint-Michel. Honestly, no one will know the difference.
13. Officine Universelle Buly Oils
You will feel like 18th-century royalty as you apply these oils. With perfectly monogrammed packaging, quality products, and wonderful service, you’ll have a memory and an oil to treasure. Be on the lookout for Huile de Catharme.
14. Cheese from Laurent Dubois
Can’t really go wrong with cheese but make sure that it’s vacuum-sealed and US Customs accepts it. Laurent Dubois is a superstar fromager and you will definitely want to bring back his cheese.