Last updated: July 2018
Chocolate, cheese, wine, and of course non-food items like perfume and designer clothing. There’s no shortage of things that you’ll want to bring back from France, but what is actually worth picking up?
In this guide we look at some of the best French things that you can try to fit into your suitcase.
Perfume, particularly brand name perfume, often isn’t any cheaper in France than it is in other countries like the US and especially online. If it is, the savings are usually minimal.
The real reason to buy perfume in France is more for selection. As well as big names like Yves St. Laurent Paris, Chanel No. 5, Guerlain, and Kenzo, France is home to many smaller perfumeries whose products are sometimes hard to find.
Paris, naturally, is a fantastic starting point for seeking out these perfume houses. Annick Goutal on Rue des Rosiers, for example, is an exclusively French brand and makes everything from the perfume itself to the packaging in France.
Then there’s Diptyque on Boulevard Saint Germain 34, which is better known for its scented candles but also stocks a range of perfumes as well. Diptyque’s owners are known for their wanderlust, and have wandered the world capturing smells and bringing them back to France where they are incorporated into their perfumes and home fragrances.
Salt may not be the first thing that you think of when you think of France, but France is known for the production of high quality fleur de sel. Package beautifully, these little bags make excellent gifts for friends and family back home. This salt normally used to season meat, fish, and vegetables, but can also be used as a finishing on baked products.
It’s almost impossible to visit France and not buy any chocolate. Chocolate is everywhere you look, and in all forms, including bonbons, chocolate bars, drinking chocolate, you name it.
Look out for bean-to-bar chocolatiers, of which you’ll find many in the larger cities in France. These chocolatiers are responsible for the entire production process of the bar of chocolate, from the cacao bean to the finished product, and the result is usually a much more interesting bar of chocolate. Chocolatiers that do this include Barry Callebaut, Valrhona, La Chocolaterie de l’Opéra, Stéphane Bonnat, Rrraw, Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse, and Pralus.
France is one of the largest wine producers in the world, and certainly one of the most well known. It’s never too hard to find French wine outside of France, but there’s usually a much better selection in France. While most people have heard of Burgundy and Bordeaux, few have heard of wine regions like Marcillac, Savoie, Jurançon, and Jura.
French supermarkets are usually very loyal to their local wine region, and buying wine from across the country can be difficult without visiting a specialist wine shop or wine supermarket. The bigger the supermarket, the more likely you are to find variety.
The Northern parts of France, particularly near the Ferry Ports, have some of the largest specialist wine supermarkets in the country. These generally cater to British shoppers, many of whom only come over for a day to stock up, and often focus on price as opposed to quality but, if you look around, there are quite a few that cater to fine wine buyers as well. Otherwise, your best bet is to visit a specialist wine shop.
As with other wines, champagne is available all over the world. This is especially true of brands like Moët & Chandon and, to a lesser extent, Bollinger, Pol Roger, and Ruinart.
But, although those are are some the most well-known champagne brands in the world, they’re not the only champagne houses and certainly not the only growers. There are more than 100 champagne houses alone and, because of that, you’ve probably not heard of names like Ayala, Billecart-Salmon, Delamotte, Deutz, and Gosset.
If you’re visiting Champagne (just outside of Paris), you can visit most of these producers individually. Many run tours and tastings, and most are happy to ship your order almost anywhere in the world.
Like wine, it’s hard to match France’s selection of cheeses. There are around 400 different varieties, which hail from all corners of the country. Due to cost and various regulations, getting these cheeses outside of France can be difficult and many visitors to France usually try and bring at least one cheese home.
Regardless of what you try (Tupperware etc.), it’s almost impossible to get the cheese home without stinking out your suitcase. French cheese is just ridiculously smelly. Some French cheeses, like Époisses de Bourgogne, is so smelly that the French themselves have made it a law that nobody can bring it on public transport.
Did you bring anything back from France? Have any tips for other travellers? Let us know your suggestions by leaving a comment below.