One of the most visited countries in the world, France offers a multitude of beautiful cities, coastlines, and culinary delights. You can spend days wandering around Paris or wandering around the French countryside. And one of the things you will want to do is to pick up a few French souvenirs from your big trip.
There is of course the small trinkets of the Eiffel tower, but there is so much more you can find than that. Everyone always wants something that represents the memories from special foods, clothes, etc. So let’s get to the best souvenirs from France, shall we? Allons-y!
1. Marinière t-shirt
If you are looking for a typical souvenir from France, you can’t go wrong with a Marinière. The French marinière is a traditional long-sleeved sweater which has deep blue and white stripes.
It was usually worn by sailers and seamen in the French Navy, before becoming a staple of civilian French fashion.
The fashion sprung from that doyenne of French fashion, Coco Chanel. During the First World War, Chanel regularly took seaside holidays and was inspired by the local sailors’ uniforms.
At her shop in Deauville she launched the “Navy Style”, a short marinière, a comfortable simple jersey in those hard times. Her marinières soon became much sought after, and luxury items.
These days, the symbolic image of a French person usually includes a marinière and a beret. It is also sometimes called a Breton shirt in the French region of Brittany. You can also shop for a marinière here.
2. Lavender sachets
Another popular souvenir from France is anything made from lavender. Known as “blue gold”, lavender is a flower that has been cultivated for centuries in Provence in the area called the Plateau of Valensole for its scent and its essential oils.
And not only does it smell and look wonderful, this ornamental plant also contributes ingredients to traditional medicines, cosmetics, and more.
3. Cognac and Armagnac
After the grapes are pressed, the juice fermented for a couple of weeks with wild yeast from Cognac converting the sugar into alcohol. It is then distilled and aged in oak casks for at least two years, giving it an alcohol content of around 40%.
The cognac is blended with different cognacs from different years by a master blender (maître de chai) to come up with the perfect taste.
Similar to Cognac, Armagnac is an aged brandy from the region of Armagnac, near the foothills of the Pyrénees mountains (near Spain). The area it is produced in is much smaller, however, which is why it is not usually exported outside of France, and thus not as well known.
For French people though, it is Armagnac that is more popular, being the oldest French brandy, which used to be consumed reputedly for “therapeutic benefits”. In addition, there is Pineau de Charentes which is a fortified wine made from unfermented grape juice and cognac.
4. Savon de Marseille
Savon de Marseille is a traditional hard soap has been made from vegetable oils for 100s of years. The first known soapmaker was recorded there in around 1370.
In 1688, Sun King Louis XIV introduced regulations in the Edict of Colbert to limit the use of the name “Savon de Marseille” to olive oil based soaps. It is a protected trademark, and only a handful of manufacturers remain in Provence.
The soap is made by mixing sea water from the Mediterranean with local olive oil, and the alkaline ash from seaweeds. It comes in a variety of fragrances and is one of the most sought after souvenirs in Provence. You can buy some savon de marseille here.
5. Le Petit Prince
Another good souvenir to take home from France would be that incontournable of French books, Le Petit Prince. The author, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, is another one of the notable French writers honored at the Panthéon.
At first glance, le Petit Prince seems like a book for small children. However, once you start to read it, the layers of wisdom that the book doles out are worthy of reading for adults and kids alike.
Saint-Exupéry was a famed aviator before becoming a writer. He joined the Free France air force during World War II, and disappeared while on a reconnaissance mission from Corsica over the Mediterranean on 31 July 1944.
His body was never found and many of his works were published posthumously by his family. These days, it is one of the highest-selling books of all time in France. You can buy a copy of the Petit Prince here.
6. Dijon Mustard
Named after the town of Dijon, dijon mustard is one of the most popular souvenirs of France. The traditional recipe uses crushed brown mustard seeds and white wine or a mix of wine vinegar, along with water and salt.
There are several flavors of dijon, with everything from honey mustard to a spicy variety that will pique your interest. You can buy a dijon mustard gift set here.
Located 2-3 hours from Paris, the one and only champagne is produced in the Champagne region of France, near the city of Reims. It is only here that the famous bubbly French wine is allowed to be called Champagne AOC.
The prestige of the champagne is attributed to the skill of the Cellar Master who puts the different notes together to create a scintillating blend. This is why the year of the champagne is critical since the cellar master will adjust his/her formula each year depending on the harvest, while trying to keep as close as possible to brand’s traditional savor.
Champagne Brut is the most common type of champagne (over 80%). However, there are other types such as
- sans année
- brut millesimé
- préstige cuvée
Champagne Préstige Cuvée is considered amongst the best of the best. Champagne rosé and other varieties depend on the type of grapes used and the production processes. You can read more about the different types of Champagnes here before deciding which one to take home as a souvenir.
8. Eiffel tower souvenir
Built in 1889 for the the World Fair in Paris, the Eiffel tower was not initially welcomed by local Parisians. That would eventually change, and it is now one of the top attractions in all of France. You can buy an Eiffel tower puzzle souvenir here.
9. Escargot fork and knife
Another of the French classics is of course escargot. Yes, we eat snails in France, and yes they are delicious. While you may not be able to a frozen pack of escargot from Picards back with you as a souvenir, you can take home the special cutlery that is used to eat escargot.
Since snails will be served usually with their shells on, and you will need a special tiny fork, as well as custom tongs to hold the shell while you get the meat out, without getting your hands dirty. You can buy an escargot fork and tongs here.
10. Nougat de Montelimar
Right on the border of the region of Provence, the Montélimar nougat has been the candy of choice for centuries and makes a wonderful French souvenir to take home.
The first nougat recipes date back to the Middle East and Mesopotamia (today known as Iraq). With almond trees being grown in the area since at least the 14th century, it is not clear when the Montélimar nougat was first invented and when the first French nougat recipes became popular.
The original formula for Nougat de Montélimar was a confection made from honey, small amounts of sugar, roasted almonds, and whipped egg whites.
11. Pastis de Marseille
The quintessential apéritif of France, Pastis de Marseille is an provençale institution. With a fresh taste of anise seed and liquorice, it is somewhat similar to the Greek ouzo.
This would make sense since both are on the Mediterranean, and the Greeks were the 1st settlers in what was then Massalia.
With an alcohol strength of 45%, you then dilute with water, depending on how strong you want it and your preferred taste. You can read more about how to serve yourself a pastis here.
12. Faience dinnerware
The region of Provence is famous for its faience pottery, with its trademark blue markings. The village of Moustier-Sainte-Marie (near the famed Gorges du Verdon) is particularly famous for its dinnerware, but you can find these traditional plates and earthenware all over the south of France.
Several ateliers (workshops) accross the region produce these quintessential dishes and potteries with a creamy white background and cobalt blue (called “de moustiers” blue).
There are also tablecloths that you can buy as a souvenir in the same colors, which make for easier transport. You can buy a faience tablecloth here.
There are over 1600 types of French cheeses, so what better souvenir than to take a few back home. Now you will need to stick to the French hard cheeses like comté, tomme de savoy and mimolette, but with over 1600 types of cheeses, you will have plenty of choice.
14. Riz de Camargue
The Camargue national park near the town of Arles is famous for many products, among the most famous being its rice. It is so popular that during the 2nd week of September (as well as in April) thousands of visitors descend upon the region to celebrate the Feria de Riz, a festival that takes place to celebrate the rice harvest.
It is a short-grained rice that is usually used to make paella, since the region is close to the Spanish border and has adopted many Spanish traditions, including tapas and bull-fighting.
15. French Chips
A more quirky souvenir to take back home from France are the chips that you can find in grocery stores all across the country.
French chips tend to have rather “different” flavors such as aioli, but there are also flavors such as “Indian curry”, “merguez sausage” and “saveur yakitori”.
16. Paul Bocuse cookbook
France is known for its haute cuisine and Michelin starred restaurants, so why not take home a cookbook as a souvenir? Perhaps the most famous French chefs has to be Paul Bocuse. Known for his innovative approach to French cuisine, the chef who died in 2018 made the city of Lyon his home base, propelling it to be nicknamed the “French capital of gastronomy“.
He would go on to open the Institut Paul Bocuse, which is an elite higher education culinary institutions, offering courses in hospitality and food service. You can buy the Institut Paul Bocuse Gastronomique: The definitive step-by-step guide to culinary excellence here.
17. Perfume from Grasse
In the heart of Provence, the small town of Grasse is considered the French capital of perfume. There are several perfume houses in the area, among them one of the oldest perfume houses being Galimard.
It was established in 1747 by Jean de Galimard who provided the French Royal Court with ointments and perfumes, before the Revolution. After the revolution, the Galimard Perfumery managed to pivot their business to promote their perfumes to the burgeoning bourgeoisie.
Other popular perfumes from Grasse include Molinard and Fragonard. You can buy a bottle of French perfume here.
18. Diptyque candles
Based in Paris, Diptyque candles have become known world-wide for their scents and their quality. Evoking the best of French luxury, the scents burn for an average of 50 to 60 hours, and come in a wide variety such as Fruit, Fig, Rose, Floral, Wood, etc. You can buy Diptyque’s set of 5 scented candles here.
19. Mère Poulard cookies
If you want to take home a souvenir from the famous Mont Saint Michel in France, what better than a box of Mère Poulard cookies?
Inside the tiny village next to the monastery, is the famous Mère Poulard restaurant and gift shop. The restaurant is famous for its Omelette de la Mère Poulard, a giant omelet several inches thick that is cooked over an open fire.
While you can’t take home the omelette, you can grab a box of their famous Mère Poulard cookies to pack in your suitcase. You can buy some mère poulard cookies here.
20. Olive oil
The 3 keys to cooking any provençale dish are olive oil, garlic, and the aromatic herbs. So why not take home a bottle of olive oil from Provence? The olive oils are protected with a Controlled Designation of Origin (AOC) “Huile d’olive de Provence”.
The olives must be harvested in orchards located in 4 departments of France: Var, Vaucluse, Bouches-du-Rhône, Alpes de Haute-Provence, and there is an established process for its artisanal production. You can buy some olive oil herbs de provence here.
21. Violet confit
The small village Tourrettes-sur-Loup in Provence is known for growing violets and making various souvenirs and products from them, such as perfume, candied violets, and even ice cream.
There are plenty of other items like confit and confectionaries made from violet that you can try as well. You can read more about local foods and drinks to try in Provence here.
22. Marron glacé
Marron glacé translates to “iced chestnuts” and it is a chestnut glazed with sugar that is eaten as a candy.
Nonetheless in France, the first candied chestnut factory was created in Ardèche (near Lyon) in 1882, which produces a lot of chestnuts. The process is quite delicate as the chestnuts must not be broken during the glazing process. You can buy a packet of marron glacé here.
23. Yellow raincoat from Le Petit Bateau
The classic yellow raincoat from Petit Bateau is a wonderful souvenir from France, especially if you have spent any time at all in rainy Paris. Sylish and exuding quality, this versatile raincoat will remind you of your time in the City of Lights. You can buy the yellow raincoat from Petit Bateau here.
All across the Occitanie region in the south of France, the truffe noire reigns supreme.
Here, the picking of truffles from the ground remains a centuries old tradition. With an emphasis on freshness, terroir, and authenticity, they called black diamonds.
And they can cost as much as a diamond. Because of their rarity, truffles sell at between €400-700 per kilo. While it may not be practical to carry truffles by themselves, you can purchase flavored jars of cream of truffles to take home as souvenirs.
25. Salted caramel
A speciality of Brittany, caramel au buerre salé translates to caramel made with salted butter. It dates back to 1946 and became very popular in the town of Morbihan, before taking Paris by storm.
The combination of sweet and salty is very popular in France, with other chocolates like Twix also being sold in France in beurre salé variations. You can buy caramel au beurre salé here.
You won’t find it in a supermarket in Paris, but rather in patisseries in Provence and the south of France.
They are catching on in popularity like the macaron however, so perhaps soon to come to a grocery store near you? You can buy and try calissons d’aix here.
27. Salt and condiments
France is famous for its many different types of salt, from sel de guerande, fleur sel de Camargue, etc. There are also flavored salts, such as this garlic salt, basil salt, and other herbs salts.
Nearly each region of France has its own type of salt-cured sausages, such as the rosette, chorizo, saucisson de Lyon, saucisson d’Arles. Take back a selection so that you can make your own charcuterie board at home.
29. Fois gras
In France, there are many types of foie gras that you can find to enjoy as a souvenir. The process dates back to antiquity and is legally protected.
There are different types of foie gras, from the most expensive to cheaper as follows:
- foie gras entier – means “whole foie gras” which is made of one or two whole livers
- foie gras – made of pieces of livers reassembled together
- bloc de foie gras – a fully cooked, assembled and moulded block made of 98% or more of foie gras
And if foie gras itself is too expensive, you can also try a pâté of foie gras. It is usually cut in slices and arranged on a tray, along with some mini toasts. Pair them together and munch away. You can read more about eating foie gras here.
30. Fig chutney
There is nothing that goes as well with foie gras as fig chutney. And indeed, goes quite well with many other things as well.
It is available in small jars in many stores like Galerie Lafayette or the Bon Marché all across Paris and France.
31. Pétanque balls
But that is not to say it is only prominent in the south of France. Pétanque has become so popular as a sport, there are leagues of players and competitions are carried live on sports tv channels.
Today, it is as well-loved in France as bowling in the U.S. or curling in Canada. You can buy a set of pétanque balls here.
Macarons might be as ubiquitous in North America today as the cookie is in France, but there’s still something to be said to having one freshly prepared at one of Paris’s finest patisseries.
Absinthe at 45-75% alcohol, is one of the most potent French digestifs out there. Legend has it that it was created by a French doctor named Pierre Ordinaire as a miraculous cure-all in the late 1790s.
It became popular when it was given to French troops to prevent malaria, but it is most commonly remembered for being a favorite of the artist Vincent van Gogh,
The taste is quite bitter, so it is not to everyone’s tastes. The original recipe contained methanol and was accused of inducing all sorts of paranoia, including the one which led Van Gogh to cut off his own ear.
It was banned in 1914, before a new formula was relaunched in 2000 under the brand name l’Absente. You can buy a bottle of absinthe here.
Guimauve is an artisan marshmellow that is made by chocolatiers in France, that is widely popular.
Regular French marshmellows are called chamallows, but a guimauve is more of a higher-end treat. It is made of sugar to egg whites and gelatin.
With a spongy consistency, it is usually shaped in cubes or long, flexible sticks and comes in a variety of flavors like lavender, mint, and more. You can buy guimauves here.
35. Pâte des Fruits
From the region of Auvergne and very popular these days in Provence, the pâte de fruits dates back to the 10th century.
It is a candy made from cooked fruit and sugar, which is then placed in a mold. The original recipe was intended to preserve the fruit as long as possible, similar to jam.
There are many types of fruit jellies, the most common being orange, apricot, apple, citrus, plum, etc. You can buy pâte de fruit here.
36. Sable biscuits
A small crumbly biscuit, the biscuit sablé is a flavored cookie sold in boxes by French chocolatiers and confisieurs as such.
It originates from the town of Sablé-sur-Sarthe in the Loire region and is made from flour, butter, sugar and sometimes egg yolks, mixed quickly to obtain a “sandy” consistency. You can buy biscuit sablé here.
37. Art Posters
If you want a souvenir to remember your time in Provence and France, there is nothing like a poster on a wall. There are many art prints and posters that you can purchase to take home and frame to remind you of your holiday.
You can buy this Eiffel Tower poster here, along with its Marsaillais Notre Dame de la Garde print counterpart here.
38. Les Crozets
Similar in appearance to pasta, the crozets are small pieces of dough made from sarrasin flour and a very popular specialty in the Alps.
These small squares taste like pasta and are just as ubiquitous. They are can be served with meats like the diots sausage, in a gratin, or even in a soup. You can buy crozets here.
39. Sirop de Cassis
Walk into any restaurant or brasserie in France and you will see a Kir cassis on the menu under apéritifs. It is a recipe mix of crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) topped up with a white wine from Burgundy, such as Chablis or Aligoté.
Sirop de cassis is usually not alcoholic, so you can also serve it with chilled water for a lovely refreshing drink.
40. Anis de Flavigny
Anise of Flavigny is a candy from Flavigny-sur-Ozerain in Burgundy. They were first made by the Benedictine monks of the abbey of Flavigny (founded around the 8th century and have become popular across France ever since.
Anise stands for licorice and the candy has a strong taste of black licorice.
41. Rose petal cakes
The city of Provins is famous for its roses which is a big industry in the area. The region specializes in rose confectionery and items like rose petal jam, Provins rose honey, rose candies, and rose syrup.
If you are looking for a French souvenir to impress, this makes for a lovely gift for friends and family.
A terrine is a type of pâté, which is a paste made of ground meats and organ meats, usually containing a portion of chicken, goose, or duck liver, along with herbs, and spices.
However, while the pâté is only lightly cooked, a terrine is has been cooked in an oven, with vegetables, spices, etc. In addition, it is sometimes wrapped in a pastry or preserved in a jar.
Examples of terrine include terrine de campagne (rustic terrine), terrine de canard (duck), terrine de foie gras. A terrine bourguignonne au chablis (the picture above) is terrine made from cow meats that has been immersed in chablis wine. You can purchase a sample of terrine from France here.
If you enjoyed that article, you may like to read more about local French foods. A bientôt!