France in general is a paradise for shoppers. Even outside Paris, most main towns have excellent department stores – usually a Galeries Lafayette – as well as a host of independent shops which make superb targets for window-shopping (known as lèche-vitrines, or literally “window-licking” in French).

Food is a particular joy to shop for; well-stocked supermarkets are easy to find, while on the outskirts of most towns of any size you’ll come across at least one hypermarché, enormous supermarkets selling everything from food to clothes and garden furniture. The most well-known chains include Auchan, Carrefour, Leclerc and Casino. Every French town worth its salt holds at least one market (marché) a week. These tend to be vibrant, mostly morning affairs when local producers gather to sell speciality goods such as honey, cheese and alcohol, alongside excellent quality vegetable, meat and fish stalls. Boulangeries are the best places to buy bread, while patisseries offer a broader range of pastries, cakes and sometimes also sandwiches and other snacks.

Regional specialities are mostly of the edible kind. If you’re travelling in Brittany, be sure to pick up some of the local cider (cidre), while Normandy is famous for its calvados, and the south for its pastis. Provence is well known for its superb olive oil (huile d’olive) and pricey truffles (truffes), as is the Dordogne. No matter where you go, each region will produce at least one local cheese, and wine of course also varies from region to region. Cognac and the Champagne region are also obvious destinations if you’re looking to stock up.

Other items to look out for include lace (dentelle) in the north, pottery in Brittany and ceramics in Limoges. The northeast, especially Lorraine, is renowned for its crystal production, while Provence, particularly the town of Grasse on the Côte d’Azur, is the place in France to buy perfume.

Non-EU residents are able to claim back VAT (TVA) on purchases that come to over €175. To do this, make sure the shop you’re buying from fills out the correct paperwork, and present this to customs before you check in at the airport for your return flight.

Essentials

Everything you need to know before you set off.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

France features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Cabaret is alive and kicking in Paris

Cabaret is alive and kicking in Paris

Forget about the sleazy tourist traps in Pigalle, there's only one place to see burlesque in Paris: the Crazy Horse, opened in 1951. Eleanor Aldridge spent the …

25 Jul 2017 • Eleanor Aldridge local_activity Special feature
Quiz: where should you go in France this summer?

Quiz: where should you go in France this summer?

France remains one of the most visited countries in the world – and it's easy to see why. From the bucolic charm of Provence to the metropolitan allure of Par…

14 Jul 2017 • Rough Guides Editors help Quiz
7 reasons why Lyon should be your next European weekend break

7 reasons why Lyon should be your next European weekend break

The ingredients for a great European weekend break are simple. You’ll need a walkable city centre, a handful of excellent restaurants, some cool bars, afforda…

14 Jul 2017 • Eleanor Aldridge insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month