The Best French Souvenirs (According to a Parisian)


When you visit a new country, what do you like to buy? Are you someone who buys souvenirs for your friends and family? Do you like to taste local pastries, or sample the local beer? Whenever I travel, I love to buy, eat, drink, and experience the same things that the locals do. Are you the same?

If so, you’ll love today’s episode, because I’m going to explain what things tourists buy when they visit France that French people NEVER buy — like macarons from Ladurée, bérets or artwork at the bouquinistes.

And I’m going to give you a TON of ideas of other things you can buy, as gifts from France to your friends!
I’ll also tell you what French people actually buy, so that you can have a more authentic experience when you visit. And I’ll break down the correct pronunciation of some of them, so that you can ask for them with total confidence. Are you ready? C’est parti !

1) French souvenirs: Bérets, Tour Eiffel and Bouquinistes
2) French souvenirs: Luxury goods
3) French souvenirs: Supermarkets
4) French souvenirs: Special shops
5) French souvenirs: Regional specialties
6) French souvenirs: Pronunciation

Want all the vocabulary of the lesson ?

1) French souvenirs: Bérets, Tour Eiffel and Bouquinistes

When you’re in France, the first thing you can buy are “Des souvenirs.

Un souvenir = a souvenir, something to bring back from a trip, a memento
Un souvenir = a memory (in your mind)

Such as, for instance, a miniature tour Eiffel. As a snowglobe (= une boule à neige), a keyring, a bracelet…
Of course they’re often cheaply made and overpriced, and French people won’t really buy these for themselves.

And yet, it’s a small souvenir that will fit in any luggage, and it’s a direct reminder of your trip to Paris. So if you want to buy it for yourself or a friend back home, go for it! Succès garanti ! (= Guaranteed success!)

Another popular souvenir is un béret. It’s fun to buy one! The most famous one is le béret basque from Basque Country, in South-Western France. That’s where you have the most chance of finding un béret artisanal, in wool.

→ To be clear, French people don’t wear bérets in real everyday life.

Now, in Paris, it can feel more authentic to shop around for something else entirely, for instance among the stalls of les bouquinistes des quais de Seine. (= second-hand booksellers along the Seine river banks.)

There are more than 200 of them, with open-air green boxes along 3 kilometers of the Seine river banks – and they’re a UNESCO World Heritage site!

You can buy used or antique books, books of beautiful photos of Paris, posters and some artworks, as well as journals, stamps and more.

Un bouquin = informal for un livre (= a book)
Bouquiner = informal French for lire un livre (= to read a book)

Yet, to be honest, they’re not that popular among French people. They’re mostly for tourists, and it’s a bit artificial. Most of their income comes from the souvenirs they’re selling. The government actually had to make laws to make sure that bouquinistes keep selling books!

So, on the one hand it’s a bit of a tourist trap, and on the other hand, it’s fun to shop around these green boxes!

Or else, try une librairie (= a bookshop).
For instance, in Paris, my own favorite bookshop is la Librairie Delamain, just behind the Louvre museum. It’s a 300-year-old shop!

Or you can even try out un magasin d’art (= an art shop), such as the cute Slow Galerie in Paris.

In the song Quatrième de Couverture, French singer Vincent Delerm sings a love song between two strangers meeting at the box of a “bouquiniste,” among Les quatrièmes de couverture” (= the book’s back covers.)

2) French souvenirs: Luxury goods

Shopping is France is also well-known for:

  • la haute couture (= high fashion)
  • le haut-de-gamme (= high-end products)
  • le luxe (= luxury goods)

It’s a massive French industry, like dresses from Dior, Chanel, Yves-Saint-Laurent, or the famous silk of un carré Hermès.

If you have the budget, go for it!
But ce n’est pas donné. (= it’s expensive.)

Other French brands are less internationally famous, but they still offer very high quality – and they’re a little bit less expensive too. It’s French fashion that more French people actually buy.


  • Gérard Darel
  • Comptoir des Cotonniers
  • Éric Bompard
  • Agnès b.

They’re often entirely made in France too! It can make for a perfect gift for someone else – or to yourself!

And kids can dress well too, with brands such as Petit Bateau, Jacadi or Bonpoint.

You can also buy un parfum (= a perfume), for cheaper than clothes. Or better yet, un macaron !

I’d recommend you buy them from Pierre Hermé instead of the more famous Ladurée.

Or you can even buy your macarons… in a French supermarket! For instance, the macarons in Monoprix are really good for their price.

In France, we don’t play “Simon says,” but “Jacques a dit” – which gave the brand name “Jacadi.

3) French souvenirs: Supermarkets

Actually, buying souvenirs from supermarkets is underrated.

They’re an easy way to find spices, sauces, and French products that can travel. It’s less authentic and artisanal, but it might better fit in your luggage.
Like des boîtes de conserves (= cans, canned goods), of like le gratin dauphinois or le petit salé aux lentilles.

Some brands have products that tend to be somewhat more authentic than you may expect, like the brand Reflets de France from the Carrefour supermarkets.
Products like la fleur de sel de Guérande for instance, a famous kind of salt from the Brittany region.

On the other hand, even fully industrial products can feel French, like:

  • French-made candies from La Pie qui Chante,
  • Carambar sweets with their famous bad jokes,
  • cookies like Le Petit Écolier
  • or the famous Le Petit Beurre.

They will make for great gifts for your French friends at home!

Same thing for les tablettes de chocolat, including Swiss and Belgian chocolate that you can find in French supermarkets.

I can also recommend chocolate from La Mère de Famille brand, or from the brand of the famous chef Alain Ducasse. You won’t find these in supermarkets, but they’re available in some shops and online in France.

Now, of course you’ll want to try French wine! Well, you’ll find a wide selection of le vin (= wine) in supermarkets. If you stay away from the really cheapest, they’ll all be reasonably good! Especially if, like me, you’re not particularly a wine expert.

You can also ask for advice from an employee, of course.

In French, we don’t say “a six-pack” for good-looking abs muscles, but “les tablettes de chocolats” (= abs like a chocolate bar). And just like drinking six-packs won’t bring you six-packs, eating chocolate bars won’t give you “tablette des chocolats” !

4) French souvenirs: Special shops

Or even better, go see un caviste, a specialized wine shop, where you’ll be able to taste and choose your favorite wine.

Because all French specialties are better when they come from a specialized shop, of course.

For me, it’s especially clear for le pain (=bread,) which you have to buy in la boulangerie (= the bakery.) It will be much tastier than what you’ll find in any supermarket, and more croustillant, crunchy, as it should be.

I also really like my local cheese seller here in Grenoble: La fromagerie “Les Alpages”.

A problem with French cheese is that the best French cheese is made with du lait cru (= raw milk) and it can be difficult to bring that into the US for instance. That’s why you can choose to buy pasteurized-milk cheese to bring back home!

Oh, and when you buy French food in local shops, you can ask them to put it sous vide (= in a vacuum pack.) It will help keep it fresh, last longer, and not smell in your bag.
You can do that at le boucher-charcutier (= the butcher’s,) too, or le traiteur (= a caterer).
Only travel with une choucroute d’Alsace (= an Alsatian sauerkraut) in a vacuum bag!

Or you can buy fine food in une épicerie fine (= a delicatessen.) Such as Comtesse du Barry, for le foie gras for instance.

I also want to mention the cannery of La Belle-Îloise, where you’ll find canned fish from the sea, that’s delicious and in a good-looking packaging.

And for chocolate and biscuits from Southern France, La Cure Gourmande makes great gift bags.

After around one day, a French baguette or any bread will be rassis (= stale bread.)

5) French souvenirs: Regional specialties

More generally, you should probably try out the regional specialty from the French area you’re in. They’re what French people themselves buy as souvenirs when we travel through France!


  • Cider from Normandie, and cookies from La Maison du Biscuit
  • Les palets bretons (= flat round cookies) from Brittany, and their caramel au beurre salé (= salted-butter caramel)
  • French-looking Pastilles Vichy from around Vichy
  • Les calissons d’Aix from Provence
  • Les rousquilles de Perpignan from the South-West
  • Les cannelés de Bordeaux from Bordeaux
  • La moutarde de Dijon from Burgundy…

You’ll find them in local shops, or on the local markets. That’s also where you’ll find l’artisanat (= craftmanship.) Like bundles of la lavande (= lavender) in les marchés provençaux (= local markets in Provence,) to make your clothes and drawers smell good. You’ll find clothes and du linge (= linen,) as well! That can make for nice gifts that are easy to carry.

I also like to bring back from Provence des savons (solides) (= solid soap,) like the famous le savon de Marseille, or softer scented soap – with lavender, milk or even le lait d’ânesse (= donkey’s milk.) And that smells great in my luggage!

If you don’t have time to go to Provence, you can still find their beauty products with the chain L’Occitane.
Actually, for les produits cosmétiques (= beauty products), in general you can find some in any une parapharmacie, with many quality brands. I like Uriage for fragile skins, but mostly because they have a shop nearby. Other brands use French thermal water, like Vichy or La Roche Posay.

And finally, one last idea. One nice gift to bring back from your next trip to France: les bougies parfumées (= scented candles.) Mostly because I like the chic bougies “Dyptique” in Paris. Dyptique also sells perfumes if you want!

And now you’re all set!

6) French souvenirs: Pronunciation

Watch the video again to check your pronunciation, and how to break down each word.

Le béret basque
→ “é” sound + “-et” at the end sounds like “é / è” (depending on the French accent) + “basque” sounds like “bask.”

Le parfum
→ “-um” at the end sounds like “un” (nasal sound.) Rare, and not always the case: for instance, “rhum” has a pronunciation that sounds like the English one (but with a French R.)

Un macaron
Ma / Ka / Ron with “on” nasal sound. The middle “a” is not silent, it’s not “Macron” !

Le petit salé aux lentilles
It’s a dish with salted pork, carrots and lentils with sauce.
Literally means “Little salted with lentils.”
Salé (salted) ≠ Sale (dirty)
Lentilles with a “ll” (double L) / “ye” / [j] sound. In English, it’s the first sound in “you” or “yay!” for example.

Croustillant (= crunchy)
→ Funny-sounding word. With the “ye [j] sound again!

Les marchés provençaux (= markets from Provence)
Singular : “le marché provençal.”
→ “-aux” at the end = “oh” sound
→ “ç” = “ss” sound.
The sign under “c” is la cédille. It makes “c” sound like [“ss”] even before an “a” or a “u.”

Le boucher-charcutier
La boucherie = selling meat that wasn’t prepared.
La charcuterie = selling prepared meat, like cold cuts or sausages, especially from pork.
Le boucher-charcutier = a man preparing and selling both.
→ Here I want to point out that professions often end in -er that sounds like “é”, with a silent “r”. And that even if you have a long word, you can break down its pronunciation and it will be OK!

And now:
You’re ready to go exploring France further with me!

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À tout de suite.
I’ll see you in the next video!

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Join the conversation!

  • Encore une leçon très intéressante. La prononciation du mot “lentilles” me fait me demander s’il existe une règle quand “ll” se prononce comme dans “la ville” ou non – “la fille”. Je suppose que non, car comme tu le dis souvent, les prononciations françaises ne sont pas logiques.

    • Bonjour Miles,

      Oui, en effet, la lettre « i » change la prononciation des deux L ! Quand vous voyez « …ill… » au milieu d’un mot, la prononciation change pour devenir la semi-consonne [j] qui est prononcée comme un « y », comme dans « yoyo ». Donc, par exemple, le mot « bille » est prononcé comme si c’était écrit « biye ».

      Bonne journée,


  • Merci pour ce guide! Une autre idée de cadeau – les pots de moutarde de la boutique Maille (près de la Madeleine). On peut choisir la moutarde et ils remplissent le pot pour vous. Après, on peut le faire remplir de nouveau, ou, comme moi, utiliser comme vase.

  • Le Petit Beurre & Le Petit Colier are both available in Los Angeles in many supermarkets…
    a taste of France, for sure…

  • Ce fut une randonnée savoureuse, parfumée et délicieusement décorée à travers la France. En fait, c’est la vidéo la mieux illustrée que j’ai vue jusqu’à présent. Je ne vais pas en France, mais j’ai une impression beaucoup plus riche de ce pays. Merci, Géraldine.

  • Belle lecon Geraldine, merci bien! Maintenant j’ai de la faim et de la soif, hmmm. Et le nom c’est mignon, hehe!

  • Merci Geraldine! Loved this. When in France I buy very specific souvenirs.
    Du calvados en Normandie pour mes amis au Canada. Quand à Nice c’est toujours des herbes de provence et des draps. Je ne sais pas ce que les Alpes offrent mais je vais me renseigner.

  • Hi Geraldine. Thanks a lot for the free lessons. The links for “Download the lesson as pdf” are not working. I have tried two different Window browsers with the same results.

    • Ruben – Are you still having difficulty accessing the PDF downloads? We’ve made a few changes that should hopefully help with this. Let us know, thanks!

      CUF Team

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