We wanted to find the perfect souvenirs to capture the experience of a vacation in Paris. Sure, the Mona Lisa t-shirt and the little metal Eiffel Tower souvenirs are great. But souvenirs are meant to help us remember the sights, sounds, and tastes of our trips. Here's a list of our favorite souvenirs from Paris that will make you feel as if you're bringing your own piece of the City of Lights home.
1. Photographs and Prints
Along the Seine near Notre Dame, the bouquinistes (outdoor vendors or bookstalls) sell books and paper goods such as black and white photographs, prints of watercolor paintings, as well as vintage posters and postcards from the 50s.
Near Montmartre is an entire neighborhood with fabric stores on every street. Fabrics range from inexpensive, colorful cottons to fine upholstery and dress fabrics. The designs of the upholstery fabrics sold here are common in the interiors of apartments and houses throughout Paris.
If you’re shopping in Paris at one of these stores, know that you can always bargain with the sellers. In fact, sellers, expecting you to haggle, will often quote you a price that’s a little too high just to get the game started.
In Paris, the presentation of a delectable sweet is as important as the treat itself. Ladurée, a patisserie and tea room on the Champs Elysées, knows how to present. You will be greeted by an ornate interior of olive with gold flourishes, colorful paintings on the ceilings and walls, and, of course, rows and rows of macaroons, pastries and chocolate. After the difficult task of selecting your treats, the attendant will wrap it in the most imaginative packaging -- a lovely souvenir, albeit an ephemeral one. There are often long lines at Ladurée. When you see the treats, you’ll understand why.
At the Richard Lenoir open-air market close to the Opera Bastille, you will find vendors selling spices of every color and variety, displayed in the open, their scents wafting in the air. There's saffron, cinnamon, tumeric, coriander and many others that you may not even recognize. If you don't know what to pick, just tell the vendor what you like to cook. He'll guide the way.
5. Carte Orange
It’s supposed to be used only by Parisians. But anyone can buy it. You use the Carte Orange to ride the Metro. The card case is bright orange and contains your picture ID, which you can purchase at the station, and a shiny Metro pass that you use to get in and out of the stations. It will serve as a nice reminder of your travels throughout the city in one of the world's oldest and most extensive subway systems.
6. Illustrated Children’s Book in French
A charming story, simple phrases for practicing your French, colorful pages - children's books are the perfect souvenirs for children and adults. You can find a large selection of books at any FNAC store.
7. Restaurant Menu
You may be able to talk your waiter into parting with your restaurant menu, provided that it's the simple, cardstock variety. Paste it into a scrapbook.
Though you’ll have to pack it in your checked bags or ship it home, wine makes a good souvenir. Wine shops are all over the city, but one in particular stands out. Dernière Goutte (meaning the Last Taste or Drop) in the 6th arrondissement offers a large selection of French wines, including hard-to-find vintages. The owner speaks English, offers free wine tastings on certain days, and is eager to pass along his wine knowledge. For champagne, you might also check out Le Grand Epicerie, which is on the ground floor of Bon Marché.
9. Music Boxes
Music boxes that play French songs like La Vie en Rose or La Mer or music from an opera can be found at Boîte à Musique Anna Joliet at the Palais Royal. You can even have your music box engraved.
Where to Find Souvenirs
Seeking out these treasures can in themselves be part of your sightseeing experience.
- Fabric stores near Montmartre - 10 Rue de Steinkerque, Anvers Metro stop
- Ladurée - 75 Avenue des Champs Elysées, George V Metro stop
- Richard Lenoir Market near Opera Bastille - Blvd Richard-Lenoir, Bastille Metro stop
- Bouquinistes along the Seine - Quai de Montebello, Saint-Michel Metro stop
- FNAC - 26, Avenue Ternes, Ternes Metro stop
- Dernière Goutte - 6 Rue Bourbon Le Château, Mabillon Metro stop
- Le Grand Epicerie - 38, Rue de Sèvres, Vaneau Metro stop
- Boîte à Musique Anna Joliet at the Palais Royal - 9, Rue de Beaujolais, Bourse Metro stop