The sellers who trade in little boxes along La Seine in the east of Paris are such a part of history that they have their own name: Les Bouquinistes. There are so many such vendors that the Seine is often described as ‘the only river in the world that runs between two bookshelves.’ Trading vintage books, posters, and black and white postcards, it’s the ideal place to pick up some authentic memorabilia that will last a lifetime and look great on any wall back home.
Angelina is a famous tearoom where Proust and Coco Chanel alike sampled the divine hot chocolate and exquisite patisseries. Since then it has developed a reputation for its hot chocolate, which is silky, rich and luxurious; so good that it goes on many people’s Paris to-do list. If you’ve sampled it and loved it, or if you’re yet to try it, go pick up a bottle of the glorious, ready-made chocolate in the delicatessen. For only a few euros, a bottle is the perfect gift to take home and pour out when you’re feeling a little nostalgic, or to give to loved ones, if you can bear to part with it, that is.
Paris is, after all, one of the fashion capitals, so what better way to remember this than by picking up the latest copy of Vogue or Elle in French from one of the hundreds of kiosks situated around the city. You might not make any sense of what’s written on its pages unless you speak fluent French, but the pictures will be marvelous, and people are sure to be impressed when they see it among the pile of standard TV Guides on your coffee table back home.
Chocolate is always a good idea, but chocolate bought in Paris? One of the best ideas ever. Parisians take chocolate seriously, and while each of the numerous shops offers different products, one thing that they all have in common is that their delicacies are absolutely delicious. For a taste of modern luxury on your tongue, head to Jean-Paul Hévin, recognized as one of the top chocolatiers in Paris; his chocolates are sure to provoke at least a momentary glance of admiration before they’re eaten. If traditional is more your thing, À la Mère de la Famille is the oldest chocolatier in Paris. The name is a great reflection of the products on offer; the shop is crammed with simple, rustic chocolatey goodies, perfect for the whole family.
Visiting a Parisian pharmacy is almost a right of passage, as they are stocked with as many goodies as the chocolate shops. While the goodies may not be edible, many women and men alike profess that the products inside are life changing. Fashion and beauty bloggers alike come to Paris with long lists of pharmacy souvenirs to take home. Follow in their footsteps and treat yourself to a few bits, and take that ‘Parisian glow’ of spotless skin, shiny hair, and healthy nails home with you.
While coffee still dominates, herbal tea is a big deal in Paris, with Parisiennes especially latching on to the health benefits it is said to offer. Mariage Frères is the most accredited seller, as it is the oldest and has built up a reputation over time. However, this reputation will cost you; don’t be surprised if you see 100g costing you 100 euros or more. For those of you who wouldn’t place that much value on tea leaves, Kusmi Tea is also a widely used tea brand in Paris, and there are stores in most areas. The packaging is fun and the teas taste great; what’s more, they are much cheaper and can be picked up in most supermarkets for those last-minute gifts.
Sophisticated and romantic, red wine is drunk on any occasion by the French, and if you are to believe the claim that ‘the French make the best wine,’ then what better place to pick up a bottle (or two… or three… or four) than in the capital? You can purchase a variety of wines in supermarkets in Paris, but unless you are a wine connoisseur and know exactly what to select, it’s best to head where a bit of advice can be obtained. There are Nicolas shops across Paris, and as most of the staff speak English, you stand more than a good chance of picking up a decent bottle even if you have no clue where to start.
Don’t judge too quickly; these little things can be sweet mementoes to give as gifts or even to keep yourself. Pick them up from street sellers as opposed to shops for the lowest prices, as it’s not uncommon to get a few for under a euro. If you’re intent on having something a bit more personal, the shops offer a wider selection of colors, which look very dainty tied onto a bit of ribbon and left to swing from your keys. A key ring is a quaint, albeit cliché, reminder of your time in Paris.
If you just can’t bring yourself to cave to the clichés of wine, chocolates, and key rings, go to a flea market and get your hands on a one-off piece of Parisian history. Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen is perfect for those who love exploring and trying something new, as it’s not only the prettiest place to spend an authentic Parisian day, but also a treasure trove, with all manner of quirky and unique souvenirs; things which will remind you of your Parisian trip for years to come.
Marché aux Puces de St Ouen, 138/140 Rue des Rosiers, Saint-Ouen, France +33 1 40 11 77 36