Market Day is an institution in France. In fact, markets are popular everywhere in Europe. Every French town and village has a market day, usually in the morning. Larger cities have daily markets that last all day. Locals shop for seasonal veggies and fruits, as well as other local specialties and delicacies. If you’re staying in a house or an apartment with a kitchen, shop like a local and cook with some delicious ingredients! Foodies will find some of the freshest produce from local farmers, meats, seafood, cheeses, olives, oils, honey and so many more delicacies to cook with and enjoy.
I love outdoor markets and bazaars. Yep, I am a shopping addict and if I can find a bargain I’m all in. French markets are the best place to purchase fun and inexpensive gifts and souvenirs to bring back home. Don’t be shy about haggling either, in fact it’s usually expected! Just be sure to bring an extra bag or suitcase to stash it all for the flight back, better yet buy a bag at the market!
One of my favorite markets in the South of France is in Valbonne, check out Market Day in Valbonne for more information.
Here are 15 awesome souvenirs to bring back from marchés in the South of France.
Before buying anything else, pick up an adorable and typically French basket tote. You now have a place to stash all of your purchases as you stroll through the market! Every market has a stall with baskets and you’ll end up using it for so many things. Use it for the beach or pool during your vacation, and then as a carry-on bag for the flight home.
Savon de Marseille soaps are famous in the South of France, you’ll find them everywhere. Milled in a variety of wonderful scents like lavender, citrus, vanilla, orange, and so many more, they make a fabulous gift for friends back home. FYI: the soaps are great for hand washing delicates, as an insect repellant (especially the citrus and lavender), and as sachets in lingerie drawers!
3. Table Linens
Pick up some beautiful table linens in traditional Provençal patterns. Or, buy fabric and sew your own. Both are ridiculously inexpensive at markets, especially when compared to what you would pay in the States for similar products. I have several tablecloths, placemats and sets of napkins that I have purchased at French markets. The best part is no one at home will have anything like them!
4. Kitchen Linens
Replace your old kitchen towels with some new ones with traditional Provençal motives, especially roosters. You’ll find them far cheaper at markets than in souvenir shops and they make fabulous hostess gifts for friends at home!
Every market has at least one stall selling leather goods. Pick up a new handbag, wallet, belt or jacket. Look around and compare prices though, some are better than others. I’ve found some great handbags throughout France!
6. Sun Hats
Sun hats are essential on the French Riviera. Pick one up at a market and use it during your trip while basking in the warm Riviera sun. Wear it on the plane home, just stash it in the overhead compartment so it doesn’t get crushed. I found the cutest hat in Antibes for €5!
Most markets will feature several stalls with local costume jewelry artists selling adorable earrings, bracelets and necklaces for you and your friends!
Leather shoes, sandals, espadrilles, sneakers…all are available at markets. In Fall and Winter you’ll even find cute leather boots and rain boots at great prices. I bought some inexpensive, comfortable espadrille flats at a market in Nice years ago and still wear them today!
9. Lavender Products
Lavender is THE scent in Provence and the South of France. Pick up some dried French lavender, lavender oil, or lotions and creams for your friends and yourself. It’s my favorite scent, so I stock up when I’m there!
Without a doubt, clothes are one of my favorite finds at French markets. I have found the cutest summer dresses and tops at markets in Nice and Valbonne. In Summer, there are so many stalls with adorable linen or cotton sun dresses, tops, skirts and pants. It’s impossible to buy only one item. Luckily, they are so inexpensive you don’t have to. Most of the dresses I have purchased cost no more than €15! In September, all of the Summer clothing is on sale and Fall clothing is also available…my favorite time to go!
Who can resist new dishes? Not me, it’s another one of my weaknesses. I have several bowls, butter dishes, plates, and platters from my French market adventures. All are hand painted by local artists and I love them. Bring back a cute nut dish or small platter if you don’t have a ton of room. Wrap it in some bubble wrap in your carry-on and you’re good to go!
Most markets have stalls selling local skincare products made with natural ingredients, especially olive oil and lavender. Pick up a new hand cream, moisturizer, or some bath gel. Friends at home will appreciate something new to pamper their skin with!
13. Spices, Herbs and Salts
As a foodie, spices and herbs are some of my favorite market finds. I always buy some Herbs de Provence when I’m in the South of France. One of my favorite finds is a local sea salt with Herbs de Provence mixed it…absolutely delicious on grilled meats and veggies. Flavored Mediterranean sea salts are always a great gift too!
Every French woman knows the art of dressing with a scarf. Stop by a market stall for a demonstration and pick up some scarves in beautiful patterns and fabrics for you and your BFF!
15. Olive Oil
Olive trees are abundant in the South of France and the area produces some of the most delicious olive oil in the world. Pick up a small bottle for yourself and some friends. Be sure to pack them in a ziplock bag and wrap in clothing to avoid breakage and oily clothes!
Next time you’re in France, head out on market days in the towns you will be visiting and pick up some souvenirs. Your friends and family will thank you!