The Best Places to Find Shopping Deals & Sales
The French Riviera is an international destination for shopaholics and bargain hunters. It has a plethora of malls and markets, both indie and designer boutiques, jaw-droppingly expensive bags, hand-made one-offs, flea and food markets, and huge shopping sale events. High-heeled beauties and tanned locals alike buy their food and drink from colorful market stalls, then head on to these shops, jus-presse or espresso in hand. As these savvy shoppers know, you can find some great deals here, especially at shopping events (see below). Whatever your shopping passion is, you’ll find the cream of the crop in the French Riviera.
The marketplaces of Monaco, boutiques of Cannes et al, are the heart of their respective cities, but some villages have more boutiques than year-round residents — but their wares are rarely compelling. Traditional handicrafts have all but died out. Every town east of the Rhône has at least one gift shop specializing in Provençal-style printed-fabric skirts, bags, blankets, tablecloths, pillows, and scarves — but almost none are handmade locally anymore. The same shops usually also sell dried lavender pot-pourris, sachets of herbes de Provence (thyme and bay leaves) and Marseille soaps.
In 1640, Armenian merchants introduced Indian textiles at the port of Marseilles. In 1686, after an influx of imported fabrics (then known as “painted cloth”) from India flooded the French marketplaces, Louis XIV banned imports of Indian cottons, in an attempt to protect the French silk industry. Clever entrepreneurs responded by producing imitations still known today as indiennes, which are now widely associated with Provence. Today, Les Olivades (founded in 1818) is the only company left standing to continue this tradition. Their textiles are printed in Provence (by board, the old-fashioned way), then washed and dried in the neighboring meadow.
While Provençal items and local gourmet specialties are favorites at shops and markets, luxurious shopping malls can also be found littered along the region. Big name French and Italian designers and purveyors of luxury goods have boutiques in Cannes, Monaco, and Nice, and in the villages perchés, from Eze to St-Paul-de-Vence, at least a million artists wait to sell you their works.
Shopping on the French Riviera requires some local knowledge to find the best boutiques and sales. If you come prepared you’ll find plenty of unique items on the French Riviera that you can’t get in other places. Here are the best places to get your shop on:
French Flea Markets (Vide-Grenier)
Europe doesn’t do Garage Sales, preferring neighborhood flea markets, known as Vide-Greniers, which literally means “empty your attic”. Each village usually does one or two a year, spring and fall, and each family fills a table with all manner of fascinating finds, from the most hilarious junk to the most interesting antiques.
The prices at these bric-a-brac free-for-all’s are a fraction of the prices at weekly antique markets, and bargaining is the way to go… if you don’t speak French, start with ‘bonjour‘ and a smile, then just point and use the calculator on your smartphone to make your offer!
Food, Flower, Artisan & Antique Markets
The markets in the Old Towns of the French Riviera are basically the beating heart of each town. They are lively places where locals get their daily produce and say “Bonjour!” to their neighbors, while eager tourists look on, curious about the daily activities of the locals, and try to catch the feel of daily Riviera life.
Those of you with a sweet of tooth will find the Côte d’Azur to be your kind of heaven. Nearly every town has its own specialty: candied fruits in Nice, nougats in Vence, marrons glacés in Collobrières, orange-flavored chocolates called grimaldines in Cagnes, and creamy tartes tropéziennes in St-Tropez.
Check out our guide to the best French Riviera markets so you’ll know which markets to shop at for the specific items you want — and which to avoid.
La Grande Braderie – Sale Event
Once a year, each major city in France holds a massive sale called La Grande Braderie. Clothes and accessories from the town’s boutiques will fill the streets. Racks and tables will help to sell fashion apparel, accessories, decoration, etc. at deep discounts.
The most famous Grand Braderie on the French Riviera is in Saint Tropez, where the designer shops gather for the biggest shopping event on the French Riviera. Check out Iconic Riviera’s guide to this year’s La Grande Braderie in Saint Tropez.
Luxury Shopping in Monaco’s Shopping Centers
If you’re bound for Monaco in search of bargains, I’m going to have to disappoint you. True, there are a few ‘affordable’ shops in the Condamine/Port district. But key Monaco shops (mostly in Monte-Carlo’s Cercle d’Or district around Place du Casino) clothe, bejewel and otherwise complement the costliest bodies on the planet. Still, if you look hard enough you can find occasional deals. Check out our guide to shopping centers in Monaco.
Shop the Streets of Cannes
Our favorite city for shopping is Cannes, because of the outdoor setting, the sheer number of stores, and the mix of both cool indie fashion labels, mid-range aspirational brands, and high-end fashion houses. A true slice of Parisian elegance and opulence on the Côte d’Azur, Cannes keeps in well-heeled step with the most sought after high-end retail shopping districts in the world.
The compact center of town makes it perfect for a short stopover, as you can take in all the most prestigious shopping precincts within an entirely walkable area. So serious are they about their luxury retail culture that Cannes dedicates an entire festival to it every year, in spring – with four fashion filled days of haute couture shows, entertainment and a slew of other related events. The ‘Cannes Shopping Festival’ is held every spring in March or April and the ‘Sales and the City’ shopping festival is held each January. Our events calendar has all the details.
Discover Cannes’ unmistakable glamour and opulence through the city’s best places to shop: Check out our guide to shopping in Cannes.