Where To Buy Local French Goods
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 first introduced Indian-printed textiles at the port of Marseilles. They were so incredibly popular that 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.
Unlike textiles, the Cote d’Azur has many locally-made gourmet food items. 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, lemon-flavored delicacies in Menton, and creamy ‘tartes tropéziennes’ in St-Tropez.
You’ll find these gourmet treats in various local shops, as well as in some of the local markets. That said, it’s important to know which markets are good, and which are mostly selling junk made in China. 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.
While Provençal items and local gourmet specialties are favorites at shops and markets, luxurious shopping malls can also be found littered along the region. While they don’t sell locally-made items, you can still find items made by French and Italian designers in 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. Happy shopping!