Where to buy artisanal souvenirs in Paris
Put that Eiffel Tower key-ring down, now.
Atmospheres in this tip:
Look at this image, and then forget it completely! Don't get sucked into purchasing the same tacky souvenirs as nearly every one of the 32.3 million tourists that visit Paris each year. These include, but aren't limited to: plastic Eiffel Tower key-rings, novelty berets, snow globes, "I <3 Paris" t-shirts and Moulin Rouge magnets.
Instead, make your trip truly memorable with some artisanal souvenirs made in France, and even the Paris region itself
Food & Drink
Pass by any charcuterie (delicatessen) or food market and you'll see a mouth-watering selection of dried meats, some hanging above the counter, some laid out behind the glass. France has a great selection of saucisson (dried salted sausage), with most regions having their own recipes. Lyon is particularly reputed for its dried meats. As long as you can hold back from a slice for yourself, they make excellent gifts to take home.
Taking cheese home is a risky business, and in certain countries you aren't even allowed. If you do decide to import (legally) some back home, you'll be needing some strong and sturdy Tupperware. There are two bries that are made in the Paris region: brie de Meaux and brie de Melun. Otherwise there is Chaource, a soft and creamy cow's milk cheese, made 2 hours from central Paris. Pop in to any fromagerie or cheese stall to find your perfect fromage - don't be afraid to ask, cheese-mongers generally enjoy sharing their knowledge!
The Paris region isn't famous for producing great quality wine, although there are actually over a hundred working vineyards, including a handful in the city itself. There's a list here (in French). Otherwise, if you don't mind a souvenir from elsewhere in France, you have some of the best wine-producing regions in the world to choose from.
But you don't have to stick to wine. Break the cliché and bring back a beer souvenir! In the last couple of years, we've seen more and more micro-distilleries pop up in Paris, and beer is started to gain appreciation as more than just an afterwork pint. Go to the BapBap brewery in the 11th arrondissement, the Gallia brewery in Pantin, or the Goutte d'Or brewery in the 18th and take home some 100% made-in-Paris beer.
Not for consumption
If food and drink risks getting consumed/taken off you at the airport, opt for a more diet-friendly souvenir. A painting from Paris (no, not of the Eiffel Tower, please) is a lovely keepsake. We recommend staying away from the cliché painters up in Montmartre on the Place du Tertre. Instead, why not sign yourself up for a short painting class in the city and make your own memory! Or, check out the dates of a local "portes ouvertes", when artists from specific neighborhoods open their doors and let visitors see their galleries (in the hope they'll buy something).
An extra special gift comes in a little box... jewellery! Paris is overflowing with not just famous designers, but also lots of artisanal boutiques which sell hand-made pieces produced by local artists. Toumain, near République, make their pieces at the back of the shop, for example. Other artisanal jewellers we have only good things to say about include Sur les Toits de Paris for their fun but chic designs, and Adeline Affre for her understated but absolutely gorgeous pieces.
If you're lacking inspiration, we recommend having a wander round some of Paris' concept stores, which often feature artisanal products made in France. We love French Touche in the 17th arrondissement for its trinkets and touch-friendly attitude, and La Fausse Boutique in the 10th which is great for inexpensive discoveries. Les Fleurs (75012) is a must-visit for girly girls who'll be overwhelmed by their selection of goodies.
Is that plastic Eiffel Tower key-ring looking a little less shiny and appealing now?