Towns and cities - the perfect shopping destinations
What could be more relaxing than strolling along narrow streets, window shopping in front of chic stores, and sitting on the terrace of a café watching the world go by?
As France is the land of fashion. Every town and city is home to top boutiques housing the most prestigious French and international brands, as well as stores showcasing new, young and ultra-trendy designers. Also of interest are the many smaller shops, dotted here and there, which offer a range of local arts and crafts, as well as gastronomic specialities.
Symbols of France's haute-couture image, interior design boutiques, prestigious brands and fashion shows showcasing major collections bear witness to an exceptional level of expertise and a tradition of high-quality products still created in workshops around the country. Whether you're on the lookout for haute couture, perfume, jewellery, contemporary collections, vintage fashions, a complete outfit or charming accessories, a stroll through the heart of Paris or the country's larger cities will reveal famous names in their very best light.
Around the world, when people think of France, they invariably think of fashion. Throughout the country, a seemingly limitless number of stores selling the very best in French clothing, shoes and accessories are plentiful. In our major cities, 'ready-to-wear' items and affordable brands are all readily available in large department stores (Printemps, Galeries Lafayettes, Bon Marché, etc) and charming boutiques, where there's something to suit every style: young, sporty, trendy, ethnic or a more traditional look. In a nutshell, these are the perfect places to refine your look or create a brand new one. Also worthy of mention are factory outlets, first established in France in the 1980s, which sell brand name products directly to customers at knockdown prices with the prime aim of clearing excess stock, and end-of-stock items (mainly in the clothing sector). The best-known factory outlets are located in Troyes, Roubaix, Roman and Cholet.
Flea markets and second-hand goods markets
Antique-hunters can explore the large flea markets located on the outskirts of the capital at the Porte de Vanves and the Porte de Saint-Ouen. Magnificent collectors' items can also be found in the chic boutiques of the Louvre des Antiquaires. Another Parisian speciality are the "bouquinistes" along the banks of the Seine, with stalls selling old books, comic strips, postcards and many other bargains, making this area a pleasant place for a stroll. Second-hand markets can be found across the country, with some such as the "Grande Braderie" in Lille reaching epic proportions.
Arts and crafts and local gastronomic specialities
You can't visit one of France's towns, cities or regions without taking a gift home for your family and friends, or even just for yourself! Local produce and handicrafts are now all the rage, with their focus on sustainable development. Take your pick from a multitude of gastronomic specialities (luxury items, savoury, sweet or spicy treats, top wines) or arts and crafts (basketwork, enamel, lace, as well as luxury items such as silk, porcelain and crystal glass). Each one could be a perfect souvenir of the French way of life.