Souvenirs from ParisImages courtesy of Marvin Shaouni, Cesarastudilo, Quinn.Anya

Just like any other major city, Paris has its fair share of kitschy souvenirs on offer. Indeed, the word souvenir itself is French. And I’ll be the first to admit that I still have the mini Eiffel tower that my best friend brought back for me years ago. In recent trips, however, I haven’t looked twice at the knickknacks on display all over the city. Instead, when the time comes for me to return home from Paris – as it did earlier this month – my suitcase is packed with a different species of souvenirs to enjoy back on American soil. And they basically all have to do with food.

Sel de GuerandeSel de Guérande – Fritish

Sel de Guérande. This sea salt, collected off of the shores of Brittany, is hailed by many. Both the sel gros (coarse salt) and fleur de sel (fine top layer) are astonishingly less expensive in France than in the US. My last morning in Paris, I woke up to beautiful sunshine and hopped on a Vélib’ to pick up my very own 1 kilo bag of the sel gros from M. Dion at the Marché Richard Lenoir, near Bastille. Thanks to David Lebovitz for the tip!

Moutarde de Dijon. “Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?” Nope – but I do have Maille, and at just over 1€ per jar at Monoprix, it’s another example of an item considered high end in the States but standard in France. Great for homemade vinaigrettes or even just for dipping your French fries as the natives do.

Cheese. Do I have to elaborate? Wrap it tight and bury it deep in your checked luggage to get it through tricky customs. Many fromageries in Paris will even vacuum-pack it for the trans-Atlantic voyage. This time, my choice import was a wedge of Napoléon, a mild yet flavorful sheep’s milk cheese from Corsica purchased from a fromagerie on the rue Rambuteau.

Cheese - Maggie BattistaMaggie Battista –

Metric measuring cup. While the rest of the world uses the oh-so-logical metric system, we Americans are stuck with our clumsy cups and ounces. How confusing! My verre mesureur from la Vaissellerie allows me to make all those recipes I picked up in France back here at home. My mother was delighted to receive one as a birthday gift after a past trip, and promptly put hers to good use making a Patricia Wells molten chocolate dessert recipe. Yum!

Crêpe spreader. This T-shaped wooden implement is used by crêperies across the city. I picked mine up in the housewares section of Galéries Lafayette, though you can even get them in the US at specialty stores such as Sur la Table.

Nivea cream. My favorite moisturizer to soothe my poor hands – after all, there are a lot of dishes to be washed once I’ve put all my delightful French ingredients to good use!

Having these items in my home makes me feel like I’m not quite so far away… and lets me share my Parisian life with my friends and family back in the US. They also keep me looking forward to my next séjour in the City of Light – a nice feeling. What are the souvenirs of Paris that you simply can’t do without?

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Written by Sarah Raymond for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.


Sarah Raymond

Sarah is a native New Yorker and lifelong Francophile. After starting her career at Haven in Paris, Sarah went off to hone her business skills at Darden and BCG before racing back to startup land. These days she runs operations at Context Travel as their Global Program Director, where she’s based out of NYC and spends as much time as possible traveling back to Paris, on the hunt for the best French cheeses!


  1. Hi, I’m from Germany and that’s where the Nivea Creme comes from. Maybe you think it’s french because of the name, it sounds a little bit like niveau.
    I really enjoy this blog. Simone

  2. Great suggestions; wish I’d had them before our recent trip! I had good luck on the housewares floor of Marche St. Pierre in Montmartre: tea towels, pillow covers, a sweet laundry bag…all made in France and each less than 5 euros. I also found great things in the basement of BHV (that amazing hardware department!): I bought myself a leather journeyman’s shoulder bag that has gotten approving murmurs from all sorts of people, all of whom are surprised that it’s not some sort of designer bag.

  3. Kathleen – great tip! Thanks a bunch. Always happy for an excuse to visit our friendly neighbors to the north.

  4. Dijon moutarde is hard to find and expensive in the US because there is a tariff on it.
    Plentiful everywhere in Canada, though.

  5. My daughter brought me back an empty Nutella jar with a plastic lid. Empty you say? Yes, because it makes a perfect jar for mixing and storing salad dressing.

  6. Kathy – that’s adorable! I love that idea. I bet your guests do too.

    I have to also agree with the honey, though we have a close family friend here in the US who is a beekeeper so I am very partial to what he gives us. But chocolate, macarons, all that… oui oui oui! I carefully carried back a box of 15 Pierre Hermé macarons this past trip, but the transport was difficult and they did get a bit crumbly, so I decided not to mention them.

    I’m ashamed to say I have never tried Mariage Frères tea; but have always wanted to. It will be on my list for next time!

  7. This is going to sound silly but I always bring back wrapped sugar cubes and sugar packets from Paul Bakery (I don’t take sugar in my coffee but always take a few with my order so I can spirit them away). My husband’s name is Paul and he is the best home barista I know, so I like to treat our guests to Paul-brand sugar Chez Paul!

    I’m definitely going to go for the Sel de Guérande and metric measuring cups… thanks Sarah!

  8. Absolutely – I only ever brought back food from Paris to people at home! Sweet things mostly – chocolate, macaroons etc but I don’t think I explored gourmet foodstuffs as well as I could have during my time there.

  9. I love your list and I would add honey because there are so many varieties we don’t have here in the US. Mariage Freres tea, because it costs too much in the US. Any good handmade chocolate that doesn’t come from a French chain. And, finally, chocolate molds from Mora.

  10. Yes — I’m such a sucker for all the stuff that is everyday normal there but something special to me. The pharmacies are a treasure trove!

  11. Love the blog, love the ideas, and my resolve is strong to bring back cheese from the “promised land” next time 😉

    Whenever I go I hit those pharmacies with the little neon-green crosses (pretty much on every street) because it’s like a Disneyland for the beauty-product obsessed. Roger & Gallet creams and soaps, weird lotions and incredible eye-creams; it’s all good and largely unavailable in the U.S.

  12. It’s so interesting to see how our go-to souvenirs evolve as we get to know a place better. My can’t-go-home-without item is Labello lip balm (and Caudalie lip balm when I want to spurge).

  13. Great list! I remember on my first trip to France, I brought back cheese as well. Except I was new to the whole cheese thing and didn’t realize the type of cheese I was bringing back, we had in the states! I’m learning!!!

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