“What should I bring home from Paris?”
The question of the right gifts from Paris inevitably pops up in your mind once you’re done juggling with your Parisian agenda, visited the iconic spots, figured out the Louvre, and stuffed your face with bread, cheese, and macaroons. Now it’s time to think about Parisian souvenirs for friends and family.
You’re not going to treat yours to an Eiffel Tower tat, are you? Fancy pastries probably won’t survive your flight/train back. It’s also likely that you are already avoiding souvenirs traps shops around Montmartre and Champs-Elysées. And sure, browsing cute little concept stores in the Marais or along the Canal Saint-Martin is a great experience, but sometimes you just need to buy something quickly—something cool, original, and authentically Parisian.
Monoprix to the rescue
There is a place where Parisians get their groceries, wine, homeware, clothing, toiletries, books, make-up… everything. It’s called Monoprix.*
While it’s not the only shop to pick up great Parisian souvenirs, it certainly is the place to get Parisian things the way Parisians do.
Jump to the awesome gifts or read a bit more about Monoprix first.
Real-Life Parisian Shopping
Any Parisian could tell you about “their” baker, butcher, hairdresser, and Monoprix. These convenience stores are an institution in France, and a real success story.
Monoprix was born in 1932, when France had just begun to recover from the global financial crash of 1929. Inspired by the US one-price stores with high-quality products at a low price, it immediately became a hit.
Today, however, Monoprix is far more than that. It’s a trendy city market that prides itself on being close to the clients—those city dwellers who like shopping on the go, fresh produce, and smaller packages. A study even showed that people who shop at Monoprix are thinner than clients of other convenience stores.
This new identity was built in the 1960s, to help Monoprix stand out from the hypermarkets in the suburbs. Now the chain values pleasure over low prices, and claims that its raison d’être is to bring “a pinch of surprise in your everyday life.”
Made in France… Made in Monoprix
Monoprix sells a large array of brands, including its own lines which are a great bang for your buck in terms of gift shopping.
Food-wise, Monoprix has an upscale grocery brand Monoprix Gourmet—which you should definitely check out if you’re looking for foodie gifts from Paris—, and an organic brand Monoprix Bio, surfing on the increasing interest of the French in sustainable products. However, for a larger choice of organic food, dedicated stores like Naturalia are better.
Monoprix clothing is the secret weapon of the “chic Parisian women” (cliché, we know, but it’s still alive). It’s simple, efficient, and cute. Every year, they bring out a few collaborations with small—or not-so-small, think Alexis Mabille or Antik Batik—designers, offering capsule collections of sustainable fashion or homeware. The guest stars of fall 2017 are the local French brands Manoush and Make My Lemonade.
Finally, any Monoprix store features a great parapharmacy section—without even speaking of a separate brand under the same umbrella, Beauty Monop’. It-girls shop there (right Garance Doré?)
The Right Gifts from Paris to Shop at Monoprix
Would you agree that the formula for a great Parisian souvenir is “yummy/pretty (or both) + tasteful + not too large + a zest of je-ne-sais-quoi-French”? That last secret ingredient is about treating little everyday things with love… and some humour.
So, what are the truly French things you could get from Monoprix?**
- Maille mustards. Mustard is in the top 3 most consumed condiments in France, after salt and pepper. Maille is one of the oldest French mustard brands. If you are a mustard aficionado, you might want to stop by Maille’s Parisian shop. Still, Monoprix already offers a decent selection of flavours.
- Salts, and particularly fleur de sel—the fine, hand-harvested gourmet sea salt with delicate flavour. Those from the regions of Guérande, Noirmoutiers and Camargue are the best.
- Menier baking chocolate. This 200-years-old brand—today owned by Nestlé—started by selling chocolate-based medicine in Paris. It was back in 1816. (Now you want to go back in time and get sick, don’t you?). It was also Menier who invented the very first chocolate tablet. This image of a little girl writing on a wall with a piece of chocolate is iconic.
- Lentils from Puy. Whaaaat? What kind of Parisian souvenir is that? Well, the kind that you’ll find in every French kitchen. These little green-grey lentils don’t turn into mush when cooked. They also have a great minerally-peppery flavour, thanks to the volcanic soil of Puy—the region where they’ve been grown for over 2,000 years.
- Foie gras. Needless to present. Go for it if you’re not sentimental about birds. It’s sold all year round, especially in November and December. It’s a staple of the French Christmas meal. Duck foie gras is cheaper and has a coarser taste than the goose one. The best format is a “whole” (entier). A “bloc” contains less foie and more water. You want to aim for a product with 75% or more foie gras. The Frenchiest way to serve it is with a drop of fig jam or onion confit. Both are usually sold next to foie gras or to cheese.
- Speculoos spread. Speculoos are Belgian ginger-flavoured cookies that you sometimes get in Paris with your coffee. Move over, Nutella!
- Chestnut cream. Coming in a can or in a tube, Clément Faugier chestnut spread is a must-try for anyone with a sweet tooth. Never tried it? Get a crêpe crème de marron from the next crêpes truck, as you wander through Paris.
Skincare and beauty products
- Le Petit Marseillais Extra Pur soap, for its famous traditional formula straight from the fragrant Provence. It’s made with olive oil, and the recipe hasn’t changed since 1924.
- Drugstore beauty products from cult mid-range brands like La Roche-Posay, Avène, Nuxe, Caudalie, Vichy, Bioderma, Klorane, Embryoliss. But who are we kidding, if you are shopping in this aisle, you are probably after gifts from Paris for yourself.
- Bourjois make-up, a Parisian-born affordable beauty classic.
- Washed linen bedsheets
- Dishware. Monoprix features several designers’ mini-collections of tableware every year. It’s mostly everyday stuff, but the kind you have no problem exhibiting before guests.
- Pretty notebooks. The French love fine paper, pens, and envelops. Of course, there are some amazing stationery shops in Paris. But Monoprix is a sure-fire quick fix for your Moleskine cravings.
Here you go! Any perfect gifts from Paris that we forgot? Share you personal Monoprix favorites in the comments!
*We have no affiliation with Monoprix. We didn’t get a single coupon for this article!
** It’s always worth checking the website of your home country’s customs agency for the rules about what gifts from Paris you can and can’t bring back home.