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Markets in France: Tips to maximize your shopping experience

No matter where or at what time of year you find yourself in France, there is always some amazing shopping to be done at markets across the country. From Paris to Provence, these street markets are veritable treasure troves of wonderful food, great clothes, furniture, antiques, kitchen ware, and almost anything else you could want or imagine. Depending on what region you are shopping in, you’ll find regional specialties—like cheeses and wines, local wares (like porcelain in Limoges), antique crafts, clothes and so much more.

My childhood friend and frequent traveler to France, Gillian Hannagan, would often return from her annual summer trips to France with a suitcase full of great goodies from the markets. She always seemed to have the uncanny ability to snag the best of the best at all the markets. That’s why I decided to let Gillian lend her expertise and share her tips for having a successful shopping trip at a French market. Here is what Miss Hannagan had to say:

Gillian’s Tips for Market Shopping

  • Bring a basket, or plan on buying one there so you can comfortably hold everything you buy.
  • Do a walk around before purchasing anything since several merchants have similar products. You want to be able to find the best of what you want and the best prices.
  • Definitely take advantage of being able to test the fruit, cheese and olives before purchasing. No one wants to end up with a huge wheel of cheese you don’t like.
  • Plan on eating lunch there. You can always find pizza vans with delicious pizza there or you can buy a baguette, cheese, meats etc. for all the makings of a great little picnic.
  • Go earlier rather than later so that parking is not as difficult. In fact, a good tip is to park in a supermarche nearby. There is typically always one near a market and you can walk to the market from the parking lot. This way you won’t be fighting for a spot with the other market goers and vendors.

Gillian also always seemed to come back with some really cute clothes she found for next to nothing at the markets. I asked her about her strategy for finding great clothes amid all of the other items.

Gillian: “Well, there are no tips to be honest. I mean, the merchants have all the clothes out…and there is no tip in finding the good ones. You just have to be patient and look through everything to be honest. What is great is that you often run into GREAT clothing and shoe stores in small towns while at market because you spend so much time walking around the entire town, so your shopping choices increase. I also wouldn’t do shoes at a market…but the clothes are very cute…you can always try on stuff in the merchants van too.”