Want to buy non-touristy souvenirs in Paris? Here are some places to check out. You can find stuff at a range of prices, a range of tastes, and a range of weights (important when you’re packing to head home).
Nalola, 51 rue Mouffetard, 75005
Nalola on the rue Mouffetard is one of my favorite places to pick up gifts for folks back in the US. The rue Mouffetard is one of the most touristy places in Paris. However, Nalola is not. They sell a ton of stuff that wouldn’t be obviously touristy at all and that is aimed more at French customers than at tourists. This includes stuff like:
- Coffee cups saying things like Chieuse 24/7/365 (pain in the ass 24/7/365), Pousse pas mémé dans les orties (don’t piss off mama), Les hommes sont comme les grenouilles, ils ne veulent que sauter (men are like frogs–they just want to “jump” [sauter is slang for having sex with someone])
- “3ème oeil” kitchen towels (famous picture of a cat’s butt)
Les Parisettes, 95 ave. Emile Zola, 75015
Les Parisettes mostly sells Eiffel-Tower-related stuff, but not the usual crappy little metal Eiffel Tower replicas and the like. Lots of historical stuff–period photos, stuff like that; some unusual guide books, mostly in French, but some with English translations; all in all, this stuff is more clearly touristy than the stuff that you’ll find at Nalola (see above) in that it’s almost entirely explicitly related to things in Parisian (versus the Nalola stuff, which is culturally French but not in a souvenir-y way at all), but it’s a big cut above the usual crap that you find in souvenir stores. There are a couple of locations, and I’ve only been to the one on Emile Zola, but I can vouch for it. (If anyone goes to the other one, let me know what you think…)
Shakespeare and Company, 37 rue de la Bûcherie, 75005
Shakespeare and Company is the best-known English-language bookstore in Paris. It has an interesting history and a great location–right across from the parvis of Notre Dame. What you want to do here is to buy a good book (as you can imagine, there’s a great selection of books about France and French history, for example) and then get it stamped when you buy it. This means that they put a “Shakespeare and Company” stamp on the title page. Few people will see it, but those who do will know that this is a super-cool Parisian souvenir. (They have other “personalization” options–one of them is spritzing your book with perfume.) Note that this place is super-popular, and if you come on a weekend during tourist season, you can expect to wait in line to get in.
Breizh Café, 111 rue Vieille du Temple, 75003
Caramel au beurre salé (salted butter caramel) is an excellent food souvenir. You can get them lots of places, at qualities ranging from average to really spectacular. The Breizh Café is a restaurant with a little store attached, and that little store is where I go to pick up good-quality caramel au beurre salé. Breizh means Brittany, and Brittany is where caramel au beurre salé originated. The restaurant is quite good, by the way, but it showed up in a popular tourist guide a while ago, and now you generally have to wait in line to get in. Another good option here would be a tin of crêpes dentelles, a sort of thin cookie that comes in a cool box (at Breizh Café, at any rate) with pictures of Breton girls in traditional dress on it. I mentioned really spectacular caramel au beurre salé: see David Lebovitz‘s web site for his current recommendations.