Southern France is a shopping Mecca. If you have money to spend, you’ll find plenty of glitzy stores in Cannes, Nice, Saint-Tropez, and the like. But for the budget-minded, the South of France may be a place to avoid. It doesn’t have to be, though. Here are a few tips and tricks for travelers looking to pick up the best styles without busting the budget.
Shopping in Southern France
Shop at Local Markets
Air-conditioned designer stores are nice for those with a fat wallet, but most of us will compromise the fancy display for the better price tag. Most (if not all) Southern French towns and cities have markets. Here you’ll find not only fruits and veggies, but also significantly cheaper versions of designer trends.
Just make sure you check the opening days and times, as most markets are morning-only (take-down starting around 12:30pm).
Find the Less Touristy Towns
While it may be fun to stroll down the Rue d’Antibes in Cannes, you are much more likely to find a deal in cities like Toulon or Marseille, where there is less focus on tourism. You will see many more French tourists here than internationals. Neither of these cities is flashy like Saint-Tropez, but there are nonetheless plenty of beaches and shopping spots.
Toulon in particular is known for its very affordable Cours Lafayette Market, which sells everything from flowers to comestibles to clothing.
Open every morning except Monday, 7:30-12:30.
Best Times to Shop
It’s important to keep in mind that France is a Catholic country. You are not likely to find many stores open on Sundays, though during high tourist seasons like summer and New Years some stores may open with limited hours. It’s also common for stores to close during the lunch hour (midday to 2pm), and stores in smaller towns may stay closed on Monday mornings. Regardless, Sundays and Mondays are best avoided when planning shopping excursions.
A good way to avoid the touristy crowd is to keep in mind when the cruise ships are at port.
Some larger, more popular destinations like Nice and Marseille will likely have ships docked almost every day, but if you can plan to do your shopping in the late afternoon (say, the last two hours before closing time) you might be able to skirt the cruise ship crowd.
What Can’t You Get at Home?
You’re in France, not at home. So don’t buy things you could get at home.
Track down the local boutiques and avoid the chain stores if you can help it. In Avignon, the Rue des 3 Faucons boasts a collection of small boutiques, often owned by the clothing designers themselves. The clothing here, while on the more expensive side, is unique. You would not find it online or in a department store. And that distinction may make it worth the price.
Spot the Fad
It’s every shopper’s nightmare to make a big purchase only to discover upon returning that it has gone out of style already, or is made so cheaply that it didn’t survive the voyage home.
First, check the label:
avoid manmade fabrics such as polyester, and keep an eye out for unlined blazers or skirts or overly shiny jewelry or materials.
These are indicators of cheaply made clothes. Where is it made? If it says somewhere like China or Thailand, chances are it’s cheap.
Second, if you have some time, do shopping research.
Browse French fashion magazines to see what’s hot and what’s not. Keep your eyes peeled for fashion trends: who’s wearing what? If you see mostly teenagers wearing crop-tops and you’d like to look like a 30-something professional, don’t buy a crop-top.
Third, and most importantly, buy what you like and what’s comfortable for you.
There are plenty of unique but versatile pieces to be found in Southern France, so if you like it, buy it and wear it with confidence!
Making Room in Your Suitcase
When packing for your trip, keep in mind that you’ll be buying clothes while you’re there. Instead of packing one outfit per day, keep a couple open days for outfits you’ll buy while you’re in France. Alternatively, wear older clothes on the plane that you don’t mind chucking when you arrive. Out with the old and in with the new!
All photos taken by author, used with permission.
Please visit these pages for more inspiration on traveling to France:
- What To Wear In Paris: Packing The Perfect Wardrobe
- French Fashion Blogger Shows Us What To Wear In Paris In Winter
Hope you enjoyed this post on how to stay under budget shopping in Southern France. Please share it with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Thanks for reading!
Hayley Swinson is an avid reader, writer, and adventure-seeker. She is the founder of Savvy Girl Travel , a cultural-travel site for solo female travelers, launching in mid-September. She is also finishing her MSc in Creative Writing at Edinburgh University. Follow her adventures on Twitter: @savvygirltravel and Facebook: facebook.com/savvygirltravel