SHOPPING - Insight Guides: Explore Nice & the French Riviera (Insight Explore Guides) (2015)

Insight Guides: Explore Nice & the French Riviera (Insight Explore Guides) (2015)


As much as for sightseeing, the French Riviera is a great shopping destination, whether you are after designer fashion, the right look for the beach or regional arts and crafts.

Small individual shops and markets remain an essential part of the French lifestyle, although very touristy locations, such as St-Paul-de-Vence, have been taken over almost entirely by souvenir shops and arts-and-crafts galleries. Chic boutiques selling ultra-smart clothes and accessories at ultra-expensive prices abound in all the fashionable coastal resorts and large towns, while all along the coast you will find plenty of crafts workshops displaying a tempting array of top-quality original gifts with affordable price tags (for the most part). Sales take place in January and July and last for five weeks.


Fragrant lavender

Sylvaine Poitau/Apa Publications


As France’s fifth city, Nice offers everything from classic French designer fashion to cheap-and-cheerful teen styles. There are several distinct shopping districts. Smart clothes and designer labels are concentrated in the New Town along avenue de Suède, avenue de Verdun and rue Paradis, and hot young designers on rue Alphonse Karr. Rue de France and rue Masséna contain more mainstream chainstores, as does avenue Jean Médecin, home to the Centre Étoile shopping centre and practical supermarket Monoprix. Vieux Nice tends towards new-agey clothes, craft jewellery and souvenirs.

In Cannes, for diamond necklaces and haute-couture evening dresses suitable for walking up the steps during the Film Festival, try the prestigious boutiques clustered on boulevard de la Croisette. Younger styles, such as Zadig & Voltaire and Italian labels Missoni and Patrizia Pepe, can be found beside more mass-market chains and plenty of glitz on rue d’Antibes. Rue Meynadier, near the Marché Forville, is lined with cheaper outlets for casual wear and beachgear.

Monaco also abounds in designer labels, albeit of a more conservative bent than those in Cannes. Monaco’s ‘golden rectangle’ is around the place du Casino, rue des Beaux Arts and the upmarket Galerie du Métropole; more boutiques can be found on avenue Princesse Grace and boulevard des Moulins.

Reflecting its starlet-and-villager dichotomy, St-Tropez’s outlets range from designer labels like Dior to home-grown Atelier Rondini’s Tropézienne gladiator-style sandals made since 1927 to casual yachting wear.

There are plenty of good clothes shops in Vieux Antibes, although here the style is more understated chic; think the nautical style of Blanc Bleu and handcrafted jewellery.


Colourful Biot glassware

Sylvaine Poitau/Apa Publications

For the beach

Swimwear and beachgear can be a good buy all along the coast, especially at summer sale time. Most resorts have a wide range of swimsuits, sunhats and flipflops. For men and boys, true chic is St-Tropez’s Villebrequin brand, with three boutiques in St-Tropez and outlets in Nice, Cannes and Monaco.


Pearls for sale in Monaco

Sylvaine Poitau/Apa Publications


Souvenirs run the gamut from clichéd pottery cicadas, herb mills with olive sprig motifs, and colourful Provençal print fabrics, to genuine craft pottery such as tians (baking dishes) and authentic basketware. Many towns, like Antibes, Bormes-les-Mimosas and Villefranche-sur-Mer, have summer craft markets that typically sell soaps, bags, pottery and jewellery. Èze has plenty of tourist tack, but you will also find attractive olive-wood bowls and chopping boards just inside the Posterne gate, and high-quality art galleries and potteries in Vieux Vence, notably on rue de l’Evêché and rue Henri Isnard. Near Antibes, Vallauris is home to countless art potteries, while Biot is known for its handblown bubble glass.

Perfumes can be a good buy in Grasse, where boutiques such as Fragonard sell their own scents and beauty products at factory prices. Look out also for the artisanal soaps and bath products made by the Savonnerie de Bormes in Bormes-les-Mimosas.


The Riviera abounds in tempting food shops and markets that are ideal for sampling local produce, stocking up for picnics and observing local life. Good items to take home include olive oil, table olives, olive paste and tapenade. The Nice area has an appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) for oil made from its cailletier olive. Reputable outlets include Alziari on rue St-François-de-Paule, which presses oil at its own mill, and Oliviera on rue du Collet, both in Vieux Nice, and the 1760-built Moulin du Rossignol in Grasse. You can usually taste before buying.

For sweet treats, go for chocolates, candied fruit and other gourmet items from Maison Auer in Vieux-Nice, candied fruits and violet- and rose- flavoured lollipops, chocolates and jams from Confiserie Florian by Nice’s Vieux Port, and at Pont du Loup between Vence and Grasse. Marrons glacés from Collobrières in the Massif des Maures are another local speciality.

Other regional produce includes Côtes de Provence wines produced on the Cap Brégançon and St-Tropez peninsula, Bellet wines (for more information, click here), pastis and local aperitifs such as vin d’oranger and pêche de vigne.