About Shopping in Avignon & Provence
Provence is a vast region and as such there is a broad range of shopping opportunities to find, depending on which part of the region you're in and often what time of year it is.
The main shopping areas can be found in Avignon and Aix-en-Provence, with lots of local specialities on sale in lots of shops geared towards the happy tourist. You'll quite often find designer clothes shops mixed in with local grocers or butchers, markets, bakeries and chocolatiers in these bigger cities, with the smaller towns and villages offering less choice.
Locally made products are what bring a lot of shoppers to Provence, and there are a lot to chose from! Local industries include perfume-making (Grasse is the centre of perfume making in the south) and of course, lavender based products can be found throughout the region. Rows upon rows of this blue flower can be seen during the summer months and it's fragrance is used in soaps, oils, candles and lotions.
The famous 'Savon de Marseille' soap is another popular item to take home. The traditional methods are still used to make this soap (using olive oil for the green soap and palm oil for the white soap) and it is renowned as an ultra-moisturising soap for sensitive skins.
Provencal linens are another popular choice with holiday makers, especially tablecloths. Brightly coloured fabrics have been made in Provence since the 18th century and you will find them on sale at every Provencal market you go to. For more contemporary style linens, you may have to go to Aix or Avignon - try Souleido.
Many visitors come to Provence searching for antiques & curios - and you'll find plenty of examples of varying quality. L'Isle sur la Sorgue should be your first port of call for authentic antiques but many of the villages will have a dusty store that sells bric-a-brac, trinkets and unusual home-wares. See our market guide page for more information.
Probably the most enjoyable souvenirs - the hardest to take home - are Provence's food and wine. The flavour of the fruit and vegetables you experience in Provence will be unlike anything you find in a British supermarket (even the posh ones), but they are of course, best enjoyed fresh. Other food stuffs that are somewhat more transferable include Nougat, calisson (candied sweet of almonds & melon, found mainly in Aix), olives and olive oil, and truffles.
Wine is a bit easier to deal with - many of the vineyards can arrange international shipping, or if you're driving you can see how many cases can fit in your car. Definitely try before you buy, and keep searching for the perfect wine before committing to a purchase. It can be difficult to choose vineyards: if you can discover which grape you prefer and then create an itinerary in an area where it is grown, you'll find success a lot quicker. Bear in mind that some vineyards specialise in red wine, others in rose etc. and they prefer you to call ahead to make an appointment for wine tasting. This ensures someone will be there to help you!
Luxury & Designer Shopping
If you are staying by the coast, Marseilles, Nice and Cannes will meet your needs; fashions, jewellery, shoes and accessories from all of the top brands and designers can be found here. In central Provence, Avignon and Aix have the biggest range of higher end shops. Head to Rue St Agricol in Avignon or try La Grand Baix or Gago in Aix which stock Prada and Gucci in their collection.
There are literally hundreds of markets across Provence which take place throughout the year. From farmers markets to pottery, truffles to antiques, there's something for every taste in most of the towns and villages. They tend to start early in the morning at around 08:00 and finish around midday. Some of the largest markets can be found in St Remy, Arles, Aix en Provence and Isle sur la Sorgue.
Also see: Markets in Provence
Best Shopping Areas
As you might expect, the main shopping opportunities in Avignon, and in fact the rest of Provence, occur in the markets. The rural heartland of Provence is home to many a workshop, with artisans specialising in pottery, ceramics, sculpture, painting & glass blowing.
Many of these local crafts can be found on sale in the local markets (along with plenty of other 'international' souvenirs i.e. factory produced in China). Some of these artisans welcome the public into their workshops where you can browse or commission a special piece.
Of course, most Provencal villages will have an art gallery where the art on display is more sophisticated and commands a heftier price tag. But you can find some fantastic artworks here - real one of a kind pieces, and made in the local area. Try St Paul de Vence, Vence & Biot in the east; Roussilon, Gordes & Lourmarin in the Luberon, and of course, Aix and Avignon.
Shop Opening Times
Normal shop opening times in France are Monday to Saturday between 10:00 and 19:00, although hours can vary, and Provence is no different. Many of the shops in smaller towns will close for two hours during the middle of the day and again this is very typical of France as they enjoy a long lunch break to spend with family and friends. Some shops, particularly those that attract tourist trade, do open on a Sunday.