Shopping for souvenirs in France’s second city is certainly fun because there is everything from designer clothes shops to discount retail outlets ( including the British store Primark!), plenty of local producers and wonderful bakeries that are years and years old. There is not one main shopping street as there is in other cities. The 1960s Centre Bourse Mall was looking tired until its award winning facelift and makes for great shopping now. The seafront strip from the Old Port to the cruise ship terminals is full of interesting shops that are perfect for browsing.
The shops are open between 10.00- 7.00 p.m. with the smaller ones closing for lunch, the big difference is that many of the shops are open on Sundays as there are often plenty of cruise passengers to serve. So, there’s a lot to see and discover in this marvelous city. Enjoy our list below with the top souvenirs to buy in Marseille!
1. Beautiful Marseille Soap
Soap has been made in the city since the 12th century and is still made in the traditional way using olive oil and iron presses. La Grande Savonnerie in the MuSaMa – Musée de Savon du Marseille – tells the interesting story of Marseille soap and its manufacturing. There is the chance to buy some soap in a myriad of perfumes including the traditional lavender and mimosa. La Licorne is a wonderful old style shop and factory in Quai de Rive Neuve that is ‘the purveyor of Marseille soap‘ and has its own museum. Marseille soap is held in high esteem by the French and nearly every household has at least one bar! For the cheapest prices, it is best to head for one of the markets.
2. A Bottle of Local Pastis
La Maison du Pastis is situated in the Old Port area and this is where you can learn the fascinating story of the aniseed-flavored spirit Pastis and how it is made. There is a chance to sample some and buy a bottle or two to pack in your suitcase.
3. Aromatic Spices
One of the main streets in the city is La Canebière and at its far end, Le Marché des Capucins is located. This colorful market is more like an exotic souk in character as Marseille has a large African community from the former French colonies. It is a great place to wander, sip some mint tea and buy the brightly patterned fabrics and plentiful fresh spices. Saladin World of Spices is a small shop situated on Rue Longue des Capuchins where there are numerous barrels of fresh spices and some of the African ingredients for dishes that you might well have enjoyed during your visit.
4. Delicious Madeleines
What better souvenir to take home than a bag of freshly baked madeleines? There are many really lovely cake shops scattered across the city and they all make these distinctive shell-shaped sponge cakes that are gently flavored with almond. Remember though that madeleines are much loved by the French so make sure you are in the queue to buy some first thing in the morning or you could be disappointed.
5. A Set of Pétanque Boules
Now this idea is only if you have room – and a good weight allowance -in your suitcase! In Place des 13 Cantons, there is a workshop called La Boule Bleue that specializes in making sets of boules for Petanque which of course is the national game of France. The workshop also has a small museum for those who would like to learn more about the history of the game which evolved in nearby Provence.
6. Traditional Crib Scene
Again, this is a souvenir idea if you have plenty of room in your case! In Neuve Street close to Quai de Rue Neuve, Marcel Carbonel can be found hard at work in his workshop. Marcel is a master Santonnier – nativity scene maker – and it is fun to stand awhile and watch him as he painstakingly carves the different figures for the crib scene – santons
7. Something Nautical
There are several chandlery shops on the Quai de Rive Neuve for those who have sailed to Marseille on their yacht. These shops are great for souvenirs too as they have sailing jumpers and caps, socks and deck shoes but also some magnificent scale models of pointus, the Marseille fishing boats as well as assorted prints, posters and old maps.
8. Some Up Market Food Ideas…
There is a fascinating shop called Les Arcenaulx in Cours d’Estienne that is well known for its collection of illustrated books on Marseille and Provence which includes some titles in English and a good antique section. There is a craft area as well and a small food section that sells a quirky selection of fine local foods that make excellent gifts – could you be tempted with a can of boozy fish? Here you will find locally caught sardines in pastis on sale!
9. Traditional Biscuits
Navettes are delicious boat-shaped biscuits that are flavored with orange water. Although they are available all year round in the city, they are traditionally eaten at Candlemas on 2 February when there are huge processions in the various churches – the one at Saint Victor Abbey should not be missed at any cost.
10. Special New Style Chocolates
L’Espérentines were special chocolates that were created in the city to mark its 2,600th anniversary in 1999. The chocolates are in the shape of an olive leaf with a filling of almonds, orange peel, and mint. The outside case of each is bright green colored chocolate. These very different looking chocolates were awarded a prize at the International Confectionery Fair held in Paris in 2000.
11. Haute Couture Fashions
Although you may not think that Marseille will have some Parisian style boutiques, it definitely does and these can be found in a block of shops situated just behind l’Opéra de Marseille. Many of the top names are represented in the different shops and there is a good choice. If you decide to complete the outfit, the largest Louis Vuitton store outside Paris is in Marseille in the 18th century HÔtel Particulier