Nice in 5 Shops: handmade, artisanal and vintage goods

I moved to Nice for love, but it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the city too.

Beyond Nice’s postcard-perfect promenade and sun-drenched pebble beaches, the ancient city has a long history of craftsmanship, agriculture and trade, with a proud tradition of local production that you can still catch glimpses of today. Hidden in the old town, tucked away down residential streets or within the suburbs where tourists rarely venture, shopping in Nice is a matter of exploration. You must go into this with the right attitude; you must be prepared to hunt.

We do have a few shopping malls, it’s true, but the best products are found in independent shops outside of mass commercialization. Though Nice — and the wider Alpes-Maritime and Provençal regions — have so much to offer, I’ve narrowed down the selection to just five stores. These options will give you a decent look at everything we have to offer in le sud de la France, from sweet honey from bees who flower-hop in the Alps to exquisite handmade leather sandals from an artisan just outside of St-Tropez.

Best place to buy a souvenir: Trésors Publics

So many souvenir stores in Nice look like a copy-paste of each other: illustrated art-deco postcards, tiny hessian sacks of Provençal lavender or freshly mixed herbs de Provence all have their place in a well-traveled returning suitcase, but if you’re looking for something truly, traditionally French, stop by Trésors Publics.

Hundreds of products sourced from small local producers all over the country are showcased in this well-designed space housed in an old Niçois building typical of the medieval period. Many are made by hand, or at least with know-how preserved over the years and through generations. Think glass blown by hand from nearby Biot, woven straw hats — the same that Coco Chanel once dyed black and made into an instant icon — from one of the last master hat makers in Tarn-et-Garonne, perfumes from the old Parisian Maison Bienaimé, hand-stitched linen aprons (personalization available!), and leather sandals from St-Tropez… so many beautiful examples of French savoir-faire that are surprisingly hard to find. Even as a local, I frequently visit, so visitors should not skip out on this stunning store. Prep for your days strolling through town with a pair of handmade espadrilles (starting at €30).

Kitchenware, beauty products and jewelry displayed in French store

Best local design store: Ici Concept Store

A hybrid concept store and salon de thé (tea room), Ici is a sweet little eco-conscious boutique. A hand-selected range of ready-to-wear clothing — both timeless and trendy — and accessories are on display alongside art de la table (cutlery, cheese knives, platters and coasters, table decor and linens), and a perfume bar filled with cosmetics. Furniture, art, and natural household cleaning products are all beautifully presented and locally sourced, as well as a well-stocked épicerie (specialist grocer) with artisanal teas, spices, jams and conserves — there’s something for everyone at Ici, though my favorite are the perfumes by Essential Parfums (€82 each). The Nice Bergamote scent was created by local nose, Antoine Maisondieu, and reminds me of summer along the coast. The store also has a quiet co-working space, perfect for digital nomads or working holidays.

Vintage, Art Deco lamps illuminated in French vintage homewares boutique

Best vintage store: Maison Pampille

Walking into Maison Pampille is like stepping back in time to a much more aesthetically pleasing era. The antiques here are all sourced by owner Léa Renzini, who once told me she sometimes finds it difficult to let go of the items she sells. Rare books, bronze candleholders, classic gold-rimmed tableware, shimmering cut glass, Chinese porcelain, and even a small selection of delicate, handmade jewelry make up the universe according to Léa, and it’s easy to get swept up in the old-world glitz and glamour. You’ll find it hard to leave without buying a vintage ware or three.

For vintage clothing, across the street is Caprice Vintage, a boutique filled with both high street and designer pieces tastefully curated and repaired on-site.

Fresh fruit and veg on sale in the open-air Marche Cours Saleya

Best food market: Marché Libération

Marché Cours Saleya may be the most popular but I’d argue Marché Libération — the biggest open-air market in Nice — is the better option. Few tourists travel this far above the train line, which makes the neighborhood a local refuge from the hustle and bustle during peak season. It’s open daily except Mondays, from 6am until 12:30pm.

Most produce is sourced locally. You’ll find a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as fresh-caught fish, olive oils, honeys, flowers, cheeses, cold cuts, herbs, meats, and more. Not all the vendors speak English, so it’s a good place to practice your French. Take note of the brightly-colored plastic or metal buckets at each stall; if it’s within reaching distance, you can handle the items yourself — though this isn’t the case at all markets in France!

The smiling owners of a French bookstore and samples of what they sell including books, pastries and cushions

Best bookshop: Read The Room English Bookstore & Coffeeshop

One of the newest additions to Nice’s cafe scene, Read The Room is a mother–daughter owned English bookstore and coffeeshop not far from Garibaldi. With a light brunch menu, fresh pastries made in-store, a cute kids’ corner, and a diverse (and inclusive!) selection of English-language books, Read The Room has quickly become a beloved spot for many Niçois. I like it best on rainy days, with up a coffee (from €2) and a fresh croissant (€3), brand-new book in hand. Prior to RTR, we had to head up to Paris for a similar experience!

Should your preferred book not be in stock, the team will order it in for you. Delivery, in general, is just a few days, so visit early on in your trip to avoid disappointment.

© Images supplied by Chloé Braithwaite 

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