A region I’ve been dying to visit for the shopping and souvenirs alone is Northwest France. Normandy and Brittany are pretty unique in that nearly all the best souvenirs (and there are quite a few) are specific to the region. For example, the dramatic Breton coastline and tradition of fishing means you’ll find excellent fish soup and striped sailor shirt souvenirs. Normandie’s verdant green countryside means happy cows and the best dairy products- like luscious caramels. This apple growing region also means you’ll find delicious ciders.
While I haven’t yet been to either Normandy or Breton, my friend Leigh recently brought her family to Brittany for vacation, and scouted out all the top souvenirs to bring home from the area. While Leigh’s vacation centered on Brittany, the regions are adjacent to each other and both offer similar souvenirs.
I asked Leigh to snap a few photos of the best souvenirs from Brittany, and she more than delivered. Here are some of Leigh’s top souvenir finds:
Top Brittany Souvenir: Striped Breton Shirt
Without question, the most iconic souvenir from Breton would have to be the striped Breton shirt.
You have definitely seen the classic Breton shirts and might even own one, not realizing its origin. Leigh mentioned after seeing so many souvenir Breton shirts, she had gotten pretty picky about the quality.
Here are some of Leigh’s Breton shirt shopping tips:
The Breton short (aka la Mariniere) is everywhere in Brittany, and who could resist taking a few souvenirs home a la Coco Chanel, who first swiped the Breton for all of France. Here’s my take on the main brands:
- Saint-James: This is the brand for ladies who luxe. Tres chic, but a little on the boxy side.
- Armor Luxe: They have been manufacturing in Brittany since 1940. A slimmer fit, and I love the colors!
- Petit Bateau: Not just for kids, though who not pick up one for your favorite niece while you’re there [ed. note— I buy the kids sizes of Petit
Bateau for myself!]
Top Brittany Souvenir: Brittany Salted Butter Caramels (Caramels au Buerre Sale)
I’m not a huge sweets fan but my absolute favorite, can’t resist sweets are salted caramels. While seemingly everything is available in a salted caramel flavor these days, nothing compares to the original version from Brittany.
Apparently, not too long ago, there used to be many caramel-only candy shops throughout Brittany. But although these have since expanded into selling other baked sweets now, there are still a few candy shops left that make salted caramels the old-fashioned way. The old-fashioned way being a time-consuming, labor intensive process (by hand and involving lots of stirring). The better the quality of the cream, the better the caramel.
Recommended caramel shops in Brittany:
Au Petit Prince, Étel, France for handmade caramels
La Maison d’Armorine, Quiberon (now machine-made, but high quality ingredients in a town known for caramels)
Even if you don’t make it to one of the top caramel shops, you’ll still find plenty of delicious caramel souvenirs all around Brittany.
Top Brittany and Normandie Souvenir: Local Cider
Cider has been made in France (and Brittany and Normandy specifically) since the Middle Ages. French cider is known for its subtlety and sweetness and makes a great souvenir to enjoy back home.
Bonus: Cider pitcher from Brittany
While you can probably find ceramic cider pitchers on sale at local shops, the pitchers used in local restaurants that you enjoy with your meal are somehow more tempting. Leigh thought so and managed to convince the owner of the creperie to let her take one home. Leigh was a little embarrassed to admit this, but I do the exact same thing!
Leigh adds: Cidre comes in two varieties, brut (strong) and doux (sweet). I loved the dour, but both are delish. If you’re looking for the best place to enjoy a pitcher of cider, get yourself to the quaint little fishing village of Perros-Guirec to the Creperie & Moulerie (that’s right, the French have a name for a cafe that serves mussels!). The kind staff at Les Vieux Greements gave me the pitcher, which is almost as wonderful as the dinner. Delish!
Best (Free) Normandy and Brittany Souvenir: Posters
We are not entirely sure of the err legality of this next souvenir, but Leigh might have swiped a few gorgeous posters plastered on the walls around Brittany.
Top Normandy and Brittany Souvenirs: Brittany style Fish Soup (Cotriade)
Coastal areas in France like Brittany and Normandy have a tradition of serving fish soup. Each region has their own version, in Brittany it’s known as Cotriade. Cotriade is a simple soup made from local fish and usually does not contain shellfish (unlike bouillabaisse to the South).
Top Normandy and Brittany Souvenir: Regional Mustards
French mustard is not all the same– every region of France has their own twist, and it’s worth trying them all.
Best Normandy and Brittany Souvenir– Canned Sardines and Oysters
I’m not a huge fan of canned sardines (although canned oysters are quite tasty) but I adore the colorful tin packaging they come in.
Top Souvenir: Butter from Normandy
Normandy with its verdant pastures is famous for its butter. As long as it’s not the middle of summer, butter can survive a flight home (Europeans often don’t even refrigerate their butter anyway).
Have you been to Normandy or Brittany? Tell us about your best souvenirs!