Holiday Gift Guide 2016 : Last Minute Gifts on the French Riviera

Christmas brings out the best and worst of seasonal shoppers – from the queues and elbow-jostling at the large department stores and malls to shoppers who head for the smaller stores for that something special during the festive season, here is my round-up of places to shop on the French Riviera.

For Kids

If you have children, Christmas is a magical time but it can be overloaded with huge expense and stress for many parents.  I try to stagger my gift buying across a few months to avoid the Christmas crowds, but for last-minute gifts you can’t go past these stores on the French Riviera:

Pierrot La Lune (8 rue James Close) in Antibes has some beautiful traditional toys including wind-up figurines, wooden toys and classic tin toys.  They also stock Playmobil, Tin Tin and the Steiff bears.  A lovely store for a special gift (it’s pricey though).

Pierrot La Lune toy store, Antibes

Pierrot La Lune toy store, Antibes

Pylones in Cannes and Tiger (Flying Tiger) are stores that you can find cool unique gifts for kids from 2 years up to teens.  They have everything from quirky lunch boxes to gadgets and stickers, lots of travel games and stocking fillers.

Pylones and Tiger are great for stocking fillers at Christmas time

Pylones and Tiger are great for stocking fillers at Christmas time

If you have kids into science, nature, planets or discovery then stop by by Nature et Découvertes at Cap 3000 in St Laurent du Var.  It’s a great store for finding educational gifts such as DIY rockets, telescopes, planetariums and all sorts of science-related goodies.

Nature et Décovertes is an excellent shop for kids gifts

Nature et Décovertes is an excellent shop for kids gifts

For Him

If you want to break away from the socks and underpants routine at Christmas, try one of these stores – guaranteed to get you some brownie points.

Pop Art in Nice specialises in customised printing on clothes but they also stock vintage pieces, sculptures and of course, pop art.  It’s a great store if you’re looking for a gift for a guy into skateboarding or urban culture.

Pop Art in Nice is an arty concept store with personalised clothing, retro pieces and objets d'art

Pop Art in Nice is an arty concept store with personalised clothing, retro pieces and objets d’art

Cobalt is a funky concept store retailing all sorts of contemporary and eclectic items including designer furniture, stationery and objets d’art.  They stock Woouf iPad covers and Seletti’s fun monkey and mice lamps.   The über cool already know where it is – go now before the masses discover it.

Cobalt in Nice is a superb store for quirky or cool gifts


For Her

Who can resist a delicious fragrance?  French perfume is well known to ignite hearts and Fragonard has some exceptional fragrance blends.  Rather than opt for a parfum, their room fragrance diffusers are so lovely you’ll think you’ve dived straight into a Provençal field head first.  I love the Ginger and Vétiver one.   They have retail shops in Cannes, Grasse, Eze, St Paul de Vence and Nice or buy a treat online at

Fragonard room fragrance diffusers

Fragonard room fragrance diffusers

If you are seeking a special book for her, try heading to La Briqueterie Librairie.  Based in Vieux Nice (4-6 Rue Jules Gilly), this amazing bookstore has a brilliant selection of books with subjects ranging from music to art and history.  Highly recommended.

For interior decorating fans, there are so many beautiful Provençal items but the bright colours or prints don’t always match your furniture.  I love these neutral Jean Cocteau-themed cushions you can buy on Society 6, and Eklektik Gallery in Monaco is a testament to its name with a fabulous collection of classic and contemporary ceramics, ethnic art, fragranced gifts, homewares and furniture.

Jean Cocteau cushions

Jean Cocteau cushions

EklektiK Gallery in Monaco is an Aladdin's cave of furniture, homewares, sculptures and art

EklektiK Gallery in Monaco is an Aladdin’s cave of furniture, homewares, sculptures and art

I hope you have enjoyed my Holiday Gift Guide – it’s a sample of some great places to buy French Riviera goodies!   Joyeux Noël!









How to easily get a Tax Refund on your French souvenirs

Did you know that as a tourist in France you are entitled to claim back the Value Added Tax (VAT or TVA) on purchases over €175 made in a single store?

You didn’t know that?  Well, luckily for you this blog post will shed some light on how to simplify this in a country that loves paperwork and processes.

Firstly, here are some typical souvenirs you may see on the French Riviera:


  • Savon de Marseille soaps
  • Provençal fabrics
  • Biot glassware
  • Honey and conservessouv2.jpg
  • Olive oil
  • Santons
  • Faience pottery and Vallauris ceramics
  • Lavender sachets

Useful Tips for Tax Free Shopping in France

Years ago, to claim  your refund you would get the shop vendors to stamp your ‘Tax Refund Form’ and present it to a Customs Agent at the airport (when you left France with your goods) then mail the form to  receive your refund.

This method is still accepted today, however, I’ll share with you two insider tips on how to make tax free shopping in France and the refund process easier and quicker and save you time queuing at airports:

Tip #1:  Global Blue

Tip #2: PABLO

Confused yet?

What is Global Blue?

Global Blue is a network of more than 270,000 stores worldwide where you can shop tax free.

On the French Riviera, look for stores displaying Global Blue Tax Free Shopping signage in the window,  or for ease download  Global Blue’s iOS (for iPhone and iPad) app which lists participating stores.

The Global Blue signage will look like this (or similar):


Some participating stores include Galeries Lafayette (Cannes), Baldinini (Cannes) and Jaeger- LeCoultre (Nice).

Before you come to France, apply for a ‘SHOP TAX FREE Card’ via the Global Blue website and when you shop at the stores simply present your card to the shop assistant and your details are automatically filled out on the form.  Its worthwhile to do only if you intend to do lots of shopping.

What is PABLO?

PABLO is a system introduced by French Customs to speed up tax refunds for tourists.

Before you check in for your flight, look for the PABLO barcode reader, insert your Tax Free Form (Bordereau de vente a l’exportation électronique) and it will validate it  (In the event the machine is not working, you can still go to the Customs desk and present your completed Tax Free Form, passport, receipts and purchases to get a stamp on your form).

The PABLO machines look like this (blue with ‘Detaxe’ across the top):


Make sure any goods you carry with you are unused and in original packaging. Don’t pack them away in your check-in luggage as you may need to show them to the Customs Officer.

Now, rather than mail your Tax Free Form back to France from your home country and wait  indefinitely for a refund, you can just go to a Refund counter displaying a Global Blue logo.

Present your stamped, completed Tax Free Forms to receive the refund in cash or to credit card (cash refunds incur a small fee).

To summarise, remember these 3 Steps:

  1. Get a Global Blue ‘SHOP TAX FREE Card’ and use it at participating stores
  2. Validate your forms in the PABLO machines (keep all receipts)
  3. Go to the Global Blue Refund counters to claim your refund

Global Blue Refund counters on the French Riviera are located:

Change Miramar

Bureau de change (Downtown), 57 boulevard de la Croisette, 06400 Cannes

Opening Hours:  MON-FRI: 09:00 a.m – 12:30 p.m and 2:00 p.m – 5.30 pm

AMEX change office T1 airside
Nice Côte d’Azur airport, Terminal 1 Airside, 06200 Nice, France

Opening Hours:  MON-FRI: 07:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.

SAT: 07:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.

SUN: 07:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.

AMEX change office T1 landside
Nice Côte d’Azur airport, Terminal 1, Arrivals gate A2/Landside, 06200 Nice, France

Opening Hours:  MON-FRI: 06:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.

SAT: 06:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.

SUN: 06:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.

AMEX change office
Nice Côte d’Azur airport, Terminal 2 Airside, 06200 Nice

 Opening Hours:  MON-FRI: 06:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.

SAT: 06:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.

SUN: 06:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.

AMEX change office
Nice Côte d’Azur airport, Terminal 2 Arrivals, Gate A4 Landside, 06200 Nice

Opening Hours:  MON-FRI: 07:00 a.m. – 08:00 p.m.

SAT: 07:00 a.m. – 08:00 p.m.

SUN: 07:00 a.m. – 08:00 p.m.

Eligibility for Tax Free Shopping Refunds       

● If you have a permanent residence in a non-EU country

● If you are older than 16 years

● If you spend more than 175.01 EUR in a single store

● Refunds are paid on all goods that are exported in the traveller’s personal luggage

● Maximum 50 pieces of the same (identical) item

● Non-refundable goods: Tobacco, Pharmaceuticals, Cars and car parts, Weapons, Cultural relics older than 50 years, Postage stamps

NOTE: If you have any delay receiving your refund, your first point of contact is the retailer, not French Customs.  If you are time challenged at the airport or queues are long and you miss getting your form/s stamped, its still possible to claim a refund in your home country via your local French Embassy, however it involves time and paperwork!

Image credits:, 9bytes, Pinterest

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