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France Shopping and nightlife

Shopping in France

Special purchases include designer clothing, lace, crystal glass, cheese, coffee and, of course, wines, spirits and liqueurs. Le Printemps and Galeries Lafayette are among the most notable large department stores in Paris. For bargain hunters, bric-a-brac, or brocante, is found in a number of flea markets (marché aux puces) on the outskirts of town, most notably at the Porte de Clignancourt in Paris. Antique centres are also common. Most towns have fruit and vegetable markets on Saturday, while out-of-town hypermarkets sell everything from foodstuffs to electrical equipment.

Individual regions often have particular food or drink products closely associated with the local area. Assuming you can transport these home without too much difficulty (smelly cheese and long plane journeys aren’t a great pairing, for example), they make for terrific—and often cost-effective—souvenirs. Prime examples include cider and galettes from Brittany, camembert from Normandy, bottles of first-rate fizz from Champagne and macarons from Paris.

The capital city, in fact, offers more or less anything and everything French that you might want. Some of the prices might be a little on the eye-watering side, but you’ll find everything from fine art, one-off collectables and perfume to designer shoes, luxury stationery and postcards, and prints of old Paris. Almost every store will offer to gift-wrap bought goods while you wait at the counter. And be aware that some of the city’s top-end outlets are seriously exclusive – you may have to press a buzzer to gain entry.

Shopping hours

Department stores open Mon-Sat 0900-1830. Some shops close 1200-1400. Food shops open 0700-1830/1930. Some food shops (particularly bakers) open Sunday mornings, in which case they will probably close Monday. Many shops close all day Monday, or Monday afternoon. Hypermarkets are normally open until 2100 or 2200.

Nightlife in France

Nightclubs can be found in every town and city. Their style and music vary widely, and the entrance price will occasionally include a drink. In major cities such as Paris and Lyon, clubs are sometimes free of charge, although drinks are likely to be more expensive. Nightclubs have a fixed closing time of 0500. Theatres, late-night bars, and cafés are widespread.

Most local tourist offices publish diaries of events, available free of charge. In Paris, magazines like L'Officiel des Spectacles, which comes out weekly on Wednesdays, are sold at newspaper kiosks and list upcoming cinema programmes, exhibitions and other entertainment.

In the provinces, nights out generally revolve around eating and drinking, although discos are found in the more popular tourist spots. Weekend summer festivals in rural areas are another good form of evening entertainment. As in many parts of the continent, binge-drinking isn’t traditionally a prominent part of the French culture. That said, there are some fairly ribald drinking dens to be found, and in many smaller towns and villages, the local bars remain integral parts of the community. In some rural regions, it’s not uncommon for people to shake the hands of everyone present—tourists included—when entering a bar.

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