You know the South of France summer is in full swing when celebrities and their bodyguards are popping in and out of boutiques, and charter guests speed back to their yachts, their tenders laden down with shopping bags full of designer gowns and swimwear from the world’s great fashion houses.
It’s far from unknown for superyacht guests to drop a cool €100,000 on a morning’s shopping trip in the glamorous boutiques of Saint Tropez, Cannes, or Monaco. But that’s not to say you need to have a spare hundred grand to enjoy the shopping experience during your South of France yacht charter.
Our Riviera shopping guide takes you from the haute couture fashion houses and elite ready-to-wear designers, through to local boutique gems and colourful local markets. And as no-one fancies giving money to the tax-man unnecessarily, we’ve also included some information on how to shop duty-free on the French Riviera.
Shopping in Monaco
If you begin your yacht charter in Monaco, there’s no better way to start than taking an afternoon stroll through the Principality to find a stunning designer outfit for your first evening on the yacht.
The Cercle d’Or & Summer Pavilions
The haute couture designers and luxury jewellers hang their shingles around the famous Cercle d’Or, where it’s just one prestigious fashion brand after another, including Prada, Gucci, Valentino, Cartier, Bvlgari, Hermès, Salvatore Ferragamo, Dior, and Chanel.
During summer 2017, 40 ultra-luxe brands will be displaying in the ‘Promenade Monte Carlo Shopping’: an exclusive installation of summer pavilions near the Place du Casino. The ideal route for a Cercle d’Or shopping tour begins at the Pavilions before carrying along the famous Avenue de Monte Carlo and onto Allée Francois Blanc.
If you’re a bargain-hunter roaming this part of town, slip behind the casino and away from the Cercle d’Or to Avenue Saint Michel, where Stock Griffe boutique offers big name brands for up to 70% off.
In the town centre, Boulevard des Moulins, Boulevard d’Italie, and Avenue Princesse Grace showcase many high end boutiques, including local offerings such as Monegasque luxury brand, 209 Mare.
The Condamine area down by the marina has more than 200 boutiques of dazzling variety and budget – from fashion and homewares to gourmet stores. For those shoppers who love to explore, La Condamine holds many treasures, including Le Dressing: a vintage designer shop featuring second-hand beauties from designers like Chanel.
Monaco even does shopping malls with exceptional style. Galerie du Metropole is one of the most luxurious malls on the planet, with acres of marble, porters to help with your bags, and 80 luxury stores including Armani and Brunello Cucinelli.
If you’re after a more low key or practical shopping experience, head to Fontvieille shopping mall, where you’ll find electronics, fashion stores, and a large Carrefour supermarket.
Finally, despite its high-end shopping reputation, Monaco also does a wonderful daily market in La Condamine featuring Mediterranean produce and local crafts, and a funky little flea market at Fontvieille on Saturdays.
Things worth knowing
There’s a 20% VAT surcharge on goods you buy in Monaco: it may be known as a tax haven, but unfortunately that doesn’t apply to the shopping experience! However, if you’re a visitor from a country outside the EU, you will be eligible for a VAT refund on purchases over €175 made in a single store.
Shopping in Cannes
Cannes is one of the world’s ultimate shopping destinations, and you’ll feel the excitement in the air as you skip from Chanel to Yves Saint Laurent to Dior, passing celebrities carrying little dogs in their Hermès handbags.
Cannes Croisette is a byword for luxury shopping, with flagship haute couture boutiques lining the boulevard beneath the palm trees and ornate Belle Epoque hotels. As well as the big global names such as Dior and Chanel, there are also some very fine French boutiques worth knowing about, such as Paule Kar, Chacok, and Leonard Fashion.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a glamorous evening gown for your night out in Cannes but have a bit of an eye on your budget, try MyAnnika, a boutique specialising in evening dresses at affordable prices.
During the Cannes Film Festival, there’s even a red carpet laid out along the shopping strip, and the Croisette is largely pedestrianised on summer evenings as of 2017, making this prestigious shopping destination even more drop-dead gorgeous than ever. And if you’re in the mood to get a head-start on the summer crowds with a spring yacht charter, the Croisette hosts a shopping festival each April, with fashion shows and season previews. Be still, my beating heart.
If you must drag yourself away from the Croisette, Rue d’Antibes is the place to do it. This famous street just behind the Croisette is the other fashionable place to shop in Cannes, with a succession of luxury brands like Vilebrequin and famous high street brands like Zara, as well as sunglass stores and decadent chocolate shops for gifts to take home.
And as if it couldn’t get any better, the block between the Croisette and the Rue d’Antibes completes the famous Carré d’Or, where fine jewels are laid out in the window displays between chic bars and swimwear stores.
Rue des Etats-Unis
This recently-updated shopping street features high-end interior design shops to find that perfect French piece to ship home.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to shop like a Cannois local, then Rue Meynadier is for you, with its eclectic mix of affordable fashion and artisan food stores.
If you’re still hungry for more, the Galerie Gray d’Albion shopping mall is located just by the Croisette, featuring a range of high-end stores including La Perla. If you’re looking for more practical shopping, head to the neighbouring town of Cannes La Bocca.
To get the true Cannes experience on your yacht charter, a visit to the local markets is a must, and Marche Forville delights with its bustling atmosphere, and colourful stalls of fruit and flowers, cheese and fish.
Things worth knowing
Like Monaco, you can claim a VAT refund on purchases over €175 in a single store if you hail from a country outside the EU. If you’re planning a South of France shopping spree, apply for a Global Blue ‘shop tax free card’ so you can automatically be refunded at participating stores, or just ask in the store for a detaxe’ form to claim at the airport upon departure.
Shopping in Saint Tropez
Welcome to little boutique heaven, where the towering names of the fashion world sit on cobbled laneways next to unique Saint Tropez boutiques. The village of Saint Tropez isn’t big and all its boutiques are a leisurely stroll from each other, so just grab your credit card and explore to your heart’s content, with a focus on the luxury triangle between Place des Lices, Rue Gambetta, and Rue Allard.
Global Fashion houses
You’ll find the instantly-recognisable names of Hermès, Armani, Dior, and Louis Vuitton emblazoned above the doorways of Saint Tropez’ pastel facades, as well as Zadig et Voltaire, Lanvin, Swarovksi and Eres, just to name a few. However, it’s worth noting that the luxury shopping scene is just as much about the local as the international in enchanting St Tropez.
Arguably the most famous item in a Saint Tropez wardrobe is the iconic Tropezienne sandal, which was established by the Rondini family in 1927, with stiff competition from the K.Jacques family who set up shop 5 years later.
As you might expect, swimwear is also a hot item in sunny Saint Tropez, where the local Vilebrequin and Kiwi St Tropez boutiques began their meteoric rise on the superyacht fashion scene.
For jewellery, Gas Bijoux delights with its chunky, colourful designs, while Au Soleil de Saint Tropez is the last word in boho chic (as worn by the stars.)
There’s something for everyone in fashionable St Tropez. If you’re feeling nautical, Blanc Blue is a local boutique full of sailor-style stripes and scarves, while those up for a spot of polo at the St Tropez polo club will find all the right attire at La Martina. Bla Blas is an absolute treasure trove of quirky labels, while Be Shorts— well, you can guess what they sell.
Markets and Cellars
One St Tropez shopping experience which is not to be missed is a Saturday morning at the Place des Lices market, where Provencal produce, gifts, and clothing are spread out in stalls underneath the shade of century-old plane trees.
And finally, if you’re wanting to take home some excellent Provencal wine for a gift or to cellar, head to La Cave de Saint Tropez or Terre de Mer.
Things to know
The same tax free opportunities exist in St Tropez as in Cannes, with a Global Blue card definitely the way to go if you’re planning on splashing some cash.
A yacht charter is the perfect way to make the most of a luxury shopping adventure along the French Riviera. Where land-locked tourists have to battle with summer traffic in the South of France, you just float along between the great shopping destinations of the Riviera, falling ever deeper in love as you go.