Valentine's day in Montpellier - best artisanal gifts and experiences
Valentine's day in Montpellier - best artisanal gifts and experiences

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Not the usual flowers and chocolate

Valentine's day in Montpellier - best artisanal gifts and experiences

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Many people abstain from Valentine's Day, seeing it as a sad commercial excuse for big brands to overcharge customers for standardised, meaningless gifts.  To make matters worse, it simultaneously makes the romantically unattached feel self conscious.  

The commercialization is certainly well established -the UK Valentine's spending reached £990 million in 2022, while across the pond in the USA, the NRF expects Valentine's Day 2023 spending to be just shy of an incredible $26 billion. The Mastercard Love Index reports that the French spent 8 times more on Valentine's 2021 than a decade before, despite lock-downs due to Covid-19, although exact figures are tricky to find.

But what if we could celebrate all kinds of love and affection in the dull February days? We could even use it as an excuse to shift away from the big commercial brands and discover something new: unique, quality products made locally. Fancied inviting someone to try that new market stall but didn't have time? Or looking an excuse to buy a loved one that cute gift bag?

If you are lacking inspiration, natifcreatif have hundreds of local creators, artisans and artists.  You can read on for our gift guide!  

What is the history of Valentine's Day?

It has been suggested that Valentine's Day originates from the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia -a mid-February festival which celebrated fertility rites and the coming of spring.  

The Christian Church represented by Pope Gelasius I forbade the celebration of Lupercalia at the end of the 5th Century.  He is said to have replaced it with the Feast of Purification (Candlemas), which took place on the 2nd of February; however the feast probably predated his pontificate.

The exact story behind the mysterious Saint Valentine is unknown

Indeed there are records of several martyrs named Valentine whose stories may have combined over the centuries.  However, he is widely believed to have been a priest from Rome living in the 3rd Century.

At that time Emperor Claudius II had banned marriage for soldiers, believing it to have negative impacts on their fighting ability. One of the stories goes that Claudius found out that Valentine was continuing to perform marriages in secret and sentenced him to death.

During his imprisonment, Valentine fell in love with the jailer's daughter, who he is rumoured to have cured from blindness.  Before being taken to be beheaded on 14 February he sent her a love letter which he signed "from your Valentine".  

Valentine's martyrdom resulting from performing marriages combined with his enchanting love story earned him a reputation for compassion and romantic love.  Formal Valentine's messages started to show up in the 14th Century and commercially printed cards often depicting Cupid (the Roman god of love), hearts and birds appeared at the end of the 18th Century.

A shift away from the traditional gifts and Valentine cards

Recent years have seen the trend move away from chocolates, red roses and heart cards toward shared experiences, such as restaurants, joint activities or week-ends away.  Couples use the day as an excuse to spend time together making memories.  More about Montpellier-based activities below!

Not just for lovers

For loved-ones

Many people offer cards or handmade gifts to parents, and it has been reported that 9 million people in France buy their pets Valentines gifts.

Galentine's Day

The popular series 'Parks and Recreation' introduced the idea of Galentine's Day as a day to celebrate female friendship. Since the episode aired in 2010, Galentines (the 13th of February) has become an increasingly popular way for 'ladies to celebrate ladies'  and treat themselves and friends with a little pampering over a champagne brunch or lunch.

The best places to buy one-of-a-kind Valentines delights

Would you like to offer a handmade Valentines gift but don't have the time or talent yourself?    Not to worry, here are our top Valentine ideas handcrafted in and around Montpellier, France:

For a special bath bomb or bathroom gift basket, head down to L'épicerie Cosmeto in the historical center, where you can also find zero-waste bathroom accessories from Montpellier-based Alice et JeanneKty Fabrik sell environmentally-friendly toiletry bags, make-up remover pads and other bathroom accessories at various stalls around Montpellier.

If you are looking for naturally scented vegetable based candles, Petit Caprice have a great selection.  For a personalized gift, La maison Rez'in sell hand poured, customizable jewellery and decorations.

For a local twist on the traditional box of chocolates, L'atelier d'Eleonore offers handmade macaroons using seasonal fruit in the lively Arceaux market or can deliver larger orders.

Finally, if you are one of the 9 million people in France who buy a Valentine's gift for their pet, Crocandiz handmake gourmet, organic dog biscuits.  

If you love traditional valentine romance and would like to say 'I love you' with a conventional gift, we have plenty of those too!  

More traditional Valentine treats for that special someone

Jewellery, chocolate and lingerie hand crafted in or around Montpellier, France.  A thoughtful alternative to mass produced...

For handmade earrings and necklaces, Marguerite (Ila Bella) can't be beaten for sensuality and has a showroom in Montpellier. Emilie combines originality with beauty by reusing inner-tubes to create all types of unusual jewellery at Madeinmy which can be found in the boutique Chinae alongside other quirky gift ideas. 

Marguerite (Le biso) handcrafts exquisite silver jewellery from scratch.  She is inspired by natural forms and takes orders for custom-made pieces.  Also flexing her silversmith skills and working from scratch, Mathilde (MAHTE bijoux) concentrates on simple, minimalist forms and also takes orders for custom-made pieces.  Both women have pieces to ready to buy if you are looking for a last minute present and would be happy to engrave or advise.

Saveurs d'Amarante make gluten or dairy-free cakes and biscuits in Lunel and sell at various stalls and shops.  Amandeous in the city center sell a range of delicious handmade chocolates, and even a variety inspired by Montpellier with the '3 graces' on the box.  Just around the corner, Sasha Mademoiselle has a range of perfumes and original jewellery made in Montpellier or France. 

Cléo Lebrun sells handmade Valentines cards which you can see here and Claire (Pop'line) makes beautiful, ethical and eco-friendly lingerie which can be found in L'Ateliées.

Shared experiences for lovers

Looking for ideas for shared activities after the traditional breakfast in bed, lobster or strawberries dipped in chocolate?

Here are our Montpellier ideas for a special date:

For foodies

Macaroon making lessons by Eléonore according to the tastes of your other half. Eléonore can welcome you at her home or come to you.

Gluten-free pastry classes with Elodie (Saveurs d'Amarente) - you can give her a recipe you want to work on or follow a standard class.

Traditional French pastry classes at home with Sébastien Maillet.

For music lovers

Pierre-Marie at PMC teaches guitar making. You can design and choose the materials yourself from start to finish - what better gift for a guitarist?

For art enthusiasts

Erica (Frammenti) offers mosaic making classes in the centre of Montpellier.

Marie-Noelle Wurm offers online courses in watercolour and ink.

For beer connoisseurs

Learn how to make your own beer at the Drapeau Rouge.

For stationery aficionados

Cléo Lebrun runs workshops in her Montpellier studio, where you can learn how to make cards, books and albums to your taste.

For leather fans

Create a handbag, a wallet or a belt in recycled leather with Colline or Fabienne at Au fil de Colline.

Valentine's day in Montpellier - best artisanal gifts and experiences

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