Don’t miss these flea markets in Paris
By Victoria Burton
Thomas Jefferson (US Minister to France in 1785) said “a walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty and the point of life”. Don’t wait for Spring to visit as the traders are out, whatever the weather.
Situated in the 18e (Metro line 4) Porte de Clignacourt is home to the famous Marché aux Puces (St Ouen). Started around 1880 by the romantically named ‘pecheurs de lune’, these moonlight fisherman spent nights sifting through the city’s rubbish, for valuable objects that they could resell.
In 2001 the entire site of the combined markets, which covers approximately 17 acres was declared a protected architectural heritage site. As you leave the metro this may be a little hard to believe – keep your wits close and your wallets closer as you head under the overpass and through the colourful collections of cowboy boots and fur trimmed coats.
As these stalls start to thin out, turn left into the short alleyway and you will be transported to a world of bygone treasures. Small units are cluttered with books, toys, vintage hats and clothing, military memorabilia, buttons and lace – the list is endless. However, the prices seem typically Parisian!
Some units have been transformed into small boutiques selling furniture in the grandiose style of Louis XIV, solid country tables and upcycled industrial cabinets. The surrounding streets reveal more covered markets and brocantes where art deco furniture, oversized mirrors, frames and fine art can be purchased.
Head to Porte to Vanves (Metro line 13) on Sunday morning where the traders start early and the stalls creep around the flats and football pitch to the overpass and back in this pleasant residential area of Southern Paris. There is a great mix of traders with vintage linen, jewellery, shoes, clothing, postcards, books, artwork, silverware and kitchenalia.
Old tools, door handles and keys are in abundance and there are many boxes to rummage through where everything is under 5€ per item. The traders can spot a tourist so be prepared to (politely) haggle! Mobile coffee carts keep the traders warm, but after a long day treasure hunting head to the Le Timbre-poste nearby…
On the corner of Rue Rouget de l’Isle, illuminated signs mark the doorway and once inside, the walls and ceilings are crammed with 1930s advertising signs, enamel plaques, model aeroplanes and figurines collected by the owner and chef Felix Uhart.
Opening 9.00 – 02.00am with evening service beginning at 19.00h there is a generous menu based on traditional French dishes and a large selection of draught beers and fine wines with an atmosphere indicative of a popular local establishment. Live entertainment is frequently available and there is a small terrace outside – for those who visit in the spring or summer!
- Victoria Burton runs Puce and Co, an emporium of vintage goods sourced from France.