The marchés aux puces, or flea markets, of Paris are the perfect place for antiques-lovers and treasure hunters. Here you can find everything you need from that perfect set of chairs for your living room to that funky piece of jewellery that will pull your outfit together. The marchés aux puces are full of treasures; you just have to be patient enough to uncover them.
There are two flea markets in Paris that the Savoir Faire team loves to visit. The Puces de St-Ouen is considered to be the world’s largest flea market and is the market most frequently visited by tourists. It can be a little overwhelming at first to get your bearings. If you come from the metro at Porte de Clingancourt, beware of the market set up around the metro stop. That isn’t the flea market; you have to walk a little ways to get there. The market is split up into a smaller concentrations of booths and is somewhat organized by the types of items sold. A wide range of items is sold at the booths, but there tends to be a focus on larger furniture pieces and higher-end vintage clothes. Because it is a popular tourist destination, the prices tend to be slightly higher than some of the other markets. But you can still negotiate your way to great bargains and find some wonderful treasures.
The marché aux puces de Porte de Vanves is quite a bit smaller but there is still a wealth of items to explore. The sellers here display their wares on tables or even pieces of cloth on the ground instead of in booths or storefronts. There is more of a focus on smaller items, like decorations for your home or books, but you can also find larger pieces of furniture. Because the market is smaller and less well-known, it is a little less crowded, making it easier to look around. Plan to get their early as most dealers pack up by 12:30 or 1PM.
Here are some tips to follow when you go to the marché aux puces:
–Bring cash with you: Although many sellers are starting to offer credit card machines for larger purchases, it is good to have some cash on hand for smaller purchases and the booths that don’t take credit cards. Most will often accept (French) checks for larger purchases as well. Whatever you bring, keep it safe from pickpockets.
–Be prepared to bargain: In fact, this is expected by most of the sellers. Many booths don’t even mark prices on the items. Brush up on your French, because it is often easier to get a good deal if you bargain in the native language. But don’t fret; most of the sellers speak at least a little English and are willing to discuss prices in English if it means they might get a sale.
–Beware of the markets that have popped up around the puces: While the flea markets may be full of antique treasures, the markets surrounding them sell cheap, low-quality items. Especially at St-Ouen, don’t get tricked into thinking you have made it to the marché aux puces when you see this market. Just walk through them until you reach the real markets.
–Go early or at the end of the weekend: If you go to the market early in the morning, you can get a lot of great items before the crowds hit. To get the best deals, however, go at the end of the weekend. A dealer might be more willing to sell you an item for a lower price in the last hours of the market if they had a bad weekend.
–Arrange for shipping: If you are planning to shop for larger items, like furniture, investigate how to get things you buy home with you, whether it be to your apartment in Paris or elsewhere in the world. This will save you a lot of time and hassle if you find your dream chair at the market.