Paris Flea Markets Hints & Tips
The most famous flea market in Paris is the one at Porte de Clignancourt, officially called Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, but known to everyone as Les Puces (The Fleas). It covers seven hectares and is the largest antique market in the world, receiving between 120,000 to 180,000 visitors each weekend.
Flea Market Hours
Every Saturday from 9h - 18h
Every Sunday from 10h to 18h
Every Monday from de 11h to 5h (please note that many stalls close around lunch time)
If you get there early, plan on having a leisurely Café Crème and watching the antiques world start up for the day. If you're a serious shopper, watch out as it becomes very crowded after lunch!!
We strongly recommend going to the Puces on Saturday or Sunday because many dealers aren't open on Monday, or only open by appointment. If you can only shop on Monday, arrive in the morning when you stand a better chance of dealers being open, cleaning up after the weekend.
Important Note: Be careful to hide wallets and purses; as in any city, big crowds are a great place for pickpockets to work - and the Flea Market is no exception. When guests reserve our apartments in Paris we repeatedly advise them to hide their wallets in a fanny pack and to leave their passports in our apartment safes, but every few months we get a phone call from them, telling us they have lost their passports and credit cards. Do be careful.
How to Get to the Flea Market
Take the métro to Porte de Clignancourt on Line 4 and follow the crowds towards the large concrete overpass. If you are looking for antiques, don't waste too much time looking through the clothing, African objects and household goods on streets along the way. The market and neighborhood is very colorful and you will love the diversity of personalities, stall keepers and products for sale! The 18th arrondissement, where the Puces are located, is in a poorer part of Paris and the market gets very crowded. As mentioned above, you want to watch your wallets and you can safely stroll around here during the day.
Rue des Rosiers is the main street which you walk down in order to go into the separate markets. The individual markets tend to run into each other, and even after shopping there for 20 years, I am still not sure where some stop and others begin. But I do have my favorites.
There is a good map at: www.antikita.com, under Access. Also a good directory of dealers and information.
Download an iphone app about the Paris Flea markets here.
Paris Flea Market Shopping Trips: Claudia Strasser of The Paris Apartment offers guided shopping tours of the Puces and other Paris Flea Markets. She and her partner will take you to their favourite hidden spots, help with negotiating and shipping so your purchases arrive safe and sound at home. Let her know that Paris Perfect recommended you for an extra discount or treat. Contact Claudia at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Markets at the Puces
Rue des Rosiers from the Right Side
Along Rue des Rosiers, there are several interesting shops, selling Art Deco furniture, fireplaces, mirrors and 'interesting decorative furniture'. I've bought mirrors and some furniture at the second mirror dealer on the right, Philippe and find his prices reasonable. His sister in law owns the first mirror stand on the right and they too have a nice selection. Much further down on the left, before Serpette, is a shop that sells interesting decorative pieces, paintings, garden pieces etc. Good taste and worth a stop.
Find Marché Vernaison, 99 rue des Rosiers, and the smaller Marché Antica first on your right. Vernaison is a wonderful, winding market where you can find anything from furniture to beads, to missing parts from antique commodes, textiles, paintings, antique toys, etc, etc. It feels enormous and you can get lost wandering down the alleyways. If you’re looking for paintings and smaller objects, this is often the place to go. I've bought country-style furniture here, not the expensive stuff. I’ve also bought beautiful linens here as well as paintings and decorative objects.
Marché Antica, 99 rue des Rosiers, has a few dealers, a good Art Deco stand, several stands selling paintings and porcelain and a larger one that sells Chinese furniture. Taste level is good.
Marché Biron, 85 rue des Rosiers, next on your right. There are two sides to the market and I prefer walking down the left side as you face it, rather than the right. On the left side, you can find hundreds of nice pieces of wood furniture, most in a country style. They are not always the cheapest stalls, but the selection is vast. The right side of Biron has more gilded Louis XV and Louis XVI, Empire-style furniture; it’s not my style - but if you are looking for those kinds of pieces, you are sure to find what you want here.
Marché Cambo, 75 rue des Rosiers, is a market with approximately 20 dealers and many of them eat together outside one of the stalls at lunch, each bringing part of the pot luck meal. Their taste level is good and I enjoy browing here. It’s a little harder to find as it looks like a warehouse, so watch for the sign after Marche Biron.
Rue des Rosiers from the Left Side:
Starting on the left from the the top of Rue des Rosiers, find Marché Malassis, 142 rue des Rosiers, selling furniture and objects from the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as silver, Asian and archeological pieces. There are beautiful objects here, but I tend to save my energy for Serpette and Biron which are further on.
Marché Dauphine, 140 rue des Rosiers, is next on your left and it is the newest market. It is large and because of that, isn't as easy to classify as many others. Here, you will find everything from rare antiques, to decorative furniture pieces, to books, prints, funky art and vintage clothing, to rugs, to garden pots. I've been up and down it several times, but the favorite area I've found consists of two dealers on the far right alley, as you face the Marche Dauphine. These few shops have some quality antiques and also some nice decorative pieces.
There is a crèpe stand outside, always good for a mid-morning snack. Also, a nice café and decent restaurant at the back of Marche Dauphine, away from the crowds. In any restaurant, don't set your purse down where you can't see it, but keep it in your lap.
Marché Serpette and Marché Paul Bert:
Serpette: 110 rue des Rosiers
Paul Bert: 96 rue des Rosiers and 18 rue Paul Bert
These are two of my personal favorites and offer an enormous selection of furniture, prints, paintings, mirrors, antique luggage, vintage clothing, hardware, art deco furniture and hardware, kitchen goods, etc etc. We have a few favorite dealers, but have bought mirrors, dressers, armchairs, prints, footstools, tables, soap dishes, antique hooks, etc here. One day I overheard a dealer say to several colleagues; 'Tu as vu, c'est Bill Gates la bas! Mister Meecrosoft!' So Bill was shopping a few stands up for his new house in Seattle and the dealers were forewarned that they didn't need to bargain too hard.
I start in Serpette and keep wandering up and down until I am lead outside into Paul Bert. Paul Bert has a combination of traditional dealers plus more kitsch ones that sell 50’s and 60's furniture. There is a large kitchen store in the back allies behind Serpette; prices are not cheap but the selection is wonderful. We’ve found chaise longue's and settee's along the back stalls behind Paul Bert as well as nice prints.
L'Entrepot is next on your left and tends to sell much larger pieces, architectural pieces, staircases, marble table tops and the back stock of some of the merchants you’ve met in the various Marchés. Always worth a visit if you’re furnishing a large home.
Marché Jules Vallée
7-9 rue Jules Vallée is behind Paul Bert and Marché Serpette and sells antiques, small items, records, religious art. There is more bric a brac and thrift shop atmosphere.
Many of the antiques for our apartments come from The Puces and we hope you find it as enjoyable as we do!
Flea Market Tips
Choose a central meeting point and time after you arrive there so that members of your group can wander off in different directions depending on their interests. Then you can join each other and share your discoveries and purchases.
Go to the Flea Market in the morning as it becomes very crowded in the afternoon.
Hide your wallets under your shirt or sweaters around your neck. You don't need a lot of cash anyway, as most dealers accept credit cards.
Don't bring your passports to the Flea Market or miscellaneous credit cards that you won't use: we have never needed our passports to buy there because antiques do not have VAT for the detaxe refund. We do charge antiques on our credit cards, so bring the essential ones.
- Negotiating: If you love to shop for antiques then you don't need my advice, but remember that everything is negotiable.
- It helps to have someone like my husband around, who is great at saying in a loud voice that we don't need this mirror at all, it's too expensive, etc. If the dealers think they might lose the sale, it speeds up the negotiation.
I'm giving away all my secrets, but I sometimes pull out my calculator, punch a few buttons, look up and say: ‘It doesn't work at €900; can you do it for €750? They realize I am a dealer and must have the lowest possible price.
You don't have to complete the sale on the spot; get a mobile phone number and call the dealer the next day to negotiate. If they haven't had a big weekend (and with the Euro at new highs against the dollar, business is very slow) they are more willing to give a good discount.
- Contact a shipper, such as Hedley's Humpers beforehand and they can give you tickets to mark antiques and pick them up the next day for shipment home. This also allows you to negotiate the next day via the dealer's mobile number; you simply call Hedley's afterwards and arrange for them to pick up the item.
History of the Flea Market
The history of the flea market dates back over two centuries, when rag and bone men scoured through the garbage of Paris at night to find valuable junk to sell on. They were called 'crocheteurs' or pickers. The romantic term was 'pêcheurs de lune' or fishermen for the moon. Many set up their temporary stalls within the Paris walls, in sleazy neighborhoods but because these neighborhoods were full of pickpockets and thieves, they were chased out of the city walls to Clignancourt, Montreuil, Vanves, etc. The largest of these flea markets is the one at Clignancourt but the other two continue to this day.
The rag and bone men gathered outside the walls of Paris at the Porte de Clignancourt and set up temporary stalls where they hawked their wares. Eventually, they formed groups of stalls to attract more customers. The more enterprising traders began to 'trade up' in terms of goods and eventually it became popular for Parisian collectors and antique dealers to shop there for bargains.
In 1885, authorities in the town of Saint Ouen made a significant move to pave the streets and clean up the area, marking the official starting year of Les Puces. Several areas were designated as official market areas and a fee had to be paid to set up a stall there.
The markets grew until Monsieur Romain Vernaison transformed the acres he owned into a series of covered huts; voilà, Marché Vernaison was born.
Then an Albanian named Malik (rumored to be an Albanian Prince) bought a restaurant on rue Jules Valles and transformed the building into 100 stalls, forming the Malik market.
The Marché du Biron was formed in 1925, with two long rows of stalls and is known as one of the more expensive markets.