story and photos by Susan Melnyk
Paris is one of the world’s greatest places to shop and sightsee so it isn’t surprising that the largest flea (antiques) market in the world calls Paris home.
This market goes by several names, since it covers over 15 markets with their own personality. The official name is Les Marches Aux Puces but you may also hear it referred to as Les Puces de Saint-Ouen. It is located at the Metro stop Porte de Clignancourt.
Spending the day walking through the many alleys and storefronts of this eclectic section of Paris is a must while you travel through Europe, so here are a few tips to help you make the most of your visit:
1) Although this market is huge, finding it can be a bit of a trick, since it is a maze of alleys and streets behind a less charming facade. The outskirts of the market is filled with stalls and slightly pushy (though very friendly) salespeople hocking knockoff bags, shirts and sunglasses. Don’t let this turn you off… when you push through to the antiques market itself, you’ll feel like you stepped into Old World Paris.
2) Bring your camera, but use it sparingly.
The items for sale and the colors of the market will definitely have you wanting to whip out your camera, but be sure to ask the shopkeeper permission before doing so. Some of the stores feature works of art, both old and new, and owners don’t want their ideas stolen. We were given a little reprimand when we got snap-happy at one stall, so just wander around and enjoy the day with camera in bag.
3) Bring cash with you.
Though some of the stalls take card for larger purchases, having Euro on hand means you can negotiate on price a little. You are also advised to pick up cash near your hotel in Paris as we had a difficult time finding an ATM or bank at the market when the area was crowded.
4) Delivery is possible on large purchases.
If you are eyeing a piece of furniture but can’t imagine getting it into your car for the trip back to Germany, ask about shipping. People from all over the world buy at this Parisian market and most shopkeepers already have a shipping company they use and trust and can provide you with a quick estimate.
5) Keep an eye on your purse.
Paris is beautiful, fashionable and exciting, but like any big city that draws a tourist crowd, it is also a haven for pickpockets.
Though I’ve been to Paris four or five times and never had a single problem, I have always played it smart. I never put money or valuables in back or coat pockets, I carry a shoulder bag that is zipped shut or a cross-body bag that I keep towards the front of my body.
6) Negotiate like a pro.
Some prices are set in this market, but there is almost always room for a little negotiation. Be polite and bundle items when you can (ex: If they want 20 Euro for a print and you want two, offer 35 for the two). Paying in cash also means you have more negotiating power and above all, decide what you are willing to pay before you start negotiating so you don’t just get caught up in the game.
7) Wear comfortable shoes.
Parisians dress very sharply but they are also very pedestrian, so comfortable (though stylish) shoes are a must. The market is quite casual, but to keep yourself from being an obvious tourist, leave the runners and sweats or yoga pants at home.
8) Don’t be afraid to get lost.
You can never really get lost in Paris, though it can often feel that way. Bring a map with you (or a map book) and ensure that it includes a subway map as well. When in doubt, ask a Parisian where you are or for the name of the nearest Metro station. Then, stop freaking out, find a cafe, order a coffee (or glass of wine) and figure out where you are and where you want to go next. Having the chance to get lost in Paris is one of life’s greatest pleasures!
Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday throughout the year from 10:30am to 5:30 pm
Several of the stalls close early on Monday and the markets get very busy after lunch on the weekend.
Marché aux Puces
93400 – Saint-Ouen
Metro stop: Porte de Clignancourt on Line 4
You’ll likely notice crowds of people heading to and from the large concrete overpass. Head towards it and then turn left into the markets.
Rue des Rosiers is the main strip that the markets form around. Remember, you’ll first be greeted by stalls selling new and knock-off products. Just push in towards the market and the scenery changes dramatically.