Interested in shopping at flea markets in Paris and scooping up the bargain of a lifetime? Perhaps a beautiful Limoges porcelain bowl for only a few Euros? Or a dust-covered Coco Chanel vintage perfume bottle that sets you back less than the cost of a baguette? Or maybe an old Moulin Rouge poster by Toulouse-Lautrec that you discover is an original, not a reproduction?
The famous and huge Paris Flea Market of Saint-Ouen contains plenty of drool-worthy treasures at all price ranges, but savvy Parisian shoppers know most items at Les Puces are fairly priced by knowledgeable dealers. When they want to score real bargains, they head to smaller flea markets, street markets, and even brocante sales of vintage and second-hand goods.
If you're addicted to the thrill of the hunt for cheap deals while you're in Paris, copy the Parisian bargain hunters: visit the city's two smaller flea markets, Montrueil and Vanves, where persistence and perhaps some amount of crawling around on your knees and poking through dusty boxes can reward you with brag-worthy finds.
In addition, some Paris street markets and even brocante sales offer vintage and second-hand goods, so you may want to explore them too.
Take a look at our round-up of the best smaller flea markets in Paris, our favorite street markets and brocantes, and a few tips about how to get the best deals.
Vanves Flea Market is the second largest Marché des Puces in Paris, after Les Puces at Saint-Ouen/Clignancourt. With almost 400 merchants and stalls stretching down the road further than you may expect at first, you'll find a lot on offer. And unlike Les Puces, lots of the items fall squarely into the affordable price range.
What will you find?
Look for silver, glassware, china, vintage jewelry, French cutlery, mirrors, vintage and newer designer clothing, vintage posters, coins and medals, stamps, African and Asian art, old postcards, antique books, vintage toys, picture frames, paintings, Art Deco vases, occasionally marrionettes and manequins, linens, copper pans . . . basically, everything you might imagine.
Lots of bargaining goes on here. Some items have prices on them, but many do not. If you don't speak French, don't worry - just say "Combien?" (co-bee-uh? - meaning, how much?), and the vendor will write the price on a piece of paper. Look at it and if you want to bargain, give a half-smile, half-frown and say politely but sadly, "Oh, trop cher!" (oh, tro share - tro should rhyme with crow - you've just said, Oh, too expensive!), and write your proposed price on the paper. Once you agree on a price, hand over your cash (almost no one here takes credit cards), and the prize is yours.
Vanves Flea Market location: Porte de Vanves, at the edge of the 14th arrondissement
Open: Saturday and Sunday, 7am-2pm, rain or shine
Metro: Porte de Vanves - follow the street signs (or the crowds) to the market about 2 blocks away
Montreuil Flea Market is the smallest of the three Paris Marché des Puces, and can be hit or miss if you're looking for something old, vintage, or possibly antique. But if you get excited about sifting through piles of dreck to maybe find something special for a cheap price (or if you need an inexpensive handbag for 10 Euros), this is the place to come.
If you're visiting Paris for only a short time, you'll probably have better success at either the huge Clignancourt Flea Market, at Vanves, or even at the Rue d'Aligre Market (see below).
But if you're in Paris for a longer period and have the time to spare, you should definitely try your luck here. Things to look for: old silver, china, toys, vintage clothing (if you search very hard you can sometimes find French designers such as Givenchy and Chanel), picture frames, vintage leather jackets, car ornaments, household items, and occasionally copper pots. Are they vintage or antique? Hard to say for sure, but if the price is cheap enough, you may not care. Definitely negotiate here.
Aligre Flea Market location: Avenue du Professeur André Lemierre, 20th arr (not far from Père Lachaise Cemetery)
Open: Saturday, Sunday, Monday, 7am-7:30pm
Metro: Porte de Montreuil; walk toward the Péripherique
Rue d'Aligre Flea Market sprawls across one end of Place d'Aligre, vying for space with a huge open air street market selling mostly produce and the historic Marché d'Aligre covered market filled out gourmet cheeses, pates, meats, fish, and all kinds of specialty foods.
This is a true flea market, packed with a mish-mash of new and used clothing, shoes, household goods, old books, and household appliances, so you sometimes have to look hard to find the tables covered with brocantes and collectibles of varous sorts. You never know what you'll discover from one day to the next. Crowds can be overwhelming, especially on weekends, and you're competing with dealers looking for hidden treasures for their shops - so if you see something you like, grab it and don't put it down unless you know you absolutely do not want it.
Prices can be reasonable as items are usually priced to sell on the day they're displayed. See the trio of small blue and gold dishes near the bottom center of the photo? 6 Euros. Come early in the day for best selections, or late in the day if you want to negotiate for the lowest price.
Celebrate your purchases with lunch at any of many the small restaurants around the market area; couscous is always a great choice here - and the spend the afternoon exploring rest of the market and the many small specialty shops along this popular market street.
Aligre Flea Market location: Place d'Aligre, Rue d'Aligre between Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine and Rue de Charenton, 12 arr
Open: Daily except for Mondays, 8am-1:30pm
As many as 100 sellers of used, old, and rare books gather under two semi-covered market pavilions in Parc Georges Brassens in the 15th arrondissement each Saturday and Sunday (9am-6pm) to offer everything from scholarly texts to comic books to vintage magazines, along with a smattering of prints, posters, and photographs. You may even see boxes of old phonograph records. Prices range from downright cheap to what you might expect for rare antique books. While most are in French, you can usually find plenty in English and a smattering of other European and Asian languages.
While you're there, spend some time exploring this lovely and lesser-known park in this mostly residential part of Paris. Look for the statue of a butcher carrying an animal carcass on his shoulder - a reminder that a slaughterhouse and horse auction facility once occupied this area - as well as beehives, a small vineyard, a puppet theater, numerous flowering gardens, a pond, and pony rides for children. Several small restaurants along Rue Brancion and Rue des Morillons offer tasty meal options, or head into Max Poilâne (87 Rue Brancion) bakery for sandwiches and pastries for a picnic in the park.
Georges Brassens Book Market location: Located in Parc Georges Brassens near Rue Brancion and Rue des Morillons intersection, 15 arr
Open: Saturdays and Sundays, 9am-6pm
Metro: Porte de Vanves or Convention
Paris Brocantes - Pop-Ups
Walk around Paris, and at almost any time of the year except for January and February, you'll see signs announcing brocantes: pop-up sales of collectibles, old books, art, toys, cookware, furniture, used clothing, and almost everything else you can imagine. Some signs are for small second-hand shops, but others are for pop-up markets lasting from a few hours to several days and ranging from small and specialized to large and all-encompassing.
Halle des Blancs Manteaux (48 Rue Vieille du Temple, 4eme) and Carreau du Temple (4 Rue Eugène Spuller, 3rd arr) in the Marais neighborhood host pop-up brocantes relatively often, especially around holidays.
To find more pop-up brocantes, garage sales, and flea markets, check these two reliable sources:
- Vide-Greniers website - Choose Ile de France to see sales in Paris and nearby suburbs
- City of Paris website - List of sales by date and arrondissement
Brocantes and Garage Sale Tips: In general, vendors at brocante sales conducted indoor (inside Blancs Manteaux, for example) accept credit cards, but some of those held outdoor (including garage sales, which are usually hosted by groups of neighbors) may accept only cash.
Village Saint Paul - Antiques & More in the Marais
On occasion, the 80 or so galleries, antique shops, and artisans occupying the almost-hidden enclave Village Saint-Paul not far from the remains of a 12th century medieval wall host brocante sales along the sidewalks or in one of their tiny cobblestone courtyards.
If you're in the Marais neighborhood in the 4th arrondissement, look for "Brocantes" signs posted along Rue Saint-Paul and Rue de Rivoli giving times and dates for the pop-up brocantes.
Several Village Saint-Paul shops specialize in brocantes rather than pricier antiques, so stroll around and visit any place that catches your eye.
Where to find Village Saint-Paul: Rue Saint-Paul between Rue Charlemagne and Rue de l'Ave Maria (look for arched entrances leading inside the courtyards)
Open: Daily except for Tuesdays and August; 11am-7pm
Metro: Saint-Paul or Sully-Morland
Hôtel Drouot - Buy Your Treasures at Auction
Not a hotel at all, but the largest auction house in Paris which for over four centuries has sold everything from almost-priceless antiques and art to more affordable household furnishings and items to the highest bidders. Hôtel Drouot holds around 1,200 auctions each year at its two locations.
At its historic site in the 9th arrondissement (9 Rue Drouot, 9th arr; Metro: Richelieu-Drouot), Hôtel Drouot sells primarily art and welcomes the public to view items from 11am-6pm on the day before the auction and between 11am and noon on the day of the auction.
Hôtel Drouot offers mainly furniture and everyday items at its Montmartre location in the 18th arr (21 rue d'Oran; Metro: Chateau Rouge or Marcadet-Poissonniers), with public viewings from 8:30am-9am on the day of the auction.
Interested? You can find out more about how to bid (and deadlines for picking up your treasures) on the Hôtel Drouot website.
1. Unlike the much bigger and grander Les Puces Paris Flea Market at Saint-Ouen, these smaller Paris flea markets, street markets, and brocantes have a much lower treasures-to-junk ratio, so to find something you love enough to take home with you, arrive early. To get the best prices, shop an hour or two before the market closes on the last day it's open for the week.
2. As soon as you see an item you might covet, put your hand on it and don't let it go until after you've made a decision, agreed on a price with the vendor, and handed over your money. Otherwise, someone else may grab it out from under you.
3. Don't wear your best clothes - or anything else that screams "Tourist"!
4. Be willing to sort through boxes and get dusty and dirty, if necessary. Remember, the best items may be at the bottom of the pile.
5. Especially at these smaller markets, prices are negotiable. On the other hand, most prices are usually reasonable, so there's no shame in paying the marked price.
6. If you do decide to negotiate, do so in a low voice so that only the vendor can hear you. The vendor knows that if others hear you negotiating, they may negotiate for a discount too even if they'd planned to pay full price. You also don't want someone else who wants the same item to overhear your negotiations and start a bidding war.
7. If you're sure you only want the item at a reduced price, be prepared to walk away. On the other hand, if you think you've just discovered that Limoges porcelain bowl at a bargain price and don't want to lose it, this is NOT the time to test your negotiating skills.
8. Your chances of negotiating a good deal increase if you're buying more than one item.
9. Although vendors at indoor markets almost always accept credit cards and some outdoor vendors will as well, some will not. At any venue that gets super-crowded, as these smaller flea markets do by mid-afternoon, there is the possibility of pickpockets, especially dress in a way to look like a rich tourist. (See Tip 3.) Bring one credit card plus Euros in a variety of denominations, including plenty of 1€ and 2€ coins so that the vendor doesn't have to spend time giving you change. Leave your passport at home.
10. Be polite throughout your negotiations and/or transactions. Even if you can't speak any French, try to say at least Bonjour, Monsieur (or Madame) and Merci.
These tours introduce you to more places to shop in Paris - and will give you great ideas about even more places to explore on your own: