As a self-proclaimed vintage aficionado, I love trawling flea markets for old school treasures. Moving to Paris didn’t end the obsession—rather, it gave me access to even older finds. Looking to feather your Parisian nest, or take home a little piece of Paris? Perusing a brocante or one of the established Marchés aux Puces will guarantee you’ll come away with something a little more interesting than an Ikea side table or an Eiffel Tower keychain.
First things first: while I hate to burst your bubble, you won’t necessarily find a bargain at the Paris flea markets. Like practically everything in Paris, “cheap” is not adjective I’d choose for these price tags. Nonetheless, would I check them out? Definitely.
I love the range of old-fashioned ephemera, artfully displayed with the trademark Parisian panache. Vintage postcards (some of them equipped with spidery correspondence), hammered Moroccan metal tables, rolled up rugs, chandeliers, records, old fashioned bicycles, and bits of lace are just a few of the pearls you’ll find. If you live for the thrill of the chase, the Paris flea markets have plenty to choose from: opt for the standing Marchés aux Puces or the outdoor pop-up markets, better known as brocantes. Down to dig for buried treasure? Let’s go!
Marchés aux Puces
At the edges of the city, les Marchés aux Puces await. Marché aux Puce St. Ouen—sometimes called Marché Clingancourt—is the big one. It’s the oldest and largest—and often the one you’re envisioning when you think of Paris flea markets. If you’re a fan of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, you may remember Gil (Owen Wilson) hunting for a Cole Porter record here. However, you’re more likely to find a deal at Marché aux Puce Vavin in the 14th arrondissement or the Marché Montreuil just on the edge of the 20th where there are fewer tourists. Nonetheless, don’t expect bargains here. If you’re looking for specific items and are willing to pay a bit more, you might get lucky!
Saint-Ouen: Saturday 9am-6pm, Sunday 10am-6pm, Mondays 11am-5pm; Métro: Porte de Clingancourt (line 4)
Vanves: Saturdays & Sundays 7am-2pm, Métro: Porte de Vanves (line 13)
Montreuil: Saturday-Monday 7am-7:30pm, Métro: Porte de Montreuil (line 9)
While the Marché aux Puces in Saint-Ouen and Vanves are fixed location venues, I prefer brocantes for their ephemeral charm and better deals. The brocante is the French yard sale, though there’s a mix of professionals (with prices that won’t budge) and your average Parisian with cupboards to clean out or a passion for collecting. While I’ve been surprised more often than I can count by stepping out my front door and into a bustling brocante, the city will warn you they’re coming. Signs for an upcoming brocante will pop up around the neighborhood, notably on the streets where it will be taking place to let residents know that parking will be suspended. If you’re interested in going a bit further afield than your own quartier, take a look at this website, as well as another vide-grenier (yard sale) website. While they’re en français, they do have great information about different brocantes happening across the city, and in the Parisian suburbs.
It pays off to keep a disinterested expression when inquiring about prices, and carry small change in your pockets! It’s tricky to bargain without exact change to back yourself up. Without a doubt, I want to bring it all home, but I keep reminding myself I have a limited number of mètres carrés to call my own. My personal favorite spots are the brocantes at Abbesses and Lamarck-Caulaincourt in the 18th, and along Avenue Trudaine and rue des Martyrs in the 9th. Now that I’m living life without a handy car to haul home my treasures, I prefer to hunt close to home. Still, some of my favorite finds—from a Penguin Paperback Till Death Do Us Part by John Dickson Carr to my Edith Piaf record—have come from brocantes in the 11th arrondissement.
Feeling inspired? Happy hunting!