Paris Flea Markets : a paradise for antique-hunters and great for just browsing. Second-hand goods and antique dealers are an inexhaustible source of surprises. You can find almost anything and at almost any price: oil lamps, a sperm-whale’s tooth, molten glass chandeliers. all you need is an eye for a bargain.
There are four flea markets in Paris.
Saint Ouen, the most renowned, is the biggest antiques market in the world with 2,500 stands and 12 different sections, spread over 7 hectares. Vernaison, created in 1920, has become the most popular with bargain hunters. Located amidst a maze of narrow little streets, in the shade of overhanging trees, the 300 stands that make up this extraordinary ‘treasure hunt’ take you back to the days of the original Flea Markets.
Unusual objects, jewels, dolls, fabrics and furniture are all sold as they are. The Antica gallery, just nearby, plays host to a dozen high-end antique dealers that specialise in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The Malassis market, opposite, has 140 boutiques covering different themes: dinner-table items, nautical articles, watches, post cards etc. There is also a wide selection of furniture from the Thirties through to the Seventies. Dauphine is the most recent market. 180 professionals all propose merchandise of excellent quality, certified by experts: Primitive art, gilded wood from the 18th century, regional furniture etc.It also has numerous second-hand book stalls as well as stands specialising in vintage articles, corsets and naughty underwear.
The Biron market, nicknamed the « Faubourg Saint-Honoré of Flea Markets« , is the most chic of all. Here, 220 antique dealers propose a renowned selection of objets d’art, period furniture, signed paintings and treasures from all eras.
Paul Bert, with its 220 stands, is perhaps the most profuse of all St Ouen’s markets. The abundant displays overflow into the market’s seven flower-decked alleyways! This is the favourite hunting-ground of decorators, who come in search of that rare piece. It surrounds the Serpette Market, which is now the most fashionable in Paris and. the most popular with foreign visitors.
The 130 exhibitors, in their luxurious surroundings, cover a broad range encompassing furniture from the period 1900-1940, paintings by the masters or Napoleon III bronzes.
The Rosiers market has a selection of Art Déco and Art Nouveau objects as well as European and American designer goods, whereas the twenty or so antique dealers in Cambo specialise in furniture and articles from the 18th to the 20th century, linen, old musical instruments and decorative goods.
The Jules Vallès market, a little further off the beaten track and not so well known, almost resembles a village car-boot sale. The 120 dealers offer a whole host of dusty and authentic odds-and-ends. If you look hard enough, you can find posters, old ‘whodunnit’ novels and records for next to nothing.
The Malik market, a mecca for clothes, attracts a young and colourful clientele. Here, you can find military surplus, leather jackets, trainers, incense, make-up etc. The atmosphere is more like that of the Forum des Halles in Paris than that of a second-hand goods market.
The Entrepôt (warehouse) specialises in large items: spiral staircases, fireplaces, bars, bookcases. Although essentially for professionals, it is nevertheless open to the public at the weekend. The huge Usine (factory) depot, however, is exclusively reserved for professional antique dealers.
Guinguettes (open-air cafés), picturesque bars and restaurants form an integral part of the ambience at the St Ouen Flea Markets. There are around thirty good places to eat (Chez Louisette, Le Soleil, La Périchole, Le Biron, Le Jardin des Puces, O Beirao etc .) that offer everything from a light snack to a full-blown meal.
Other Flea Markets, different atmospheres
The Montreuil markets are fairly rough-and-ready with numerous unauthorised street hawkers. Although second-hand goods dealers are becoming increasingly scarce, there are still bargains to be found: hats, glasses, 70’s shoes, post-cards and odds-and-ends are almost given away.
At Vanves, the 350 dealers display their merchandise on the pavement itself or in wooden boxes perched on trestles (trinkets, lamps, cutlery, household linen, clothes etc). The atmosphere is friendly and the prices are reasonable. The Aligre Flea Markets are very lively, although a little difficult to find the first time round. Although clothes take pride of place, you will still nevertheless find a few second-hand goods stalls in Vanves or Montreuil at the weekend.