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Paris Shopping Tips: Open Air Food Markets

Shopping on rue des Abbesses Photos by Theadora Brack

Heard it though the grapevine

By Theadora Brack

Open-air market shopping in Paris can look pretty intimidating, even to a shopping fanatic like myself. In fact, I used to stick instead to the safe predictability of the supermarché aisles.

But I’ve changed! I have seen tomates, aubergines, and haricots verts in a natural light, and I’m not going back to fluorescent. So to help out, here are a few tips. Grab your list and shopping bag. Let’s hit the stalls!

1. Create a plan

Throughout Paris, there are roving open-air markets (“marchés volants”) and covered markets. They don’t call them “marchés volants” for nothing. The “flying markets” appear only once or twice each week on their assigned market days, sell their goods, and then move on to another hood.

Ring-a-ding:  The markets also carry wine and flowers. Being the perfect house or dinner guest just got easier!

2. Arrive early

Set your alarm clock! The open-air food markets typically open at 8 AM and close at 3 PM. Kick off your spree with  a cup of fresh white goat cheese or a chocolate cravate!

Presentation is everything

3. Cash and carry

If you can, organize a small “till” the night before. I usually carry 20 euros in coins and small bills. Most street merchants don’t accept credit cards.

4. Buying the whole week or a picnic?

Better bring a marché caddie or “chariot” (rolling cart), “panier” (basket), or a sturdy sac. Most grocery stores sell them. Sporting vibrant colors, they’re also the perfect souvenir.

5. Social Bee

Julia Child mused that if a proprietor, “senses a visitor is delighted to be in his store, and takes a genuine interest in what is for sale, then he’ll just open up like a flower.” What’s more, your relationship with the vendors will really flourish if you give them repeat business. The locals value fidelity. Sometimes money can buy love or a sample!

6. Sell! Sell! Then bye-bye.

Time is money for the open-air merchant. Need to know your chicken’s pedigree or the soil temperature where your tomatoes grew? I’d take your browsing to a specialty shop or a “biologique” (organic) food market, such as Marché Batignolles  (Métro: Place de Clichy).

Sunflower, Star Power

7. U can’t touch this (or can you?)

If plastic baskets or tubs are in reach, it’s usually okay to handle your own produce. An absence of these containers typically signals that the grocer will make the selections for you. Also, let them know exactly when you plan to eat it, and they’ll be able to figure out the ripeness with their eyes and fingertips. I love to watch them in action!

8. For every season turn, turn, turn

Think seasonally! In-season produce and “fromage” tastes better and costs less. Asparagus is best in the month of May, cherries ripen in July, and apples are at their tastiest in early autumn. Meanwhile, keep your eyes peeled for those “soldes” (on sale) signs.

9. Follow your nose

Don’t let your shopping list call all the shots. You’re better off using all your senses, following your gut, and trying whatever you fancy. Try the young (and difficult to find outside France) cheeses. Don’t hold back. Some vendors offer samples, so by all means break one of my grandmother’s rules: shop while hungry!

10. No market close to your flat or hotel?

Don’t fret. Most arrondissements have bustling “rues commerçantes” (shopping districts) which have many of the same advantages, if not the same Old World atmosphere. Abbesses is one of my favorites. Flea market junkies: There’s a food market next to the Porte de Vanves Flea!

WWHD? (What would Hem do?)

Signing off with a favorite Hemingway “Moveable Feast” passage, “I knew several of the men who fished the fruitful parts of the Seine between the Île St. Louis and the Square du Vert Galent and sometimes, if the day was bright, I would buy a liter of wine and a piece of bread and some sausage and sit in the sun and read one of the books I had bought and watch the fishing.”

Now that’s a plan! But first, let’s trek it to the Marché Barbès (Métro: Barbès-Rochechouart) for more shopping. Happy Hunting!

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113 thoughts on “Paris Shopping Tips: Open Air Food Markets

  1. Fantastic…love the energy in the market. I shop a farmers market in SoCal every weekend; love the organic produce. The setting in Paris is so much more, shall we say, romantic. I look forward to the day when I get to come to Paris and shop the markets. Thanks Theadora!

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    • Merci! I agree! The market’s energy is a fabulous muse. Around 1 PM at the Marché Barbès , the merchants start to sing out their discounts. “Tomates! Petits Poi! Artichauts! Champignons!” The words, rhythm and vibration stay with me all day! Theadora

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    • Thanks, Shira! There’s also an open air market near the (trendy and affordable) rue de Rennes shopping district. Both are conveniently located next to the Rennes Métro station. Here’s another cuisine tip! On rue de Rennes, there are three funky kitchenware shops: La Vaissellerie (85), Culinarion (99), and Plastiques (103). All three are worth a pop-by! T.

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  2. Oh, looks so delicious! Love, love, love the pics!!! Love the vendors “opening up like a flower” and the Hemingway passage. Sounds and looks like a perfect day. BTW, I bestowed upon you the Sunshine Award. Visit my blog to see details and have a lovely weekend, Theodora. :).

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    • Thanks, Brigitte! Congratulations! As you know, I’m a fan of your brilliant banter site. Bravo!! Thanks to your recent cinema post, I spent time yet again with “All About Eve.” The writing sizzles Bette Davis! Theadora (And thanks for the swell nomination!)

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  3. Delicious, delectable, delightful, I yearn to shop the markets then cook, cook, cook. My favorite subject beautifully captured by Theadora. Virginia

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  4. Theadora…the first 3 photos…it looks like they “stage” their fruits and veggies to sell there, like we “stage” our homes for sale here! Love it!

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  5. Bonjour from NZ, T! I reckon’ this is one of your best posts yet (but then I am a sucker for Parisian food markets. Great pics, great tips AND love the WWHD section! Thanks Possum. 🙂

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    • Well, thank you!! I enjoyed creating it the little series. I also dig the Hem quote. It wouldn’t be a complete post without at least one sparky Hemingway or Julia Child quote. (Wink.) I love them both. Good weekend to you!! Theadora

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  6. A great post! And really wonderful pics. Well done! We too love the Paris markets—all have a flavor of their own. We lived in Lozere (not strictly Paris) and it even had a twice-weekly market.

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  7. Lovely writing and photos. Thanks for the heads up about Marché Batignolles! I will try that one for sure next time in Paris! You give me so many ideas!

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    • Thanks, Anita! Yes, Marché Batignolles is a fabulous market. From time to time, a brocante pups up nearby. Both are about a 10 minute walk from the Clichy Métro. The area has a real neighborhood feel. Worth the trek! Theadora

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  8. I am hungry. Great tips and info. Pictures captured the color and texture of the food. Also, showed how vibrant the narkets are with all the people busy at the different stalls

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    • Merci! My favorite seafood merchant always throws in an extra sardine or two for my cat named “Kitty.” She thinks he’s the cat’s meow, of course. Of course! Theadora

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  9. Great post and stunning pictures, Theadora. You can leave me in the French market for hours and I can well entertain myself. I love seeing all those familiar and unfamiliar stuffs and trying out the many foodstuffs on offer for free tasting. 😉

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    • Thanks, Malou! Oh, yes, I’ve seen your market shots. They’re gorgeous! I could feel the love. Theadora (The free sampling is pretty great. This little piggy digs the ritual!)

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  10. Oswald is of course a vegetarian. On Sundays he is joined by his friends PIerre and Jean from Giverny. Sunday is their day-off from the gardens of Monet. They shop Raspail Organic Food Market in the 6th Arrondissment. Together they make a mean quiche and quaff a lovely summer wine – probably a rose. Virginia

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    • Dear Virginia and Oswald! What a smart bunny. We’re on the same cooking book page. I love the food market on Boulevard Raspail. Truth be bold, it’s one of my favorites. Great location! It’s next to the Métro Rennes and the Rue de Rennes shopping district.

      And I dig your post-marketing menu. I’ll hop on over with carrot soup!

      Enjoy the week!
      Theadora

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    • Thanks, Mad Perfumista! Say, I wonder if Annick Goutal has created a vegetable fragrance? Perhaps Gardénia Passion? I’ll throw on my Nancy Drew cap! Theadora

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  11. Oh thanks for posting this! It reminded me of how much I enjoyed shopping at the market near the Bastille while I was in Paris. Such beautiful produce! Many vendors offered a slice of this or a bite of that as I walked by, and I almost always ended up buying what I had sampled. I even found a pretty pink lace slip for 5.00 euro…at the food market!

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    • Ah, yes! I forgot to mention the lingerie and clothing. Deals can be scored! Lingerie is the perfect souvenir. It’s lightweight and affordable. Do you still have the slip? Enjoy the week! Theadora (Also, from time to time, there are brocantes in the Bastille area. It’s a favorite spot!)

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    • Thanks, Gordon!! Theadora (Your recent shot of the bakery was a beautiful nod to Hopper! I also thought Hopper before I read your caption. It’s a beauty!)

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  12. I LOVE the markets in Paris…………..when I am lucky enough to find a vintage clothing vendor; I stay for hours. As I change costumes, I beome a different character and entice passerbys to come in and shop. The vendors love for me to stop by.

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  13. Fantastic images! First those yummy closeups (why can’t Whole Foods get fruits and veggies like that? They sure charge enough) and then those gorgeous panoramics that almost make me feel like I’ve been there myself! Keep it up Theadora! I look forward to each new posting.

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  14. Another great post with beautiful photographs. I agree with all of your points –and add things like look at who’s in line at each stall. Visit the small producers. And, read the origin of the produce so you know what’s local (and thus, picked fresh and not trucked and shipped).

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    • Merci, the fabulous Bliss Travel News!! Thanks also for the additional tips. I agree! Check out the signage. And keep your eyes peeled for a snaking line. That’s always a good sign!! Theadora

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    • Thank you!! Theadora (I enjoyed your newsy Dior post. Last year, Bon Marché sponsored an exquisite exhibit, celebrating works by Monsieur Dior. It was a beautiful. And difficult to leave!)

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      • Oh, thank you so much. I am so jealous that you had the opportunity to go. Dior is a legend.

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    • Dear Bear Travelers, Thank you! I feel the same way about your travel site. I loved, loved the post about Les Puces de Saint-Ouen. Did you find any treasures? Theadora

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      • Thank you! yes we did! we collect different kinds of silverwares, and we found many interesting ones with amazing prices! but other stuff are a little too cher at the moment hahha. I need to learn some negotiating skill before i go back!

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    • Thanks, Jody!! There’s a food market next to the Porte de Vanves flea market. Heaven! Theadora (I love your “Thrift Shopping Buzz” site. You have really a knack for scoring great treasures!)

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    • Merci!! The tomatoes also taste great here. I was surprised. The experience ignited my affair with the great “tomates” all over again. Clipping Johnny Mathis, I get misty. . .Theadora

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    • Our stroll was a complete pleasure!! Theadora

      Here’s a tip for book lovers! There’s a food market next to the Porte de Vanves Flea Market. After early morning browsing at both markets, then head to the book market. It’s located at the intersection of Rue Brancion and Rue Fizeau in the 15th, northwest of Métro Porte de Vanves. It’s about a 15 minute walk from Porte de Vanves Métro. Worth the trek!

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      • It’s an ideal day trip for book, print and photograph collectors. After browsing the three markets near Porte de Vanves, they could then hop on the nearby 95 bus, and take it to the Marché aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt. Open Saturday through Monday, the shops close between 6 PM And 7 PM.

        It my book, it’s the perfect day!!
        T.

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    • Thanks, Jen!! Say, Your nod to the mall in Kuala Lumpur was fantastic. What an interesting Flea Market. I loved the shot of mannequin in the shopping basket. Great photograph! Any score any treasures? Theadora

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  15. Loved the quote from Moveable Feast. I read it after my last visit to Paris, and it seemed to capture everything so perfectly.

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    • OH. YES. I also dig the Moveable Feast. I’ve read again and again. Is it possible to read it too many times? Oh, I don’t think so! Do you have a favorite passage or quote? Theadora

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      • I wrote down several… one of them was: “To have come on all this new world of writing, with time to read in a city like Paris where there was a way of living well and working, no matter how poor you were, was like having a great treasure given to you.” Right now I’m reading Paula McLain’s “The Paris Wife”– it deals with the same time period from the perspective (fictional) of Hemingway’s wife. I’m really enjoying it!

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      • Beautiful passage!! Paris is a treasure and a muse. Theadora (Paris Without End: The True Story of Hemingway’s First Wife” by Gioia Diliberto is also an interesting read.)

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  16. While our farmers market isn’t this large, it’s a decent size and more and more food is beginning to come in. Asparagus was in Saturday morning. YUM!! I enjoy selling chevre. Our latest flavor is wasabi sesame. We sell the fresh chevre, plain and with all sorts of delicious add-ins. One of my favorites is the Baby Buche, the Bucheron-style aged chevre. It would make me hungry just thinking about it, but I just ate, and had some on my salad. 🙂

    I would second the idea of having small denominations of money with you. It’s difficult for vendors to keep making change and not always easy to go somewhere to get more if you run out. One morning, one of our first sales was a man who gave me a $50 bill for $7 worth of cheese. Not very thoughtful.

    Wish I were shopping with you there!!

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    • Yes!! Le Marché Barbès is oh, so worth the trek. I’d add it to your list! It’s very close to Abbesses and its shopping boutiques. They’re usually open on Sunday, too. It’s a win-grin! Theadora

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  17. lovely tour through an oper-air market. Markets are – as well – great places where taking nice pictures of people buying and negotiating. I’ve recently been at the Borough Market, a fantastic spot in London! Thanks for your post!

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    • Thank you!! The Borough Market? I’m green, green with envy! It possesses such a long and rich history. And it’s so close to Shakespeare’s Globe. Do you have tips, tidbits or not-to-be-missed stalls?! Theadora

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      • Dear Theadora, stalls of fruits have stunning colors. There is a cheese seller that had a great success even though the smell was a little too strong to me (but I’m not a cheese addict). If you like, I’d like to give you a link to my flickr set where you can find my photo tour in the market.
        Here is the link: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjwHT85Z

        Besides, I’ve thought another cool market where I’ve been less recently: the Boqueria in Barcellona! a very nice place! Have you ever been there?

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      • Oh, thanks for the delicious tips and pics!! I AM a cheese lover. I’m hooked. In fact, I’m writing another post about cheese. I recently discovered three more favorites. It will appear next week.

        I’m off now to take a look at your photographs! Thanks for sharing. By the way, I’m digging your site. Adding La Boqueria Market in Barcelona to my list.

        Enjoy the weekend!
        T.

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  18. Love the vegetable displays. They really make the food display interesting! Those gorgeous red tomatoes on the vine – oh….I love it.

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    • Dear Chef Thomas, Do you have a favorite Paris food market or string of shops! So spill! By the way, I’ve been enjoying your “Chef Thomas” site. Your “Patisserie Viennoise” photographs were lovely, lovely. Scrumptious! Enjoy the weekend! Theadora

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      • Chef Thomas! Thanks for the cool tips. I agree! Marché Biron is the perfect spot for a some window-shopping and people-watching! Yes, it’s pricey. However, there is an affordable bookshop at the Clignancourt Flea. La librairie de l’Avenue sells old and new books at a discount. I also love the little market at Place Monge. It’s a great market for scoring picnic goodies. Jardin des Plantes is just around the corner! Again, thanks for sharing your Paris leads with us!! Theadora

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  19. Hi! did you by any chance write in the past about quality food one could eat in Parisian restaurants?
    I know a blogger who’s looking for addresses that would justify French reputation for its haute cuisine, those that would distinguish it from other countries.
    Her last experience in Paris was not too positive in that aspect 🙂

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  20. Bonjour Theodora, I am bringing Jr., my 2-year old toddler to Paris in late Sep. We are staying on Champs Elysees, near Marbeuf. Can you recommend a nearby open market for us to visit? Cheers, Mrs. J

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