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Paris Flea Market Guide: Off to the Puces!

Throughout the year, the City of de-Light stays retro-active with weekend flea markets and pop-up bazaars (Photo by Theadora Brack)

Throughout the year, the City of de-Light stays retro-active with weekend flea markets and pop-up bazaars (Photo by Theadora Brack)

By Theadora Brack

Bewitched by kitsch? Join the rave. Throughout the year, the City of Light stays retro active with weekend flea markets, along with open-air and tented pop-up bazaars. With so many venues, where to start? Here’s a Paris treasure hunt guide.

Meet the fleas: The infamous rag and bone pickers (forerunners of today’s dumpster divers) got the puces party jumping in the late 19th century. Two favorites still exist: Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves and Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen (a.k.a. Clignancourt).

At Porte de Vanves, you’ll find everything from key chains, perfume bottles, bolts of fabric, fancy fans, and heartthrob Elvis, too—oh, sigh! (Photo by Theadora Brack)

At Porte de Vanves, you’ll find everything from key chains, perfume bottles, bolts of fabric, fancy fans, and heartthrob Elvis, too—oh, sigh! (Photo by Theadora Brack)

1. Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves
Métro: Porte de Vanves

If you’ve only got time to visit one Parisian flea market, this is the one. With its bustling vibe, it’s impossible not to feel happy-go-lucky here. There’s even a piano player! Pirouetting straight to the point: the treasures are eclectic and affordable, and the dealers are friendly and fun.

Keep your peepers peeled for lightweight winners like antique illustrations, magazines, postcards, buttons, lace, powder boxes, and photographic calling cards (Photo by Theadora Brack)

Keep your peepers peeled for lightweight winners like antique illustrations, magazines, postcards, buttons, lace, powder boxes, and photographic calling cards (Photo by Theadora Brack)

Puces de la Porte de Vanves: I spy

You’ll find everything from plastic key chains, perfume bottles, bolts of fabric, and vinyl records, to ice buckets, ashtrays, and bottle openers, all sporting logos of French bar classics like Suze, Ricard, and Picon. You might also uncover old medical leech jars, shrunken heads, or even genuine Old Masters—stageprop perfect for Antiques Roadshow.

You might also uncover old medical leech jars, shrunken heads, or even genuine Old Masters—stageprop perfect for Antiques Roadshow (Photo by Theadora Brack)

You might also uncover old medical leech jars, shrunken heads, or even genuine Old Masters—stage prop perfect for Antiques Roadshow, Porte de Vanves (Photo by Theadora Brack)

Puces de la Porte de Vanves: What to buy

Keep your peepers peeled for lightweight winners like antique illustrations, magazines, postcards, buttons, lace, powder boxes, and photographic calling cards—the 19th century version of Facebook. Take heed: Collect but one, and you may want the entire lot. A favorite cartes de visite stall is kitty corner to the piano player. Follow the music!

Porte de Vanves is sweet but short: 9am to noon Saturday and Sunday are the peak hours. By 1pm most dealers are packed and gone, dog gone it! (Photo by Theadora Brack)

Porte de Vanves is sweet but short: 9am to noon Saturday and Sunday are the peak hours. By 1pm most dealers are packed and gone, dog gone it! (Photo by Theadora Brack)

Puces de la Porte de Vanves: Tips

Look for bargain tables with hand-written all-one-price signs. This strategy once scored me some fab ski pants from the Sixties in tangerine, mustard, and turquoise, with original tags still a-dangling, and for just one euro.

A gentle warning: the Porte de Vanves market is sweet but short: 9am to noon both Saturday and Sunday are the peak hours. By 1pm most dealers are packed up and gone.

Marché aux Saint-Ouen still has a certain Proustian charm (Photo by Theadora Brack)

Marché aux Saint-Ouen still has a certain Proustian charm (Photo by Theadora Brack)

2. Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen
Métro: Porte de Clignancourt

Here’s where Chef Julia Child bought her first antique mortar and pestle “. . . about the size and weight of a baptismal font,” she wrote. “One look at it, and I knew there was no question: I just had to have that set!” That very mortar and pestle is now at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. “Everything has a history!” as Julia would say.

Who else found inspiration at Saint-Ouen? Elsa Schiaparelli, André Breton, Pablo Picasso, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Andy Warhol, and Coco Chanel—just to name a few.

Who else found inspiration at Saint-Ouen? Elsa Schiaparelli, André Breton, Pablo Picasso, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Andy Warhol, and Coco Chanel (Photo by Theadora Brack)

Who else found inspiration at Saint-Ouen? Elsa Schiaparelli, André Breton, Pablo Picasso, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Andy Warhol, and Coco Chanel (Photo by Theadora Brack)

Puces de Saint-Ouen: I spy

The market still has a certain Proustian charm, meshing past and present. It’s also photogenic, rain or shine, and the perfect place for more than a few existentialist Instagram moments with your inner-flâneur. After sipping a beer at Le Paul Bert, strike out on a slow roll through the labyrinth of shacks and tents, chockfull with the faded gilded and gloriously gritty.

After sipping a beer at Le Paul Bert, strike out on a slow roll through the labyrinth of shacks and tents, chockfull with the faded gilded and gloriously gritty (Photo by Theadora Brack)

After sipping a beer at Le Paul Bert, strike out on a slow roll through the labyrinth of shacks and tents, chockfull with the faded gilded and gloriously gritty (Photo by Theadora Brack)

Puces de Saint-Ouen: What to buy

Finding bargains at Saint-Ouen can be a challenge. But with a little quill power, what about some vintage postcards? Or a vintage fashion magazine? Never more than a few euros, these feather light souvenirs won’t tip any airport luggage scale. Check out Caveyron Devey in the Passage Lecuyer.

Never more than a few euros, vintage magazines and postcards won’t tip the airport luggage scale (Photo by Theadora Brack)

Never more than a few euros, vintage magazines and postcards won’t tip the airport luggage scale (Photo by Theadora Brack)

Puces de Saint-Ouen: Tips

At Caveyron Devey, the cards are meticulously organized by genre. Looking for something specific? Cats? Circuses? Just ask. Also, if offered a seat at their table to paw through a box, take them up on it. You’ll look like a real aficionado and your feet will thank you. Got a vintage fashion fetish? Visit the nearby clothing stalls.

Scattered around Paris are temporary brocantes and vide-greniers, Le Salon Antiquité Brocante (Photo by Theadora Brack)

Scattered around Paris are temporary brocantes and vide-greniers, Le Salon Antiquité Brocante (Photo by Theadora Brack)

3. The Pop-ups

Scattered around Paris are temporary brocantes (dealer-run antique sales) and vide-greniers where the neighborhood locals empty their closets. Recent finds include pink Valentino heels, Charles Jourdan boots in noir, and Ted Lapidus hexagonal sunglasses, none for more than 20 euros. You’ll also spy gently used scarves, hats, and Catherine Deneuve-worthy trench coats—but without their usual exorbitant price tags.

Here are a few more tips for the road.

Previsualization helps narrow the hunt while increasing your chances of finding the object of your desire, Porte de Vanves (Photo by Theadora Brack)

Previsualization helps narrow the hunt while increasing your chances of finding the object of your desire, Porte de Vanves (Photo by Theadora Brack)

Plan of Action

Have a “quest” in mind. Previsualization helps narrow the hunt while increasing your chances of finding the object of your desire. What’s missing from your closet? Ballet slippers? A striped Breton sailor shirt? Both are timeless French classics. Need a showstopper for the house? Old maps, chalkware cats, mannequins, mounted beetles, or absinthe glasses offer charmed vintage at its best. Grab a pen and make your wish list.

Before setting out, consider your shopping kit: comfortable shoes, candy, water bottle, Métro tickets, maps, and a parapluie, Porte de Vanves (Photo by Theadora Brack)

Before setting out, consider your shopping kit: comfortable shoes, candy, water bottle, Métro tickets, maps, and a parapluie, Porte de Vanves (Photo by Theadora Brack)

Be Prepared

Before setting out, consider your shopping kit: comfortable shoes, water bottle, Métro tickets, maps with the markets circled, maybe a folding umbrella. Don’t forget a sturdy bag for your finds, available at almost any grocery store for just a few cents. They make perfect souvenirs, too. Also, do carry cash, since many dealers don’t accept credit cards. Just keep it on you in a safe place. And keep your wits about you, too—that person nudging next to you at the stall may be more interested in what’s in your bag than what’s on the table. No need to stress about it, but do be aware.

It is possible to visit both of these fleas and even a few brocantes in one day. Just get on the bus, Gus! Porte de Vanves (Photo by Theadora Brack)

It is possible to visit both of these fleas and even a few brocantes in one day. Just get on the bus, Gus! Porte de Vanves (Photo by Theadora Brack)

Getting around

Time is precious but it’s possible to visit both of these fleas and even a few brocantes in one day. Just get on the bus, Gus. For the price of a Métro ticket, you can spend a weekend morning at Porte de Vanves, then hop on the 95 bus all the way to Saint-Ouen at its final stop. No need to keep track of the stops—everyone gets off at the end. Just rest your feet and gloat over your early successes as the whole fantastic panorama of Paris rolls by. Forty-five minutes later, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running once more.

Happy Hunting!

If you are a fellow Instagram fan or fanatic, please leave a link to your Instagram portfolio below.

Always keeping my peepers peeled for inspiration, I’d love to pay a visit.

Give me a shout-out on Instagram: @theadorabrack

With its bustling vibe, it’s impossible not to feel happy-go-lucky at Porte de Vanves. There’s even a piano player! (Photo by Theadora Brack)

With its bustling vibe, it’s impossible not to feel happy-go-lucky at Porte de Vanves. There’s even a piano player! (Photo by Theadora Brack)

 

 

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49 thoughts on “Paris Flea Market Guide: Off to the Puces!

  1. Brava! My past visits to the puces have been overwhelming, but thanks to your marvelous post I’m keen to give them another try. You are such a wonderful writer, Theadora!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, thank you, Heide! You always leave such kind words. Thanks for the positive energy. It’s contagious.

      And yes, at times the Paris Puces are overwhelming. Endless stalls of treasures! So I always arrive with a mission in hand. This month? Postcards, postcards, postcards! And found photographs, too. I’m hooked.

      Hooked!
      Theadora

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post Theadora. I remember your mentioning Porte de Vanves, where my brother had a stand. Not anymore, he’s semi-retired now. Have you tried “Le Timbre-Poste” for yummy salads? Across the périphérique. That’s where we always headed for lunch when we met at the Puces.
    Enjoy Spring.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your kind words! Le Timbre-Poste? I’m off now to find the address . . . or link.

      Does your brother still have a stand at Porte de Vanves? Or at one of the bracantes?

      And yes, I mention Porte de Vanves often. It’s a favourite, as you know!
      Theadora

      Liked by 1 person

      • Décoré de mille et une plaques émaillées, ce bistro sert une cuisine du Sud-Ouest et des bières d’importation.
        Adresse : 1 Rue Rouget de Lisle, 92240 Malakoff, France
        🙂
        No my brother is semi-retired, he gave his stand. Sells on commission to known customers.
        Enjoy Porte de Vanves.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Classic! What to look for – things that make life a little richer, there’s a little hoarder in all of us! What’s wonderful at flea markets is when you find something you forgot you needed! Thanks for another jaunt around your city … 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, thank you! I completely agree. There is a little hoarder in all of us. That’s exactly why I create a mission list prior to my trip. And try to stick with it! I try. Postcards, found photographs, and perfume bottles usually top the list.

      Do you collect? If so, do tell!
      Theadora

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve scaled way back after a couple of moves! I still look for old books from the new thought movement, election buttons “Nixon / Agnew”, tools, especially old hammers and axes, I love restoring the wooden handles, and bringing back the patina of the steel. I found an old an old Harley Davidson glasses case in a great antiques store in Leadville, CO (Molly Brown’s town) that now holds my sunglass in my car. Postcards that have meaning, magazines with JFK stories in them, old bottle openers. Keep it small but meaningful – Of course there is the elusive boat tail Talbot Lago or Bugatti … 😋

        Liked by 1 person

      • Wow. Wow. Wow. I love your list of treasures. Tools. Yes, I thoroughly enjoy studying the form and function, along with the wear and tear. A little rust or a dent always adds value, in my book.

        Take care,
        Theadora

        Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, the 95 bus ride from Porte de Vanves to Saint-Ouen is always great fun. So much to see: the shops along rue des Rennes, the Opéra, the Boulevard Haussmann department stores, and the Cimetière de Montmartre. I love this ride through the city.

      Worth every cent!
      Theadora

      Like

    • Thank you! I always return with hundreds of shots. The fleas are always photogenic. Dealers, too.

      Juggling the camera, wallet, and piping hot coffee isn’t always easy!
      Theadora

      Like

    • It’s always great fun to stroll around Porte de Vanves. Perfect spot for people-watching. And dog-watching, too. I once spotted a cat on a leash! She looked pretty darn content to be there. Completely chilled.
      Theadora

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My heart was going pitter patter. Back and forth I shopped the flea markets. Oh I had such a wonderful time. I packed my treasures in my valise. It is extremely handy for flea market shopping and flying to Tangiers. The china swimming beauties carefully wrapped in gorgeous vintage fabrics will find a place of prominence in my little house in Paris. Cheers Virginia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Virginia, Oh, what did you purchase? Did your eye spy the green shoes? I’m still daydreaming about the magical satin heels. Kicking myself for not rescuing the pair. And they fit! Well, almost. Maybe I’ll return and scoop them up in my arms . . .

      Sigh!
      Theadora

      Liked by 1 person

      • The green satin shoes were divine. I gathered up the bathing beauties. They are so classy they had my name on them. XXXOOO Virgiia

        Like

  5. Paris flea markets must be the best in the world. Thanks for giving us a tour and tips! I love shopping a flea markets for treasures. I spied several items in your photos that I would love to have had – the yellow cats and the last mirror. You have the best shopping adventures!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I also love the mirror, along with the chandelier. While prepping the photograph, I spotted it. The reflection of the glass marvel is located in the bottom right hand side of the pic. On the day of my visit, I somehow the missed the beauty.

      Adding it to my flea market wish list . . .
      Theadora

      Like

    • Yes, Izzy! Definitely start planning another trip to Paris. I also recommend taking a boat ride. The one-hour river trip about 12 to 15 euros. Worth every cent—especially at sunset!
      Theadora

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Lovely guide!
    Unfortunately, we skipped visit to fleamarkets last time because of rain. After reading your post I’ve regret we did not do it. But next time it gonna happen for sure. I love that kind of fun.
    Thank you, Theadora, for the temptation!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your kind words always make my day! My week! By the way, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying following YOU on Instagram. I loved the recent “Should I be worried” shot.

      Brilliant quote, too!
      Theadora

      Like

  7. What an enjoyable post, T! My favorite phrase? “The treasures are eclectic and affordable, and the dealers are friendly and fun..”

    Hope all’s with you! I’m looking forward to going back to France in September, but not to Paris.

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great to hear from you, Janet! September is the perfect time of the year to visit France, as you know. You might even find a brocante or two . . .

      Enjoy the trip planning!
      Theadora

      Like

  8. I would be like a kid in a candy store. Sounds like they keep US garage sale hours, packing it up by noon. When I read: THE FADED GILDED AND GLORIOUSLY GRITTY, it sounded like a great name for an autobiography.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My favorite pastime is scouring the flea markets or yard sales to find the treasures of the past. I don’t collect anything. I just enjoy browsing and thinking about the history behind each piece.
    Isadora 😎

    Like

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