There are several flea markets in Paris, but the big one is the Saint Ouen flea market. You take the metro to Porte de Clignancourt to go there. The proper exit is indicated on the sign (marché aux puces). "Puce" means flea in French but it is also the word for microchip.
All you have to do is to follow the crowd.
You quickly arrive at a big square with several rows of stands, and sometimes first timers think that this is the flea market. Actually, most of it is a disguised outlet shop owned by the main department stores of the city.
You actually have to go under the périphérique expressway overpass to get to the real flea market.
Once you are under the underpass, you have finally arrived at the flea market. Things don't look much different at first.
But there is a whole network of streets and alleyways that go on forever. I confess that I barely scratched the surface today, but I figure that I took enough photographs to give you an idea of what you might see if you visit. Just multiply it by ten.
Most of the "good" stuff can be found in the various markets selling antiques. They have a lot of junk, but they also have a lot of jaw-dropping items that you would just love to have if only you weren't living where you are but in a château or a funky giant house instead.
Oh, and you will also see a lot of the most tasteless yet expensive items in the world.
A lot of the following pictures were taken in Marché Vernaison, just so you'll know. But every other market has the same mix of valuable antiques and junk, as well as everything in between. Antique specialists certainly know the names of the specific places to go for the highest quality upmarket stuff. But of course, that is not a concern of mine.
I wonder first who could possibly want this dingy old portrait with 100 years of grime on it. Well, maybe if I had to decorate a whorehouse or a mansion for a horror movie...
Such a variety of things...
Silver items and silverware are big draws for merchants and their customers.
This brings back some fabulous memories. I remember going for the first time and being confused and disappointed as I viewed the 'outer market' and thought...is this all there is? Happily, I discovered the actual market and spent hours there, getting lost and being forced to sit and have a coffee at one of the many small cafes. I loved its labyrinth of small alleyways. I loved that you can go from high to low end, despite its reputation for being very expensive. I don't agree. As I wandered, I saw the most beautiful pieces of Lalique glass that I have ever seen in one place. I think that is a great day or half day trip. Three other flea markets interested me, all completely different in character, Vanves, Aligre and Montreuil. On my last trip I went to all of these, but I am most fascinated by the Saint Ouen flea market. It is about 100 years old, isn't it? Thanks, Kerouac. Unfortunately, I didn't have a camera with me when I went to each of these.
There’s cheap interesting stuff, too. Everybody loved to string beads at one time in their life at least, didn’t they? When I see stuff like this, I feel 5 years old again. The beads are sold by the cupful.
Hidden in the depths of the Marché Vernaison is the famous “Chez Louisette,” a restaurant and cabaret of the sort that many tourists fantasize about. Yet few of them will ever find this place.
The customers certainly did not look like tourists.
The singer had a lot of kilometers on her odometer, as we say in France.
I continued wandering through the various alleys, getting glimpses of some really strange stuff.
Jazz, I have never really read the history of the Saint Ouen/Clignancourt flea market, but 100 years old sounds about right to me. It is only in the last 25 years or so that some of those bigger buildings have been constructed to protect some of the alleyways. And of course, there have been some spectacular fires from time to time.
These are great and give a definite feel for the market. The vintage fashion magazines...these, old postcards, sketches and etchings can be purchased very inexpensively. I have some and love them. Chez Louisette is a comfortable, rather seductive cafe. I had lunch there and enjoyed the company very much. Not a word of english, only french, good music. I wondered if many of the customers worked in the shops in the market.
Oh, I just saw your last post. More to come! I can't wait. (but will )
I have absolutely no idea about the prices, but I know that for items like that, the fluctuation can be enormous, considering the fact that a lot of these items were carted off free of charge to clean out the attics of the deceased, etc. I can only suggest that one wander around for hours asking prices and deciding not to buy. When the vendors see you passing through the second or third time, they are the ones who come to you to propose a new price. I saw that several times today. "You're the person who was asking about that chair...?"
Yes, you can find reasonable prices but you need to look. Some pieces are museum quality and priced accordingly. Others are very affordable. My finds...a 20's fashion magazine with Paul Poiret sketches (5E), a watercolour of the market at the turn of the century, 1905, (10E) and two antique handpainted Czech water glasses. Bargaining adds to the whole experience. I wanted the glasses and the vendor and I had our first exchange. He was gratified that I recognized them as Czech and he offered me a coffee. We got into a long conversation, but I was unsure. The next week I returned, he immediately recognized me, we had another coffee together (delicious, by the way) and I bought the beautiful glasses.
Silverware isn't my interest, but of course I checked and you could easily pick up a beautiful server inexpensively.
This is all so surprising. I was amazed at how unglamorous, crummy even, the part near the overpass is. Then, I was amazed all over again at the permanence of the place, although I guess that should be expected in a huge city. It looks as though treasures are mixed in with junk. Are the stores with the more valuable items right next to the thrift-shop style places?
It was too late in the day when I went, but one of the most amusing things that you can do is visit this area at lunchtime. You will see the antique dealers grouped together to eat at one of the stands, sometimes eating off a Louis XIII table while sitting on Formica stools, sometimes sitting on hand carved thrones at a card table. They try to keep an eye on the various businesses, sometimes throwing a fishing net over the loose items. Of course, there are also hundreds of security cameras. Some of the old residential buildings right next to the market are clearly becoming gentrified, so I would suspect that some of the dealers live right there now, which is something they would have never done in the past. As crummy as some of the streets still are, there has been a major cleaning and renovation effort over the last 10 years. "The flea market is losing its soul," some people lament. Well, there are other flea markets for the nostalgic -- if you want to see trashy trash, just go to the puces de Montreuil!
At Saint Ouen, you can even buy the spoils from pillaged châteaux.
But a flea market needs its fleas, too, so they sell all of that other good stuff, too.
Yes, it looks like people live there above some of the shops. The building announcing Marché Jules-Vallès just looks like a normal Parisian popular district (or old proche banlieue) block of flats. But it might be strange there when the market isn't open.
Yeah, I saw nothing but crap at marché de Montreuil when I was there (I was staying with friends in Montreuil). I've only had a coffee or two at Marché de Saint-Ouen, never a meal.
There are two big apartment blocks that look like they are standing right in the middle of the flea market. Actually, they are off on one side of it, but I have always wondered about what a fascinating view they have of the whole scene.
For certain collectors and fans, the flea market is indeed a paradise. Do you collect old vinyl records?
Ten 45's for 2 euros!
Ladies, do you have an interest in vintage dresses?
I loved this item, but I don't know what it is!
Soon, however, we are going to have to talk about Baby Milo.
A really fabulous tour Kerouac. I have ALWAYS loved flea markets and have always heard about the ones in Paris! (I recall some fond recollections from Jazz,and where she purchased her lovely enamel pitcher at another flea market along the Seine). I would go crazy I know over this place. Thank you!
Even though the big money is in antiques, most of the transactions at the flea market concern clothing and footwear. This is where streetwear is born, and it has been my experience that what is being sold at Marché Malik, no matter how hideous and unwearable, will be the hottest item in the youth world within two years.
But before we get to Baby Milo, check out some of the other items.
military surplus will always be a big part of these places
entering Marché Malik
a saleslady awaits customers
one shops understands the importance of how your ass looks in jeans
And now, I hereby present BABY MILO. The brand is of Japanese origin (remember Hello Kitty? -- she's still around, too). These T-shirts were absolutely everywhere. Get ready for them to sweep the world.
If you are really iconoclastic, you might find something different.
[Kerouac wrote: "I loved this item, but I don't know what it is!"
Hmmm ~~ I think one of the boxes is missing. One more would fit perfectly in that top space.
It's for cheese? hats? film reels? The part at the top with the square & rectangular openings is intriguing.
Ha ~~ I came back to add another guess on the mystery item (for 78s?) and saw we'd posted simultaneously.
[Kerouac wrote:] Ha ~~ I came back to add another guess on the mystery item (for 78s?) and saw we'd posted simultaneously.
[Kerouac wrote:]" ... it has been my experience that what is being sold at Marché Malik, no matter how hideous and unwearable, will be the hottest item in the youth world within two years."
Ain't that the truth! Then the youthwear becomes part of mainstream fashion and those of us who endured the horrible styles the first time are offered polyester or shoulder pads or whatever all over again.
One thing I always noticed when going to yard sales -- older ladies frequently undervalue the styles of their youth. I've emoted over something from the 40s or 50s, or even earlier, if it was something that belonged to their mothers' generation and been told, "You want that?!"
Okay, I know that I have tried everybody's patience with these incoherent photos, so I will try to wrap of my visit now.
First a few more random shots of some stalls...
traditional hippie stuff!
creepy porcelain rabbits!
To reply to a question asked at the beginning, no, I did not buy anything, but I do have a favorite place at the flea market. As far as I am concerned, it is one of the most magnificent bookstores in the world.
It is extremely well organized for a used bookshop, and you can find everything exactly at the place indicated.
Some of the rare books are up here in this section.
Victor Hugo keeps an eye on things.
Sorry for this personal digression. Actually, I was walking onwards towards Porte de Montmartre, whereas most people have to trek back to Porte de Clignancourt to go back from whence they came.
The closer you get to Porte de Montmartre, the poorer the market becomes.
Some visitors to Paris choose the perfectly acceptable Accor hotels at Porte de Montmartre to save a lot of money. There are something like 800 rooms in these places -- 400 for the Etap at around 45€ a night and 400 for the F1 at around 35€ a night (the official address is rue du Docteur Babinski in the 17th arrondissement in case you need one of these hotels). You can see the building (shared by the two hotels) from the flea market.
The tail end of the market is mostly for ragpickers. It is ugly and depressing but quite safe, because every other person is a policeman.
Going back under the périphérique, there are even completely official pavement boxes for ragpickers (this is a recent addition because everybody was fed up with the cat-and-mouse antics of the police and the vendors in the area).
Here is the very last ragpicker vendor of the flea market, selling abandoned adaptors and charging stations pulled from the trash.
At Porte de Montmartre, you have the terminus of bus lines 60 and 95. Hey, bus line 60 drops me right in front of my door, which is why I take it. Line 95 goes to the Louvre, Saint Germain-des-Prés and Montparnasse. Back to the real world...
Patience? I'm devouring this, and plan to re-scrutinize each picture. This was a truly wonderful slice of real-life Paris.
There were some good items there with the "creepy rabbits", and even they have possibilities.
The downhill skier behind the lion ~ !!! That bust on the table of the Port objects is quite beautiful. But it was the bookstore that stole my heart -- a miracle, a dream of organization and abundance.
I don't know if I should mention this, but did anyone else notice the really miniature couple in the photo after the hookahs and before the belly dance clothes? Teeny!
I've been wondering about the mystery object and there's a couple of things that interest me about it. Firstly there is only one handle on the top. To me this means that if it was full, it would be too heavy to pick it up. Secondly are the small securing rings, one on each side, as though it was secured to somewhere like a cart or truck or ship when transported. If K2 can go back and read the label, it'd be helpful(!)