It’s the thrill of the hunt. For decades, treasure seekers have scoured the allées of Paris’s famed flea market Marché aux Puces for vintage trinkets and eclectic furniture. To inveterate hunters and gatherers, the aha! moment of plucking bric-a-brac vintage serving pieces, an art deco sconce, textiles and quirky French hotel signage from the back of a dusty stall offers an incomparable high. But the Puces has gotten a bad rap as of late. Prices have skyrocked. Stalls have become too high-end. And dealers have been derided for their unwillingness to negotiate. The question looms: Can tourists still score without frittering away their entire food budget? Absolutely! Here is where to shop and eat at the Marché aux Puces.
Rue des Rosiers
Just as seasoned travelers dodge touristy restaurants, would-be thrifters should avoid the exorbitant prices of Paul Bert Serpette market. Not because of poor quality. Au contraire! More Sotheby’s than flea market, the antique products found in these buzzed-about passages are for interior designers and jet-setters looking to furnish second and third homes. Mere mortals should instead trawl the casual indoor and outdoor stands peppering the perimeter of the rue des Rosiers. Here, you can explore the tables and vitrines brimming with easy-to-transport, 10- to 20-euro-type knickknacks that scream “authentic French souvenir.” Best bets? Ashtrays from iconic hotels and restaurants, stylish porcelain jars and trays, small sculptures, old-school stemware and retro pastis bottles.
TIPS: Showing too much interest reduces your negotiating power. Always use cash as a bartering tool. Cut to the culinary chase by querying the stall keeper for his/her favorite eateries at Les Puces.
The newest of the 14 linked markets, this bi-level paradise is perfect for those seeking accessibly priced mementos of their flea market foray. Red Rose Antiques has glammy Louis Vuitton steamer trunks (that make excellent storage for one’s sweater collection) and other chic travel-related objets. And, for mid-century science lab-type quirk, Mes Découvertes is filled with historical curiosities like taxidermy, mid-century hardware and groovy maritime relics. The entire second floor of the market is devoted to old books, lithographs, fashion photographs and postcards.
Flea market fiend Phillipe Starck transformed the Saint-Ouen landscape when he opened the trendy restaurant Ma Cocotte at the mouth of the Serpette market in 2012. A delightfully curated former industrial garage (all furniture and art from Les Puces), the restaurant is cozy and cutting-edge at the same time. Downstairs, simple, savory bistro fare is served cafeteria-style. Cocktails, hot chocolate and coffee are taken upstairs on the terrace or in the book-studded living room space
Hipsters and elegant French couples (joined by their well-dressed pug dogs) unite at this casual bistro esconsed within the Marché Dauphine. Grab a table, wait in line and tuck in to homey Franco-fabulous classics like a juicy burger maison, bœuf bourguignon and blanquette de veau. The service is swift and the food, local beers and ambiance are excellent.
Croque monsieur, veau aux cèpes, tarte aux brocolis, poulet roti avec pommes frites, confit de canard. On a drizzly Sunday afternoon in Paris, when one is expending enormous energy digging for treasures, only a savory comfort food will do. Perfectly situated in between the marchés Biron and Dauphine is a quintessential (and quick!) brasserie/bar serving up the usual suspects and an excellent café crème.