Paris Flea Market, formally known as Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, but also often referred
to as Marché aux Puces de Clignancourt, or simply Les Puces (The Fleas), is the
largest antiques and second-hand market in the world and receives more visitors
each year than the Eiffel Tower, welcoming some 100,000 – 200,000 people each
at the northern edge of Paris at the Porte de Clignancourt, the Paris Flea
Market consist of a vast network of warehouses and stands sprawling across 15
districts and 7 miles of alleyways. With over 2,000 vendors shops brimming with
furniture, decorative objects, art, bric-a-brac and beyond, it is impossible to
see it all in one day, one weekend or possibly even in a lifetime! So, what is
the best way to shop the Paris Flea Market? How about with a Les Puces expert?!
Hire the Ultimate Guide
Antiques Diva & Co., the only official Exclusive Guide of the Paris Flea
Markets Paul Bert Serpette. An honor bestowed upon this wonderful company for
their long-term relationships and close contacts with Les Puces. So, if you are
looking to navigate the Paris Flea Market like a pro, find exactly what you are
looking for and bargain for the best possible price like a local, then look no
“The best way to get a bargain at the Paris Flea Market is to be a local… And it just so happens we are! We can typically save clients via negotiations on antiques what they pay for our tour. Plus, we save you time in addition to money. We custom plan a tour for you, helping you navigate the many markets and thousands of vendors to find just what you’re looking for. You don’t waste time digging through things you’re not looking for, but rather maximize your shopping time (and dollar) on a pre-choreographed tour.”
~ The Antiques Diva & Co.
While planning my upcoming visit to the Paris Flea Market I got on the phone with founder & CEO Toma Clark Haines and she told me a great story which I believe perfectly reflects exactly why visiting the Paris Flea Market with a guide is the way to go!
A few years ago, Brownlee Currey, president of Currey & Company, was scheduled for a tour with his team while visiting Paris. A very frequent visitor to Les Puces, he was adamant he did not need a guide! Knowing he was a bit annoyed, The Antiques Diva team knew they needed to pull out all the stops so they began their tour at a well-hidden gem deep in the Paris Flea Market. He had never been!
The History Behind the World’s
Largest and Oldest Flea Market
visiting this massive wonderland of antique delights here is a bit about its history.
The Paris Flea Market is the very first flea market in the world, and it is
where the term flea market first originated.
end of the 1800s there was no garbage system in place and the city was laden
with trash, but one’s trash was another’s treasure. Les chiffonniers, rag-and-bone
men, picked through the endless trash and set up temporary stalls to sell their
finds on the street.
1884 Eugène Poubelle, a French lawyer and diplomat, and the Préfet of the Seine,
a powerful position with responsibilities similar to a mayor, had enough of the
trash. Continuing the massive urban renewal program of previous well-known préfet
Georges-Eugène Haussmann, M. Poubelle decreed that everyone must put their
trash out in bins for proper disposal. Thus, introducing the concept of trash
cans, an innovation which led to the French name for such, la poubelle.
of these trash boxes met resistance. Owners of buildings resented the cost of
providing and supervising the bins, and the chiffonniers saw it as a threat to
their very way of living.
As M. Poubelle
continued to clean the city by the end of the 19th century the
chiffonniers were driven to the outskirts of the town. They then began to
gather at the Porte de Clignancourt, Porte de Vanves and Montreuil, beyond the
city gates where they did not need to pay city taxes. They would set up
makeshift shanty towns selling the wears they found the night before.
Marché aux Puces de Clignancourt
group, around 100-200 gathered at the Porte de Clignancourt. With their eye for
style and the spectacle of the massive outdoor shopping site the place became a
novelty attracting men and women of wealth. “Fox hunting”, as they called it, at
the Porte de Clignancourt became a Sunday afternoon hobby. A tradition which
continues in French lifestyle today.
to these shanty towns would tell their friends and family, “Je vais au puces” (“I
am going to the fleas”) thanks to the flea infestations often found in
purchases—and thus the term flea market was born.
the town of Saint Ouen set out to clean up the area, paving the streets, designating
formal market areas, and marking the official starting year of Les Puces.
Changing with the Times
of the beautiful things about a flea market is that there is always something
new to be discovered! In the past few years Les Puces has been massively changing,
primarily due to very high rents. Some people think this is a bad thing,
however it is bringing in artisans and handmade products to the district, “the antiques
of the future,” describes Toma of The Antiques Diva. This shift is welcoming in
another demographic and while we all fear change, change is often for the best.
Some of the Top Markets at the Paris Flea Market
Down the main street of Les Puces, Rue des Rosiers, was Marché Vernaison, the first formal market in the district. A permanent collective, instead of the stalls which went up and down each day and night. Today Marché Vernaison is one of the less visited markets, however, it is known for its “perfect packables” (small finds you can easily take home!).
Marché Paul Bert Serpette
This is the Parisian flea
market you may picture in your mind’s eye. A flagship in Les Puces de
Saint-Ouen and a favorite stop for collectors, connoisseurs and many famous interior
Opened in 1991, Marché Dauphine is the largest covered market of Saint Ouen. Look for the giant UFO outside! Under a glass roof and among over 150 dealers you can find an eclectic selection of furniture, art, and fashion: classical antiquities, 20th-century furniture, watches, jewelry, contemporary art, music collectors, booksellers, vintage fashion, and more. The Marché Dauphine also hosts an international transport company, a “bistrot gourmand” and a large exhibition hall.
Marché du Biron
in 1925 and consisting of two long rows of stalls, Marché du Biron is known as
one of the more expensive markets in the Paris Flea Market.
Tips from The
- “Go big or go home.” The bigger the item you are looking at purchasing the more likely you are to get a good deal. Large items don’t fit well in French homes!
- Bring cash – only about 50% of the vendors take credit cards.
Current Trends to Look for According to The Antiques Diva
- Contemporary is in.
- Major 1980s trend happening – spot the brightly colored furniture!
- Mid-century is still popular, but many people are tired of it – even the dealers are board – so many are carrying more Art Deco pieces along with it.
- Asian chic – there are more Asian dealers then ever before.
Words by Anna Beck Bimba
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