Love perusing the wares at a local flea market, or sampling fresh produce from area farmers? If so, you'll be delighted to discover that markets of all kinds these are in no short supply in the French capital. This is, after all, a city renowned for its discerning food culture, not to mention fashion and history. As a result, and also owing to local resistance to bland chain stores taking over the streets, Paris boasts a stunning variety of marketplaces. Pop-up food markets, flea markets and antique sellers, old-world "bazaars", permanent market streets and gourmet specialty shops all abound in the French capital. Irrespective of your tastes, desires or personal interests, there's a market calling your name and sure to help you find what you're looking for (even if it's just a few good photo ops). Read on to home in quickly on the very best markets the city has to offer— in every category.
As global cities go, Paris probably has one of the highest number per capita of open-air, pop-up farmers' markets. These are beloved by locals, who often flock to them on a semi-weekly basis to stock up on high-quality produce, cheeses, fish and meats, bread, olives, and fresh-cut flowers, among other items. To really immerse yourself in Parisian market culture, a visit to one of these gourmet shangri-las is certainly in order. On top of excellent food items and fresh produce, you can expect buskers crooning out classic tunes in hopes of a few coins, the occasional juggler or mime, and other street performers, all familiar regulars at the weekly markets where they set up shop.
Now that you're ready to take the plunge, you may be wondering which markets are the best. Most, if not all, of them are pleasant places to stroll, taste and come away with delicious, high-quality items — assuming you're not claustrophobic, of course. Especially on weekends, the most popular among these local markets get very crowded.
The Marché Aligre near Bastille is considered by Parisians (and by us) to be one of the best weekly markets in the city; the quality of the produce, fish and meat offered by the more than 20 vendors is all excellent , and the ambience is almost invariably charming.The street market is less of a pop-up affair than a permanent one, open every day except for Monday. Get there early — most vendors close up their stands by 1:00 pm on weekdays, and 2:00 pm on weekends. There's also a covered market, Marché Beauveau, adjoining the outdoor one that's open all week long. (Metro: Ledru-Rollin or Faidherbe-Chaligny — Line 8)
Bastille Market: Another highly-coveted market is the one that springs up every weekend along the bustling Boulevard Richard Lenoir near the Place de la Bastille (Metro: Bastille). In addition to outstanding produce, cheese and flower stands, try the Middle Eastern stand near the middle for fresh olives and delicious sandwiches, from falafel to tabouleh and hummus-- a lunchtime favorite that will sit well with the vegetarians among you.
"Les puces de Paris" — literally, the fleas of Paris — are considered semi-sacred institutions by the French, who on the whole remain rather resistant to corporate forces of globalization and don't want their city to become (like much of London) a sea of homogenous chain stores. Flea markets aren't especially easy to navigate, and finding the rare gem is a challenge indeed. But that's precisely the fun of it.
From the Puces de Clignancourt, Paris' oldest, largest — and certainly most chaotic — flea market wedged on a strip near the city's dreary northern border, to the Puces des Vanves at the opposite end in the south, these traditional markets are best approached with a spirit of spontaneity and curiosity. Above all, drop expectations for what you might discover. In many stands, you'll likely have to sift through piles of weird old junk before finding an item worth taking home; in others, prized antiques are on sale but firmly out of reach for most of us — unless you feel ready to get your bartering gloves on, of course.
The Puces de Clignancourt can be accessed from the Porte de Clignancourt metro stop (line 4; follow the signs to the market from the metro exit). Open Saturdays from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm; Sunday and Monday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
For the Puces de Vanves: get off at Metro Porte des Vanves. The Vanves market is open every weekend from 7:00 am to 2;00 pm.
In addition to the semi-permanent markets at Clignancourt and Vanves, try popping into one of the city's weekend attic sales. These spring up periodically — check this site (in French only, unfortunately), to find one nearby during your visit.
In addition to the pop-up markets that spring up weekly around the French capital, Paris also counts an unusually high number of superb permanent market streets. These are generally pedestrian-only or pedestrian-friendly areas lined with traditional greengrocers, cheese shops, butchers, florists, bakeries, restaurants and cafes (the latter for a welcome break from the shopping and sampling).
From Rue Mouffetard in the Latin Quarter to Rue Montorgueil smack in the city center, these streets are ideal when you want to get in some market ambience but don't want to have to reserve any particular time of the week. The Rue Cler in west Paris, near the Eiffel Tower, is also an excellent market street; while Rue des Martyrs in the 9th is probably the trendiest with foodies at the moment.
For the Rue Mouffetard market, take the Metro to Censier-Daubenton or Place Monge (both line 7), and walk two blocks to the bustling street.
To get to Rue Montorgueil, take Metro line 4 to Etienne-Marcel and cross the busy Rue de Turbigo to Rue Etienne-Marcel; turn right onto Rue Montorgueil.
For the Rue Cler market, take the metro to La Tour-Maubourg or Ecole-Militaire (both line 8); the lively street is five to ten minutes away on foot.
Finally, for the Rue des Martyrs market, your best option is to get off at Metro Notre-Dame de Lorette (line 9) and wend up the trendy street toward its heights in Montmartre.
Not everyone has the opportunity to spend a Christmas or Hannukah in Paris — but it can be a magical and warming experience, even if you're not religious. This is especially true because of the cheerful French-Alsatian-style lodges that appear each year across the city. These peddle everything from gingerbread to hand-made jewelry, spiced mulled wine to help keep your hands warm, and delicate Christmas decorations for the tree back home.
Doubtless the most popular, and the largest, annual holiday market is on the sprawling Avenue des Champs-Elysées. In addition to hosting a large number of vendors, there's generally an ice-skating rink and a "Santa's Village" area that are perfect for keeping younger family members occupied.
Other much-anticipated markets include one at St-Germain-des-Prés, another nearby the Trocadero/Eiffel Tower, and one that's particularly coveted for its artisanal Alsatian food items at Gare de l'Est, the city's easterly train station.
If the city's traditional food markets are fantastic ports of call for fresh items in particular, the numerous gourmet food shops and markets that populate the French capital are especially ideal for stocking your suitcase before heading back home. From French mustards, confits, sauces and pates to gourmet chocolate, dried mushrooms and spices, and French wines, these high-end epiceries have it all.
The most popular among these, boasting the most extensive aisles and products on offer, are Lafayette Gourmet (at the Galeries Lafayette Department Store; Metro/RER commuter line: Haussmann St-Lazare or Opera) and the Grande Epicerie at the Bon Marché department store on the left bank (Metro: Sevres-Babylone).
Both these markets have enormous sections dedicated to canned good, dried goods, chocolates, cakes, macarons and other sweets, as well as an impressive selection of quality wines, beers and spirits.
They also sell excellent fresh produce, pastries, cheese and meats-- but beware the steep price tags. It's probably best to head to one of the aforementioned weekly pop-up markets for fresh items, if you want to avoid forking out a small fortune.
Last but not least on our list are annual trade shows dedicated to specialty goods, from food and wine to fashion and accessories. While most tourists never make it to these — after all, few of us really think about spending vacation days in a crowded convention center — they can be great ports of call if you're hoping to come away from your Parisian getaway with special, hard-to find items. Artisans and specialty brands from around the country and the world set up booths at these yearly events, peddling clothing and accessories, regional gourmet specialties, home decor and even hard-to-beat vacation packages. These annual shows are among the most popular, and offer the widest selections under a single roof:
Foire de Paris: Generally held in the early summer, this popular event is probably the French capital's premiere specialty-goods and services fair. Boasting products and brands from both established and artisan brands, in categories as diverse as fashion, food and wine, and tourism, this is a good place to target if you're not quite sure what you're looking for, or have many competing interests.
A Taste of Paris: This yearly gastronomic event at the Grand Palais has been growing tremendously in popularity over the past few years, as a new generation of young foodies and aspiring restaurateurs or food-truck owners change the city's once-staid culinary culture. Especially fun are the opportunities to meet top and rising-star chefs based in the city, and even taste their creations.
Artists' Open Studios in Belleville: The vibrant, cosmopolitan Eastern neighborhood of Belleville comes alive with even more activity every year as dozens of local artists and artisans open their doors to the general public over three full days-- usually over a long weekend period. This is a fantastic event to check out if you're in the market for find a special small-format painting, sculpture or piece of artisan jewellery; you'll be able to see an interesting, off-the-beaten-track side of Paris while you're at it.
We recommend having a drink at the Aux Folies bar after perusing a few artists' studios in the area: from your table (if you manage to snag one, that is), you can admire or loathe the elaborate street art gracing the walls on the adjoining side street.