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Navigating Paris' Best Flea Markets

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Overview of the Paris "Puces"
Browsing Paris flea markets is always a good way to pass an afternoon.

Browsing Paris flea markets is always a good way to pass an afternoon.

Nicole Smith/Licensed to About.com.

The term "Marché aux puces" literally translates to-- you guessed it-- "flea market". The largest Paris flea market, located in St. Ouen, was established around 1870, earning its name because of the ostensibly flea-infested furniture and other wares sold at the market just outside of the city's northern fortifications. Years later, Pablo Picasso used the markets for walks of inspiration, and more recently, Woody Allen's popular film "Midnight in Paris" sent its characters here searching for hidden treasures at bargain prices.

Claiming to be the largest of its kind in the world, the St. Ouen Flea Market attracts more than 11 million visitors per year and boasts over 2,500 stalls ranging from antiques to fashion, minus the fleas of old. In addition to this most famous of the "puces", Paris counts several other great markets to peruse and stroll for old, charming knicknacks, records, clothes, books, eccentric quills or prized antique items. It's one of the free Paris attractions that the budget-minded traveler should definitely add to their itinerary.

Most of the Paris markets are open only on the weekends and sometimes on Monday, so make sure to set aside time for a whirl at one of these excellent markets.

Top Flea Markets in Paris

Marché St Ouen/Porte de Clingancourt
Address: Get off at Metro Porte de Clingancourt (line 4) and follow the signs to the market. The market lies between Paris' 18th arrondissement (district) and the northern suburb of St Ouen.
Tel: (St Ouen Tourist Office) +33 (0)1 40 11 77 36
Hours: Open Saturday, 9am to 6pm, Sunday 10am to 6pm, and Monday, 11am to 5pm. Entry is free.
Visit the official website

Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves
Address: Avenue Georges Lafenestre and Avenue Marc Sangnier, 14th arrondissement
Metro: Porte de Vanves (Line 13)
Tel: +33 (0) 6 88 64 82 77
Hours: Open: Every weekend all year long, 7am to 2pm. Entry is free.
Visit the official website

Marché du Livre Ancien et d'Occasion (Book Market)
Address: 104, rue Brancion, Parc Georges Brassens (under the pavilion Baltard), 15th arrondissement
Metro: Convention (line 12), Porte de Vanves (Line 13)
Hours: Open: Every weekend, 9am to 6pm. Entry is free.
Visit the official website

Marché aux Puces de Montreuil
Address: Avenue de la Porte de Montreuil
Metro: Porte de Montreuil
Hours: Open Saturday to Monday, 7am to 7:30pm. Entry is free.

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Some Initial Tips Ahead of Your Visit to the "Puces"

  • Get cash out. The first thing to do before jumping into the flea market fray is to stop at an ATM/cashpoint. There are no credit or debit card transactions at the stalls, so make sure you have enough cash on you before you begin shopping.
     
  • Get there early. Be prepared to get to the markets near opening time, so that you don't miss out on items that are quick to sell, such as unique porcelain decorative items, old photographs, and military paraphernalia.
     
  • Be wary of pickpockets. Make sure to keep your wallet and other valuables out of easy reach, as the crowded conditions at the market are ideal for pickpocketers. You might want to see our guide to avoiding pickpockets in Paris before hitting the markets to ensure you learn thieves' tricks in advance.
     
  • Don't be afraid to dig and sift. Many flea market stalls resemble rooms in a hoarder's house: to find the good stuff, you sometimes have to sift through heaping piles of uninteresting items. Consider it an amusing treasure hunt and a challenge.

NEXT: Review: A Stroll Around the Porte de Vanves Flea Market

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