While traveling in Europe in April of 2016, I had a day in Paris on a Sunday at the end of my trip. France is one of a few places in Europe where almost everything is closed on Sundays. So I decided to do something I wanted to do for a while – explore the city’s flea markets at a leisurely pace.
There are several flea markets in Paris, all open on Saturday and Sunday mornings only. After some research, I set my sights on Porte de Vanves, which seemed manageable to cover in just one morning.
Fleaing at the Porte de Vanves in Paris
The Porte de Vanves flea market (Marchė des Puces in French) is located on the southwestern edge of the city, and is easily accessible by the Metro. The way to the market is well-marked: when you exit the Metro, look for the brown signs on the right. Some travel websites recommend arriving there around 7:30 a.m. for best selection. I came a little before 9 a.m., and the sellers were still unloading their vans and setting up the tables along the street. This open air market stretches over two streets – Avenue Marc Sangnier and Avenue Georges-Lafenestre. If you are looking for antique and vintage finds, stay on the main street (Avenue Marc Sangnier). Other streets seem to cater to bargain hunters looking for second hand clothing and household items.
At almost every table, you’ll find a mixed bag of fares. Vintage jewelry, perfume bottles, antique books, postcards and prints, crisp linens, lace and fabrics, tools, dinner plates, cups and cutlery, picture frames, tins, watches and small odd items, like porcelain hooks and little pill boxes, crowd the tables and pile up in the boxes on the ground. Despite the cool and cloudy morning, the market’s atmosphere was quite upbeat: the stall holders were munching on their croissants, sipping coffee or murmuring a tune. Some were playing cards or calling to each other across the way as the buyers trickled in.
One vendor had a lovely, well-organized booth with antique sewing notions. She graciously allowed me to take a few photos of all the things I wished I could bring back home with me!
Looking for antiques at Porte de Vanves turned out to be like a treasure hunt and strolling through a bazaar at the same time. Sifting through the brick-a-brac on the tables, I would find a change purse from the 1890s, an antique brass frame and a cardboard thread winder from the 1920s, millinery flowers, lace, embroidery books, buttons and vintage wallpapers.
Bargaining is expected at flea markets. For many of my antique finds, I was able to negotiate a lower price. If you offer a reasonable amount, the sellers are usually willing to make a deal. Most sellers speak enough English to get a point across. But if you don’t speak French, I found it faster and easier to bargain the old way – by writing numbers back and forth in a small notebook.
Surprisingly, I scored the best prices for my purchases early in the morning. By 10:30 a.m., as more customers poured in, the market became crowded; by noon many sellers started packing up. I didn’t see prices go down by lunchtime; if anything, they seemed to go up instead. All in all, I had an enjoyable morning, and left very happy with a small bag of loot to add to my collection of 19th century treasures.
If you go:
Porte de Vanves Marché de Puces, 14th arrondissement, Paris
Hours: Advertised as 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Metro: Porte de Vanves
Payment: Cash only