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An Insiders Guide to Paris Flea Markets

Published: Wed 15 Aug 2012 at 10:31

Updated: Wed 15 Aug 2012 at 10:33

When spring is in the air, a trip to Paris with from Leeds Bradford airport offers the perfect opportunity to visit some of the city’s famous flea markets or puces. Sarah Powell speaks to Annebelle Potin, a parisienne with a passion for the puces and life in the streets around them.

Paris is renowned for its vibrant streetlife. Cafés, restaurants, food, flower and flea markets bring the city colourfully alive. The flea markets trace their origins to 19th-century Parisian crocheteurs – rag and bone merchants who would rifle through the city’s rubbish at night, hoping to find something to sell (which explains the fleas!). Later some grouped their stalls into markets. Over time these grew, some of the rubbish gave way to antiques and bric-à-brac... and so were born the now famous marches aux puces.

A Passion for the Puces

Annebelle and her Parisian friends particularly recommend a visit to the Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves, the only antique and bric-à-brac market remaining within the city walls. “It’s popular with antique dealers,”says Annebelle “and on Saturdays and Sundays you’ll find 350 or more traders selling antiques, vintage clothes and textiles, jewellery, books and so on. The market opens at 7am but try to get there by 5am or earlier, when the traders are setting up. It’s really fun to wander about and see what’s going on, by  torchlight! Arrive at lunchtime and it’s too late for much that’s interesting.

“Most tourists,” she continues, “make for the Marché aux Puces de St Ouen at the Porte de Clignancourt. It’s the best-known of our flea markets and huge, with a couple of thousand stalls selling everything from antiques to toys and clothes. It’s open at week-ends and on Mondays – a good day for a bargain as the market is less busy. And don’t hesitate to haggle, it’s expected!”

There’s more too... Annebelle points out that “the Clignancourt puces area is well-known as the home of a particular style of gypsy jazz (jazz manouche), introduced by travelling musicians who settled here generations ago. One was Django Reinhardt, celebrated for his amazing jazz guitar playing. Last year was the centenary of his birth and a square was renamed and a statue erected in his honour in the middle of the market! To hear some great music in his and other styles, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on market days make for La Chope des Puces, the legendary jazz café at 122 rue des Rosiers. And, if you’re lucky enough to be in Paris between 17th and 20th June, don’t miss the very popular Festival de Jazz de St Ouen for some top jazz musicians and singers.”

So, if you can’t get up in time to go to the market, you can at least enjoy the music!

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