Travel G-spots

POV {+travel tips}: Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen

Flea markets have an allure on its own; be it for the bric-a-brac, bargain hunters, antique collectors, curious tourist, or locals who love to soak in the atmosphere.

The largest flea (antique) market in the world, if not the most famous in Paris, is the one at Porte de Clignancourt. Officially called Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, it goes by the affectionate term Les Puces (The Fleas) covering a grand 7 hectares area and receives between 120,000 to 180,000 visitors each weekend; less on Mondays as most stall are shut by one.

Founded in 1885, it is made up of 15 smaller markets, hosting more than 2,000 merchants selling antiques, “bric-à-brac” trade, clothes, furniture, jewelry, art pieces, light fixtures and naturally the famous Birkin bag!

It should however be said that the Les Puces de Saint-Ouen is less flea and more up-market – exorbitant – if you like with ornate and over the top gilded antiques that looked as if it were the remains of Versailles.

Being only 6.6 km from the centre of Paris (just outside the 18th arrondissement) and accessible by métro, it is best reached via the Porte de Clignancourt or Porte de St-Ouen métro for a mere EU 1.30 as a taxi will take you ages (and costly) going across Paris.If you’re up for walking, the Garibaldi métro stop will save you from hordes of street sellers and a “modern market” in the South offering a full blown Africana experience, fake high street fashion wear, and high risks of being frisked by teens interested to pick on your wallets.

The main street is rue des Rosiers, and off this runs Marché Malassis (toys, vintage cameras and furniture), Marché Dauphine (furniture, ceramics), Marché Biron (expensive lighting, furniture and objets) and Marché Vernaison (more varied, with fashion, a gilding shop, books, prints and kitchenware). The open-air Marché Paul Bert (one of the two markets owned by the Duke of Westminster) has some beautiful 19th- and 20th-century furniture, though you’ll need to bargain hard.

But if you are looking for genuine bargains and unrenovated things Marché Lecuyer is the place to head: as the home of house-clearance specialists, it’s the closest thing you’ll find to a reclamation yard and many of the traders have warehouses that they may open for you if you are searching for something in particular.

Marché Dauphine was perhaps the most intriguing for me with the Futuro House* taking center stage right below the Eiffle like glass ceiling in center court.

The last of the 15 markets built in 1991, Marché Dauphine was constructed in the style of the Pavillon Baltard on two levels, hosting classic antiques dating for the XVIIIth and XIXthe centuries as well as a number of pieces from the XXth century – aka the art déco, revisited industrial art and odd pieces of sculptures.

The upper floor provides more of the bric-a-brac flea market feel with pre-loved items, vintage clothing (watch for the moths), vinyls and the “Carré des Libraires”, an area completely given over to old books, comics, photographs, engravings and lithographs. If this wasn’t enough to keep my head afloat in the clouds, there is a large haberdashery shop right in the centre courtyard selling just about anything you can imagine – beads, trims, laces, brooches, hair pins, pendants, hooks … etc.

And if you’re not into antique shopping and scavenging over trinkets and junk, people watching is interesting!

Check out Andrew Kovalev‘s Les Visages des Puces (or “The Faces of Fleas”) – a portrait collection of  incredibly diverse shopkeepers who have made the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen their home for many years. This body of work is simply awesome!

Faces of Fleas

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Clignancourt Flea Market (Marchés aux Puces de Saint-Ouen)

Saint-Ouen, adjacent to the 18th Arr.

closest Métro stop: Porte De Clignancourt

Saturday 9 am-6 pm, Sunday 10 am-6 pm, Monday 11am-5 pm

Map and brochure to get orientated (click on link for full view + to download)

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* The Futuro House was designed in 1968 by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen as a commissioned for a “holiday house” or vacation home and was intended for use in the mountain-side setting. As such, the structure Matti Suuronen built is just over 26 feet in diameter and 11 feet high and  epitomises the utopian architectural design of the 1960s, when advances in techniques had fired the inventiveness of creators of that period. Given that it’s more UFO than a house, the Futuro House is completely equipped with custom furnishings that fits the interesting shape of this house – there are purportedly 96 Futuro Houses in the world, 60% of which have been accounted for.

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