Shopping for antiques at the Paris flea markets

The Rue des Rosiers, looking east toward Marché Dauphine and Marché Malassis, in the heart of the St. Ouen antiques flea market district

It’s hard to beat the quantity of antiques and antiques dealers in the Paris flea markets. There’s hardly anything French that you can’t buy, from junk for one euro to paintings for thousands of euros. Decorating your home? Whatever you can think of, you can find.

Sunday at the general merchandise flea market

The flea markets, known as the Marché aux Puces (a puce is a flea), are located slightly to the north of Paris in an area called St. Ouen. You can get there by Metro if you take the 4 train to the last station, Port de Clignancourt. From there you walk north a few blocks, first passing the many street peddlers who look like they’re selling what fell off the last truck. Keep going and pass the regular flea market, where you can buy jeans, sneakers, tee shirts, all manner of tourist items and basically anything you find in flea markets everywhere. Continue another block and pass under the periphérique (the elevated road that encircles all of Paris). One more block to Rue des Rosiers and turn left. Rue des Rosiers is the main street of the antiques flea markets. There are many merchants with shops right on the street and hundreds and hundreds more in the various markets on the left and right and in the neighborhood. Some of the markets are more high-brow than others and some are distinctly low-brow. Give yourself lots of time to meander in and out of the many shops. The antiques flea markets are open Saturday and Sunday, approximately 10 AM – 6 PM, with a few dealers open on Monday. Some of the antiques markets are open very early on Friday morning. The regular general merchandise flea market is open Sunday only.

One of the aisles in the Marché Paul Bert

The problem for Americans is the exchange rate. On our recent visit, the euro was hovering around $1.47, making it exceedingly difficult to buy. The prices on most items in euros were what I wanted to pay in dollars. We’re trying to buy at fair prices, so we can turn around and resell the items in the US. After pounding the pavement for several days at the flea markets and elsewhere, we did manage to buy a few items, but it wasn’t easy. We’ve developed excellent relationships with many of the merchants after shopping there for years, so that made our buying possible. On the other hand, collectors and decorators, not buying for resale, should have an easier time.

Inside the Marché Dauphine, one of the more modern markets

On a working trip to Paris, the fun is in the evenings. We go to our favorite restaurants and usually have great food and wine. Sunday night was our last evening and I got it into my head that I wanted to have the best mussels and fries (moules et frites) in Paris. So we did a little research on the Internet and came up with La Cagouille. It was late, so before taking a 45-minute, 3-train ride to the restaurant, we asked the clerk at the front desk to call the restaurant to make sure they were open (until 10:30 PM). We made a reservation and off we went. By the time we got there, we had to rush because it was already 10:30 PM. We were worried we might not be seated, but luckily they had our reservation and seated us right away. The evening weather was perfect and we sat outdoors. Lovely! One of the girls brought out the board with the hand-written menu. Great, but where were the mussels? Guess what? No mussels. We called the restaurant, we rushed, we took three trains and no mussels. They claimed the season was just beginning and the mussels were too small. Excuse me, but that same day, the special at one of the restaurants by the flea market was mussels à la marinière. It was too late to go anywhere else, so we decided to make lemonade with our lemons. We ordered a nice bottle of Côtes du Rhône white wine, fried calamari with onions, a salad, skrie fish for Lia (on the recommendation of the waiter) and a different fish for me (also on the recommendation of the waiter). Out comes the wine (very nice), out comes the calamari (very nice). Out comes scallops for Lia and fish for me. I’m sorry, but we ordered a salad and two different fish dishes. I’m always amused by waiters who don’t write down the orders. Sometimes they have very good memories and get everything right. More often, they have terrible memories and get everything wrong. What’s up with that? Do they think they’ll look incompetent if they don’t write down the orders? Rather, they look foolish in getting the orders mixed up. But I digress. So Lia decided to keep her order. She likes scallops anyway and they looked nice.

Did the waiter do anything about it? Absolutely nothing. In fact, he basically ignored us and paid lots of attention to a group at another table. Waiters make mistakes all the time. If the errors were serious, and this one was serious, they apologize and try to make things right by offering a free dessert, or drink, or making an adjustment to the bill. Nothing! Rien! Nada! So I was put in the awkward position of having to ask the waiter if it was customary to do nothing when a waiter makes a mistake. Oh, says the waiter? Would you like a cognac? No, thank you, how about dessert? You mean you want a free dessert? (Can I punch you in the nose for phrasing it that way?) Why, yes, I would (you dummy). So out comes a reluctant, but good chocolate cake. Was I right to be so upset with the waiter? Lia didn’t think so, but I know good service and this wasn’t it. Would I go to this restaurant again? Yes, I would. The food was good, but I would call in advance to make sure they had mussels.

One of the many street hawkers near the Sunday Paris flea market

Check out my new Tiffany, Daum, and Gallé acquisitions. I just listed a couple of important Tiffany vases, straight from a private home. I also listed about ten Daum and Gallé vases plus about 10 Tiffany Pine Needle and Grapevine desk pieces. I’ll be listing even more Pine and Grapevine pieces within the next few days. Here’s the link. chasenantiques.com

3 thoughts on “Shopping for antiques at the Paris flea markets

  1. Hey Phil, great blog! As I said in the email, we are headed to Paris for our first time in 3 weeks and this was just great, gets me even more excited. Thanks again for the email as well, invaluable info from you. Talk to you later!

  2. Hello Phil,

    I am heading to the Paris flea markets next week 🙂 I anticipate finding items too numerous to take with me on the plane.

    Would you be kind enough to pass on contact info for a reliable, and fairly priced, shipper in Paris…. for furniture and decorative items?

    Thanks so much!

    Lisa

  3. Shipping from Paris is fairly expensive, with any shipper. The price will be much lower if you choose to send your items by ship, rather than air. EDET is very reliable. They are located in Marché Biron, the first shop on the left as you enter.

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