Saturday, April 26

Chic Souvenirs: Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, Shopping The Largest Parisian Market

One early morning last June, I found myself alone in Paris. I know Paris is for lovers, but it's also a great city to get lost in all by yourself. When Mr.P and E decided to 'climb' the Eiffel Tower, and not seeing the need to do that twice in my lifetime, I chose to spend my morning scouring the stalls at one of Paris' most famous marche aux puces, a good old fashioned flea market. Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, or simply known as 'The Flea', is the largest antique market in Europe, receiving between 120,000 to 180,000 visitors each weekend. 

This vast flea market, founded in the late 19th century, has more than 2500 stalls grouped into a dozen marchés - market areas. Each with its own specialty, there are miles upon miles of ‘freelance’ stalls. Vendors from all over France bring treasures ranging from vintage Tolix stools to 19th century blue and white French plates. Be prepared to spend a good morning here with a bottle of water, good walking shoes and Euros - these professional French vendors accept cash only.

Although you never know what you'll find from weekend to weekend here at The Flea, there are particular items you can look for that are intrinsically French, and almost always certain to find. Read on for my short list of Les Puces' greatest hits.

Country French Grain Sacks 
Made of hemp and with a blue, red (or sometimes both) stripe down the middle, these circa 1920's sacks make great table runners or pillows. Le prix: 25 to 75 euros per grain sack, depending on the quality.

Cafe Au Lait Bowls 
Consider yourself warned: if you buy one of these, you'll become a collector. They're adorable, addictive, and great for serving soups, garnishes, and Texas-style chili. I've yet to use mine for coffee. Le prix: 18 to 22 euros.

French Jam Jars 
Look for tiny bubbles in these thick, turn-of-the century jars. That means they were made by hand, and are the most prized. The older the jar, the thicker the glass, generally speaking. The most coveted (and priciest) are the fluted ones, great for holding coffee spoons or serving dips and sauces. Le prix: From 8 to 25 euros.

Medici Vases and Garden Urns
Shabby chic, made of steel and often with years of rust still intact, these vases come in all sizes but aren't always so easy to find. Great in the garden, on a table with greenery or in the house as a vase with fresh flowers. Le prix: 60 to 80 euro. Take into consideration the price when you may have to ship this item home.

Torchons Red Embroidered Linen or Hemp Dish Towels 
Torchons, French kitchen cloths make great souvenirs, and do the job of drying far better than terry or woven cotton. Durable, timeless and bigger than any you've probably seen before, these can also be repurposed into throw pillows. Le prix: 12 to 45 euros, depending on the quality, the age and the vendor.

Enamel Street Signs 
These familiar, French blue and white signs are on building corners all over the country, and just one makes a great gift or addition to a wall that needs a French accent. Le prix: 35 euros.

Monogrammed Table Linens and Napkins
You'll find old linens in whites, creams, stripes and even ones in bold colors like pumpkin, cherry and deep marine blue. Generally speaking, the thicker, the richer the fabric, the higher the price. Le prix: 100 euros or more for a tablecloth and around 20 euros a piece for napkins.

Vintage Silverware
You can always find over-sized French silverware here, which you'll usually find and buy in bundles. Deep rounded soup spoons, engraved fish knives and an incredible number of other food-specific pieces, such as egg spoons, flat-edged jam spoons and long forks made for spearing pickles. Le prix: Around 5 euros a stem.

Gravure Prints
The art at The Flea is hit-or-miss, but sometimes there are incredible deals, like the gravure prints I spotted last year. French Castles are always in fashion. I picked up a print of the Chateau de Chenonceau, that we visited in the Loire River Valley, for only 2 euros! Le prix: Usually 5 euros and up, but you might get lucky!

Tips on How To Bargain French-style:
In France, price negotiation is all about diplomacy. You don't just walk up to a seller and offer a low-ball figure like you might in the U.S.. EVER. Instead, ask the vendor if this is the best price he or she is willing to offer, and in French say, "C'est le meilleur prix?"  Don't worry about sounding silly, the French appreciate Americans putting forth a bit of effort when it comes to their language. Also, whatever it is you're buying, if you're looking to buy more than one, you'll often get a discount if you ask. Also make sure to carry small bills, vendors don't take credit cards and you'll find no ATM anywhere close by.
Directions To Les Puces de Saint-Ouen: 
Take the métro to Porte de Clignancourt on Line 4 and follow the crowds towards the large concrete overpass. Rue des Rosiers is the main street which you walk down in order to go into the separate markets. The market and neighborhood is very colorful and you will love the diversity of personalities, stall keepers and products for sale! The 18th arrondissement, where the Puces are located, is in a poorer part of Paris and the market gets very crowded - watch your wallets. 
Hours of Operation:  
Every Saturday from 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Every Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (please note that many stalls close around lunch time.)

Another great Parisian flea market:
Porte de Vanves is a great small Paris flea that’s held every Saturday and Sunday from about 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Look for lots of small things, like tiny keys fit for a necklace, old photographs, kitchenware, etc. Go early to avoid the baby carriages, dogs and slow-strolling, cigarette-smoking Parisians. Metro: Line 13, Pte. de Vanves.

After my morning of shopping and Mr.P and E's trek up the Eiffel Tower.....

I bought fresh fruit and sandwiches at the market and we picnicked in the shadows of this Parisian icon. 

We soon realized that Sunday afternoons in Paris were meant for relaxation. 
Note the Parisians napping below. Comfy looking isn't it? We thought so......

and since E was noticeably tired, we decided to take a cue from the Parisians, and rest as well.

Me and Mr.P lounging in the cool grass on this gorgeous day!

Our feet, laying in the grass, snoozing, and enjoying the view.

It was by far one of our favorite days in France. 

DISCLAIMER: The information for hours and prices were accurate when posted. ENJOY!

flea market, Parisian, Paris, necklace, old photographs, kitchenware, grain sacks, monogrammed French linens, Cafe Au Lait bowls, jam jars, urns, vintage keys, gravure prints, tips, know-how, French enamel street signs, silverware, Torchons red embroidered linen or hemp dish towels, European


  1. Very nice!! And looks like it was a gorgeous day in Paris.

  2. I am so happy for you and your family. There is nothing better than Paris in the springtime. I hope you bring home lots of lovlies!

  3. What fun! I would never get back to Texas with everything I would have bought!

  4. I think I just died and went to heaven with this post. Consider this added to my bucket list ( Which means added to my travel pinboard! Happy SITS DAY!

    1. Thanks for stopping by and pinning! Paris is wonderful anytime of year!

  5. Stunning! Now I want to book a ticket and go shopping in a Paris flea market. Happy SITs Day!!

    1. Tammi, it was a wonderful day all to myself! I tried to blend in as best I could! Paris is the best!

  6. Absolutely gorgeous! I only got to spend about 48 hours in Paris on my last trip to Europe...I definitely need to go back!

    1. You definitely need too! Isn't Paris just the best? I love the name Chihuahua Mommy! Awesome!