Secondhand Treasures: Score One-of-a-Kind Pieces at Paris Flea Markets

Antique finds abound at Paris flea markets. (Photo: Getty Images)

Creepy garden gnomes and leather hats may have lined the stalls at your grandmother’s hometown flea market, but two venerable Parisian markets offer cool collections. No matter your interest and income, you’ll become a collector in a moment of weakness. The idea of a flea market originated in the late 19th century Paris as merchants scoured through aristocratic rubbish, looking for trash-to-treasure items to sell. Today, the flea markets of Paris, often referred to as “les puces” (the fleas), are the gold standard in antique and secondhand shopping.

“Ooh Oui” to Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen

Though technically just outside the city line, Saint-Ouen/Clingancourt Flea Market claims the titles of the largest flea market in Paris and the largest antiques market in the world. With more than 1,700 vendors and 14 inner markets over the expanse of 17 acres, you can easily feel like Alice in Wonderland lost down a rabbit hole full of curious surprises.

At Dauphine, one of the largest markets, shoppers sort through rare books, such as comic classics, or vintage clothing, ranging from Victorian to old Hollywood-era frocks and designer handbags. If you’re chasing the ultimate statement piece for your mantel, Paul Bert Serpette is the flagship market, famous for its high-end antiques, furniture and home décor accessories. Don’t hesitate, the item you love might be just what stars such as Julia Roberts, Kanye West and Bill Gates have been considering. If you’re a fan of Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris,” you can relive the scene shot here as you stumble upon something that defines your whole vacation.

The details: Open Saturdays: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sundays: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; and Mondays: 10 a.m.– 5 p.m.

The Charms of Le Marché aux Puces de Vanves

For those whose taste is more outré and less traditional, bargain shoppers should plot their course to Vanves market. Close to the heart of the city and about a 10-minute drive from the Rive Gauche hotel, this flea market in Paris is a more manageable outing compared to the magnitude of Saint-Ouen. Approximately 380 vendors line up on the avenues of Marc Sangnier and Georges Lafenestre to sell their war memorabilia, vintage jewelry and figurines. Definitely make it a point to review the fine housewares, such as ornate sterling silver flatware and handmade ceramics, which make up the bulk of the merchandise. Furthermore, if you’ve spent mornings practicing your poker-faced haggling techniques, bargaining is a little more welcomed and achievable here. While you’re hunting items for your collection, don’t overlook a cool carryall or traveler bag. Not to relive the scene from Bradley Cooper’s “The Words” (though, yes, do check the pockets for old manuscripts), but because you may need an extra bag for your Parisian market treasures for the flight home.

The details: Open Saturdays and Sundays from 7 a.m.– 2 p.m.