Just outside of Paris, in the Clignancourt neighbourhood is the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen, the largest concentration of antique shops in the world. Alongside the antique shops, and flea market finds are stalls offering used clothing and novelty items
A little history…
At the end of the 19th century, bargain hunters, thieves and scavengers wandered the streets of Paris in order to collect their treasure. Exasperated, the City of Paris decided to take control of the situation and expel these ‘undesirables’ to an area outside the capital. This group of individuals chose to build a community in an area north of Paris, between the walls of the capital and the village of Saint-Ouen. The camp grew and gradually transformed. Drinking establishments known as 'Guinguettes' and the many small sellers that set-up shop there quickly made the area a popular destination for Parisians and Sunday strollers to hang out and have a drink. Between 1905 and 1914, journalists focused their attention on this unique area, thus building its reputation in the eyes of the public. Many merchants flocked to the area in order to ply their trade. And thus the Flea Market was born.
Following the First World War, various shops set up there permanently and Biron market, Vernaison, Malik and Vallès were created. African American music imported from across the pond arrived in this area outside the French capital thanks to the guitar playing gypsies around the market. To this day, gypsy jazz remains deeply tied to the identity of the market.
The second half of the 20th century saw antique and used goods dealers replace old rag and scrap dealers who had dominated the market earlier in the century. New niche markets emerged, from high-end antiques to vintage knickknacks and everything in between. Fashionable Parisians have come to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of the market not only for its vintage clothing and antique booksellers, but also for its authentic taverns, quaint bistros and restaurants.
The Market Today
The market of Saint-Ouen has become one of the most popular destinations for tourists in the Ile-de-France area with millions of visitors a year exploring the streets and fifteen markets located in the neighbourhood. Visitors are welcomed there every Saturday, Sunday and Monday, all year round to unearth unusual objects, score a great deal, and enjoy the timeless ambiance of the place.
The seven hectares, fifteen markets and nearly 2000 merchants of Saint Ouen continue to attract curious tourists and serious treasure hunters from around the world. The serious collector is sure to find something in the wide variety of shops and in the flea market. Those who love to walk and explore new areas will be delighted by a leisurely stroll through its streets. The markets at Saint-Ouen are both covered and open air, and feature two types of vendors or ‘puciers’: traders selling clothing (artisanal or used) or second-hand dealers and antique shops.
As you shop for your treasure do not hesitate to bargain: it's part of the game and is a tradition ingrained in the soul of the market. Finally, a visit to the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen is not complete without a quick bite to eat. Visitors can enjoy a treat or a meal accompanied by accordion music at one of the many trailers or taverns in the area. "La Chope des Puces" is a small coffee shop that has managed to make a name for itself over the years by hosting wonderful concerts. A visit to this café is highly recommended. To find your piece of treasure in Paris, all you have to do is put on your walking shoes, head to the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen and keep your eyes peeled!