Know Before You Go: Shopping at the Saint-Ouen Flea Market
Paris is home to some of the world's most famous flea markets, or marché aux puces as they’re called in French. Among them is Saint-Ouen Flea Market (Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen), a sprawl of stalls, stores, and warehouses on the city’s northern edge that’s thought to be the world’s oldest and largest. (It’s also where the term “flea market” is said to have originated.) With Saint-Ouen comprising 15 separate markets, each unique in offerings and atmosphere, you could easily dedicate an entire day to treasure hunting. Here’s how to maximize your time.
The markets not to miss
Marché Vernaison is the heart of Saint-Ouen. Prepare to get lost amid vintage posters, old coffee grinders, sets of stately silverware, and fashions from another era. It’s also where you’ll find what is arguably Saint-Ouen’s most notable restaurant, Chez Louisette. A legend since 1967, the guinguette (a small restaurant with music and dancing) reveals a taste of old Paris with singers performing Edith Piaf classics in a charmingly kitsch setting. Pro tip: Pick up a map of Marché Vernaison to help guide you along the way.
Across the street from Marché Vernaison, you’ll find Marché Dauphine, one of the largest of the Saint-Ouen markets. Among the 180 merchants set along two floors, with what looks like a space shuttle in the middle, take note of the second-hand book sellers offering rare editions, and the appropriately dressed vintage vendors selling ‘30s- and ‘40s-style clothing. Here, too, find furniture from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Marché Paul Bert Serpette
Continue down Rue des Rosiers to Marché Paul Bert Serpette, two markets set behind Philippe Starck’s trendy Ma Cocotte restaurant. Marché Paul Bert is the most picturesque, with outdoor ivy-lined stalls featuring mid-century modern art and furniture, vintage French linens, table settings, and any number of antique treasures. Covered market Serpette boasts furniture from every era and some of the most curated collections of luxury handbags including brands Hermès and Louis Vuitton. Serpette is also home to one of the world’s most notable vintage Chanel jewelry collections, both on display and for sale.
Flea market etiquette
Don’t be afraid to bargain
Keep in mind that bargaining is part of the experience as you hunt for souvenirs to bring home. Don’t be afraid to name your price, as most of the vendors are willing to negotiate. While you’ll often get a better deal paying in cash, credit cards are widely accepted at the larger stands.
Go with a French-speaking guide
Many of the Saint-Ouen vendors speak English well enough to hold a conversation and are happy to answer your questions. But if you feel more comfortable navigating the language barrier with a French speaker, you can visit with a bilingual guide.
Ship your goods home
Several shipping companies located in close proximity to Saint-Ouen work with the individual vendors in making sure your treasures arrive home safely. The benefit of shipping is that there are fewer limits to how much you can buy as you don't need to take it back on the plane with you.
Things to know before you go
When to visit
Saint-Ouen is typically open to the public Saturday from 9am to 6pm, Sunday from 10am to 6pm, and Monday 11am to 5pm (though many vendors are closed on Monday or only accessible via appointment). Individual market times may vary, so it’s worth confirming opening hours ahead of your visit. If you’re planning a summer trip, you should expect some stalls to be closed from early to mid-August. Whatever the season, arrive early to avoid the biggest crowds.
How to get there
Saint-Ouen is located just north of the Périphérique. From central Paris, take Metro Line 4 to Porte de Clignancourt or Line 13 to Garibaldi; the Gare de Saint-Ouen, served by the RER C, is also within commuting distance. Buses, too, provide a direct route to the market, depending on where you’re coming from. You can also hire a cab or Uber.
What to bring
Wear your most comfortable walking shoes. Be mindful of your handbag and keep your wallet, camera, and mobile phone safely tucked inside.