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The best Paris flea markets

Rummage through these legendary flea markets and turn up the best bric-à-brac in the city

Oliver Knight

One man’s junk is another man’s joy in these bazaars of the bizarre, which attract thousands of vintage lovers every day. Items which wouldn’t even catch your eye in another setting – dial telephones, crumbling polaroids from the ’60s, animatronic Chairman Mao puppets – become objects of desire when lovingly laid out by their charmingly eccentric stallholders. And while there is an inevitable influx of generic tourist stands selling the same old Chat Noir t-shirts, the markets listed below remain an invaluable resource for second-hand trinkets and exotic curios. Who knows, you might even turn up a real find – and some of the biggest also host some pretty high-end antiques outfits.

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Flea markets in Paris

Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen

Covering seven hectares, 3,000 traders and up to 180,000 visitors each weekend, the Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen is generally thought to be the biggest flea market in the world. If this conjures up images of a sprawling field filled with broken bed frames, faded curtains and sofas with the stuffing coming out, you're in for a surprise (and are better off going to the Montreuil version). The fleas left long ago, and since 1885 what started as a rag-and-bone shantytown outside the city limits has been organised into a series of enclosed villages, some entirely covered and others with open-air streets and covered boutiques for the antiques dealers...

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North-east Paris

Les Puces de Montreuil

Less famous (and charming) than its older brother up north in St-Ouen, Montreuil’s flea market is where real folk rifle for antiques nowadays; mostly because it’s off the beaten tourist track so you can still get a bargain and find the occasional treasure. You’ll find pretty much everything, from vintage clothes and toys to old cutlery, 1940s light-fittings, furniture and antique glassware. Just be patient: you have to walk past stands selling arrays of junk before you get to the little square where the best dealers are (at the end of the alley alongside the periphérique). Haggling is par for the course bien-sur, so put on your best French accent and don’t give up until the price is right...

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Eastern Paris

Marché aux puces de la Porte de Vanves

Smaller and arguably more friendly than Saint-Ouen, the market at Vanves is appreciated for its more manageable size. Some dealers swear by the mish-mash of stands at this weekend market, spread out over two avenues. This might not be the best place for furniture or antiques, but there’s much to please the casual browser, especially if you’re after a curious je ne sais quoi. Comb through the racks of Hermès scarves and flapper dresses, scour the boxes of perfume bottles and vintage toys, explore the crates of vinyls and gorgeous French linens. There are chocolate moulds here, 1950s sewing accessories there – just make sure you arrive early for the best finds.

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