On our previous trip to Paris, I was able to visit one of the minor flea markets, but for this trip, I was determined to at last see the largest (and oldest) flea market in France, the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen. By car, it is about 20 minutes outside of the city center. You can certainly take mass transit to get here, but it was so much easier to hop in an Uber, which I recommend at least for the way home when your hands will likely be full of treasures. By Métro, you can take the Line 4 to Porte de Clignancourt, then walk over the Périphérique to the market, working your way up along the Rue des Rosiers. You could also take the Line 13 to Garibaldi and walk through Saint-Ouen from the opposite direction. I kept a screenshot of the below map with me. As you can see, it has a massive, sprawling footprint and is filled with over 1,700 merchants. It is open only Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm and Mondays from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm (though not all vendors open Mondays), so plan accordingly.
It is also worth noting that Saint-Ouen is comprised of a several sub-markets including Vernaison, Dauphine, Biron and Serpette. We spent our time exclusively at Vernaison which is largely characterized by narrow passageways and packed stalls filled with household trinkets and wonderfully bizarre objects from long ago. Here you can find anything from crystal, silver, kitchen equipment, dishes, street signs, figurines, art and vintage clothing, and much more. This is the perfect market for tourists who are limited to suitcase space for bringing things home, though shipping is offered by many vendors. Around the outskirts of the market are lots of vendors selling knockoff purses and counterfeit goods. Don’t be deterred by these stalls of miscellany, and keep going until you are within the confines of the legitimate stalls with signage for Vernaison.
When you go, try to go early to get your bearings. There is so much to see and I absolutely love stuff like this, but if your travel companion can grow weary of endless searching through markets, I advise you go alone or with someone in your party up to a lot of walking and perusing because this market is not for the faint of antiques-loving heart. I picked Vernaison also because I was specifically in search of antique French linens and copper pots. I had read about one stall in particular across several design publications, that of Mme Janine Giovannoni, stand 141, angle allée 3 et 7. Hers is the stall to visit in Marché Vernaison if you are looking for beautiful vintage French linens. In fact, as I was making my way towards her and was visiting a smaller shop also featuring linens, some American ladies (who in poor form failed to give her any greeting) asked this shopkeeper if she knew where to find Mme Janine, to which the shopkeeper simply replied <<Non>>. My tip is to remember politeness, greet all shopkeepers at least with a simple bonjour, and be prepared to speak some basic French when completing any transactions. Remember a little kindness goes a long way, and perhaps if these ladies had patronized her booth, she may have been more willing to direct them to another.
After finding a truly beautiful, embroidered linen coverlet for our queen-sized guest bed, I meandered my way around until coming upon Mme Giovanonni’s stall, covered in ivy. Upon entering, she was unfurling and refolding linen after linen assisting another customer. When she was available, she greeted me and I asked her about bed linens. She spoke only French and was so gracious to show me several items from around her shop. Only one was large enough for our king bed, but it was exceedingly beautiful and the one I would have selected from any of the options, so I was so pleased to be able to take it. I also found a small embroidered hand towel with a ‘G’ which the lovely Mme Giovanonni gave to me as a gift with the purchase of my king-sized coverlet. I was delighted and thanked her for her kindness.
These two linen purchases were enough to satisfy me for the whole trip, but after visiting a few more stalls, I found a set of three embroidered napkins with the initials “J.C.” which are the same as my mom’s, so I purchased those to use as hand towels in our guest bathrooms. In my search for copper, I did not need to look far because several booths were selling all kinds of copper wares. What’s more, purchasing vintage copper pots is not only a money-saver at a fraction of the price of a new pot, but the quality is exceptional. I purchased a little sauce pan for melting butter which would easily fit in my bag for 30 Euro, whereas a brand-new pan may cost four times that amount! My friends also found linens, as well as a pair of sweet botanical lithographs they were going to frame for their guest bath. I look forward to returning one day to explore and discover more uniquely French treasures for our house (like some crystal knife rests).