Paris's most famous flea market is a grouping of more than a dozen flea markets -- a complex of 2,500 to 3,000 open stalls and shops on the northern fringe of the city, selling everything from antiques to junk, from new to vintage clothing. The market begins with stalls of cheap clothing along avenue de la Porte de Clignancourt. As you proceed, various streets will tempt you. Hold on until you get to rue des Rosiers; then turn left. Vendors start bringing out their offerings around 9am Saturday to Monday and take them in around 6pm. Hours are a tad flexible, depending on weather and crowds. Monday is traditionally the best day for bargain seekers -- attendance is smaller and merchants demonstrate a greater desire to sell.
First-timers always want to know two things: "Will I get any real bargains?" and "Will I get fleeced?" It's all relative. Obviously, dealers (who often have a prearrangement to have items held for them) have already skimmed the best buys. And it's true that the same merchandise displayed here will sell for less in the provinces. But for the visitor who has only a few days to spend in Paris -- and only half a day for shopping -- the flea market is worth the experience.
Dress casually and show your knowledge if you're a collector. Most dealers are serious and get into the spirit of things only if you speak French or make it clear you know what you're doing. The longer you stay, the more you chat and show your respect for the goods, the more room you'll have for negotiating. Most of the markets have restroom facilities; some have central offices to arrange shipping.
Cafes, pizza joints, and even a few restaurants are scattered around. Almost without exception, they are bad. The exception is Le Soleil, 109 av. Michelet, St-Ouen (tel. 01-40-10-08-08; www.restaurantlesoleil.com), which was converted from a cafe into a family run restaurant by Louis-Jacques Vannucci. Catering to flea-market shoppers, the restaurant looks as if it were flea market-decorated as well. The French food is excellent, especially the sautéed chicken in a light cream sauce, the green-bean salad tossed with tomato cubes, and the fresh Norman cod and the tiny mussels cooked in a rich broth. Le Soleil is open daily for lunch and Thursday to Saturday for dinner. Note: Beware of pickpockets and teenage troublemakers while shopping the market. Open Saturday to Monday 9am to 7pm.
- © Frommer's 2013
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