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St Ouen Flea Market (Paris, France)

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Between the Porte de St-Ouen and Porte de Clignancourt - 75018 Paris.
The world largest flea-market open on: saturdays, sundays and mondays from 9.30 am to 6.00 pm, including public holidays.
Metro: Porte de Clignancourt , Garibaldi.

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      29.04.2001 07:48
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      Bored with traipsing to the top of the Eiffel Tower? Legs can't make it up the steps to the Sacre Coeur? Wandered around the Louvre for far too long? Have you had a Parisian tourist overload? It's OK, I understand, and I'm here to help. Shopping. But not in the normal Printemps/Gallerie Lafayette type way, oh no. I'm going to take you to the BIGGEST flea market in Europe - Les Puces, at St Ouen. This isn't the easiest place in Paris to be a tourist in, so before we begin, take off the rucksack, discard loud English voices, and hide the cameras - You are venturing into the 18th quarter, and things can get a little hot under the collar for the obvious traveler. I don't mean to scare you, I'm just giving you a hearty warning to watch your back and your wallet in this area - heed me...or leave me a comment about your bad experiences. Alighting at Metro Porte de Cligancourt, we head on past the McDonalds, past the leather coat shops and into a rather crowded market place - This is really not worth stopping for, full of cheap clothes, nasty jewelry, incense (you know the score) and stuff you can probably find just as easily at home (this place is a dodgy second hand car market the rest of the time). Your best bet is to avoid going through it and becoming entrenched in the crowds by skirting on the outside, where the cars are parked. Still with me? Keep up. Ah, the real problem area is straight up ahead; prepare yourself, hands on wallets...here we go. Just as you get to the Puces, you have to go under a bridge: This is where all the organised pick pocketing occurs, orchestrated by the older gentlemen that are trying to sell you dodgy gold chains and watches, carried out by the nimble children they employ to defleece you and leg it before you have a chance to say "Whaah?" Don't stop, don't buy anything and keep your guard up...nearly there. Just before we get there
      , I need to explain that this is not a flea market in the normal sense; this is not a place where you are going to have to rummage through a pile of poop to find something that perhaps, maybe, perchance, you might want to buy (although there is an area in the Puces where you can do this - for all of you that are getting car boot cold turkey). This is an 'antique' market (of sorts), and different areas of the Puces are dedicated to different stuff (some grandiose, marbled and gilded, others covered in a thick layer of grime). On the left is a street full of market stalls: Another one to avoid, unless you are looking for African statues (my god, they have some really ugly ones here), sensimelia paraphernalia, second hand clothes (mind you, this bit is very Camden, so if that's your thing...), second hand CDs and graphic novels. No, you're here for the serious stuff, so let's carry on. The street ahead is absolutely crawling with antique shops: On your left, an exceedingly wonderful shop that specialises in Oriental ware, but this place is VERY, VERY expensive - look, but don't touch - you can say hello to the dog (very friendly), but you'll get bored if you stop to caress each and every dealer's pet (it seems to be prerequisite, having a dog that is, not that you have to caress them). On the right hand side of the road, two shops are worth mentioning: A small and sweet jewelry shop, that also sells erotic Japanese statues (damn, I've forgotten the name for them, I do apologise); this is where I bought my engagement ring, and the nice old man forgot to cash the cheque (you don't have to tell him this, of course). And a very big shop that sells very big fireplaces: These are just so damn cool, but they wouldn't fit in your suitcase, so leave these for the American punters to ship back to the U S of A. This is were the real Puces begins: On the left is the first of the indoor markets, I can
      not remember its name to save my twiddly bits, BUT it does have big green entrance doors, if that's any help. This market has two floors; downstairs is quite easy to navigate, but upstairs can be a bit disconcerting, as there are little connecting walkways all over the place. Downstairs is the more 'classical' section, with lots of Louis this and Louis that for sale. There is a good bit in the middle for aged prints, posters and postcards - try haggling, sometimes it works - and a little camera shop that contains photographic equipment that was invented at the same time as the wheel. Upstairs is a little more interesting: A stall absolutely filled to the brim with French country enamel ware, quite a few 20th century stalls (not to badly priced, and some great lava lamps), a corsetry shop, and more than the odd chair and carpet seller. One more thing, there is a REALLY arrogant seller up here; his stall is on one of the connecting walkways, he sells 60's and 70's jewelry, and he'll cuss you in French (under his breath) rather than be nice to an English or American customer. Go on, be nasty to him. On the other side of the road is the Birom market. This is a serious market (or so it seems) with every shop specialising heavily in period or subject matter. Hmmn, how can I say this? Everybody here (and it's one of the biggest markets in the Puces) will rip you off as soon as look at you. You have an English or American accent? Ahh, that will be five hundred francs extra, please. I kid you not - this is where they really see you coming, and the real defleecing occurs. This is a lovely market, but I've had too many problems here for me to be able to recommend it to others without a prior warning: Do not buy any 'refurbished' French armchairs - this is one of the biggest cons in the whole of the Puces; they are knocked up in half an hour flat, and then distressed (rather badly), before being delivered and generally
      falling apart upon inspection - You have been warned. Carrying on down the road, and the next market on the left is Seppette (another completely indoor market), and on the right, Daufine. Seppette is really specialised, and jolly expensive, but if you are looking for a piece of military history (right at the back of the market), just the right spiral staircase, or a REAL piece of French Louis this or that furniture - then this is probably the safest part of the Puces to buy from (saying that, I know of one dealer who constantly recovers his chairs to achieve the desired result - and price). Daufine is a little more 'bitty', but still high quality goods at rather high prices - this is one that you should search through to find the bargain (don't bother looking for a 'bargain' at the aforementioned markets - the dealers know full well the worth of their goods). Now we're getting to the best bit of the Puces; I know you're tired, so why not stop for a coffee, or maybe a demi, before we set off again (a couple of gypsies are likely to offer to read your palm - don't be scared, they are pretty harmless). Maybe sample a crepe before leaving - yummm. My favorite part of the Puces: Paul Bert. This is such a great place for 20th century collectables; chairs, tables, carpets, ashtrays, coffee sets, lamps, figurines, desks etc. etc. etc. You name it, they've got it, in full on, psychedelic, lime green, with spots on (all this is at the back of the market). At the front of the market there are a couple of bead stalls (one of them specialises on the cut glass bits from chandeliers). There are also some cutesy antique toy stalls (but these are overpriced), a nice little 20th century collectables toy shop (Star Wars, The Incredible Hulk - you get the picture), and quite a few other nooks and crannies well worth exploring. Leave via the back entrance to Paul Bert, and you'll find yourself in front of a real
      curiosity - An enormous pile of metal stuff. This is the metal market (the real name escapes me, once again), a melange of claw footed baths, twisted staircases, bedsteads, bed knobs and all that rusts, suspended from a giant skeleton of a building. Two women clamber about like hyperactive monkeys, while screaming at each other and customers as to which bit of warped old iron you actually want to buy. Out the back, a complete scrape heap, but even this is sold at a small fortune. Lastly, Jules Valles, the part of the Puces most suited for the stringent bargain hunter: Nothing is cleaned up, nothing sparkles and shines like in all the other markets - what you see is what you get. Many electrical items have never been tested, rust and dirt add to the attraction, and you really can haggle the dealers here down to a reasonable price. This market often houses some real gems: There was once a six foot replica of the Eiffel Tower here, and there are, more often than not, antique children's vehicles and games. There is a lovely young female dealer (she and her child always wear purple) that I will thoroughly recommend (mostly selling 20th century collectables, but has been known to have had older stuff on her hands). There is also a good stall here for corkscrew connoisseurs (I know your out there), and another little shop that sells copious amounts of postcards (shop - a little too small and always crowded). When you reach the back of this market, there is a small street in which locals come to sell their odds and ends (car boot style), and if you exit this road, you will find yourself back at the African statues and marijuana heaven place - so you've come full circle. I've missed out a few of the alleys, avenues and smaller markets, purely because this opinion is getting way too long. My overwhelming advice is to browse, peruse, window shop to your hearts content. If you are going to buy something (and trust me, there will be at le
      ast ten items you will fall head over heels in love with and will just HAVE to have), then try and get someone French to do the bartering - you'll get the item for half the price (it's a well known fact that the prices shoot up for the Summer tourist season, so try to go during the Winter months if you can). The Puces is open every weekend, and Monday too. If you're not sure, take your time to decide, as turnover is pretty slow. Enjoy the Puces, keep your eye on your money, and don't let any of the dodgier dealers take you for a ride. Have fun.

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    • Product Details

      Between the Porte de St-Ouen and Porte de Clignancourt - 75018 Paris.
      The world largest flea-market open on: saturdays, sundays and mondays from 9.30 am to 6.00 pm, including public holidays.
      Metro: Porte de Clignancourt , Garibaldi.