Whether you’re visiting Paris for the weekend or have lived here forever, it’s always an adventure for the senses to head out to the open-air markets. On market days, the city becomes alive with local merchants selling everything from handmade products to seasonal produce, fresh fish, meats and cheeses. The abundance of open-air markets in Paris is only matched by the quality and quantity of products you’ll find at each one. In all 20 neighborhoods of the city, you’ll discover a different feeling through each market’s own specialty foods, from organic vegetables to freshly cooked galettes. Some markets set up on weekends while others operate during the week; however, you can always count on the permanent market streets of the city to be open, including Rue Montorgueil and Rue Oberkampf on the right bank, and Rue Cler on the left bank. As for what to do with the spoils of your market adventure? Well, Paris also happens to be the perfect place for a picnic.
Three times a week, this charming organic market takes over the pedestrian walkway down the middle of Boulevard Raspail with some of France’s finest artisans, produce growers, bakers, Italian specialty foods and flowers. This market is a great place to prepare for a gourmet picnic or an abundant Sunday lunch. Swing by on a Tuesday, Friday or Sunday from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. to stock up your basket (bring your own or pack a reusable shopping bag) with delicious finds like warm baguette, fresh strawberries from Plougastel or a fresh piece of Comté cheese. Afterward, walk through the streets of Saint Germain to the Luxembourg Gardens to enjoy a fresh picnic.
One of the largest markets in the city, the Marché Bastille welcomes around 115 vendors each weekend. Spanning from the Place de la Bastille up Boulevard Richard Lenoir toward the Canal Saint Martin, the Bastille market is a wonderful place to either buy the makings for a picnic, or just browse the stalls and enjoy the smells of the various foods. The merchants offer fresh produce, some regional prepared foods (think pots full of couscous and freshly baked meat pies) as well as specialty dried goods (don’t miss the spices!), fresh-cut flowers, clothes and housewares. From the market, head up the Boulevard Richard Lenoir to the Canal Saint Martin, and park your blanket on the Quai de Valmy for a leisurely afternoon of authentic French feasting.
Marché aux Puces
While most of the local markets are full of fresh and specialty food items, the Marché aux Puces in the North of Paris is one of the largest open-air flea markets for vintage and antique goods in the city. Located on the border of Paris, this is a great venue to get lost looking for antique gems and snag deals on rare souvenirs such as antique maps, Moroccan table settings, lamps and vintage cameras. The Marché aux Puces is also a nice place to grab lunch, as Philippe Starck has just recently designed a new restaurant in the market called Ma Cocotte. Try a French-inspired favorite like beef tartare, a green lentil salad or a whole roast chicken for two, or fulfill your craving for a cheeseburger or fish and chips. There are several companies that run guided visits of the Marché aux Puces, as it can be a bit overwhelming on your first go. We’re partial to the tour offered by Localers, which costs €59 (approximately $76 USD) and lasts for two hours.
Marché des Enfants Rouges
This market is hidden behind a passageway in the Marais, and is open every day except Monday. While it’s not the most abundant market in terms of fresh produce, meats and cheeses, it is a wonderful spot to stop for a meal, as its rows are full of a variety of ethnic restaurants. From African to Lebanese, Italian to French to Japanese, the Marché des Enfants Rouges is a charming open-air market with something for everyone. Through the market, you can also access Photographie Vintage, a vintage photography shop, and Premiere Pression Provence, a specialty olive oil store. There is covered seating with heaters for the wintertime, and in the warmer months, there is nothing nicer than enjoying a sunny lunch here.
Photo Courtesy of iStock-Allison Stieglitz