Cheap Paris Thrills: The Vanves Flea Market

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Almost everyone has heard of the massive market at Porte de St. Ouen, otherwise known as Marché aux Puces de Clignancourt. This is an Aladdin’s cave of antiques, vintage clothes and high-quality memorabilia. It’s a hunting ground for antiques dealers, specialists and the well-heeled, so the term “flea market” is slightly misleading. Don’t get me wrong—I love nosing around there, adding to my knowledge of textiles and trim, but I can’t exactly flash the cash. What’s a budget-bound babe to do?

Head on down to the market at Vanves, les filles!

As soon as you step off the metro (Porte de Vanves, in the 14th Arrondissement) and see the handmade arrow signs, you’ll know you’re in the right place. Stretching in two directions from the metro exit are hundreds of small stalls, selling everything under the sun. This is a real flea market, and those who get a kick out of rifling through the rough in search of that elusive diamond (guilty) won’t be disappointed. There’s more or less anything you care to carry home, or stuff into a caddy (très française, cherie). Last Sunday I jokingly remarked that I’d quite like to find a saber to balance in my next act, and, presto, Vanves delivered! At only 10 euros, the saber I found was sorely tempting, but since the blade itself wasn’t properly balanced, the trick would be harder to pull off.

Still, not to be discouraged, I continued on and found several stalls covered in what appeared to be the contents of several grandmothers’ attics combined. Costume jewelry. Tons of it. Forget H&M, honey: this is the real mother lode. There were also plenty of stalls selling new and very sparkly jewelry for a handful of euros; I picked up a set of mirrored bangles for 1.50 and two belly-dance accessories for 13 euros. A good day’s work. I didn’t try bargaining, as the prices seemed reasonable already, but if you’re feeling brave and your French is good enough, give it a go. If not, a simple “Combien?” (How much?) should suffice.

The market at Vanves is a great way to spend a lazy Sunday. There’s a festive, relaxed air to it, with a brass band last weekend and loads of Parisians just taking it easy. It’s not a tourist destination, just a piece of real Paris.

INFO
The Vanves market is open every Saturday and Sunday on two streets, avenues Marc Sangnier and Georges Lafenestre. Both get started around 7 a.m., but the closing times vary, between 3 and 5 p.m.

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