Published June 26th, 2012
“My favorite activity in Paris is strolling through markets, so it’s no surprise that my favorite spots are market locations. Whenever I’m asked to name a few favorites, out pops a different list depending what springs to mind and mouth first. Paris has markets galore: food, antiques, flea, crafts, books, antiques, stamps, birds, flowers, and more. The markets reflect their neighborhoods. Some are chichi and leisurely. Others are fast-paced and gritty. Each offers a chance for cultural immersion and also to see Paris in a fresh way–off the beaten path of typical tourist sites, even if not far from famous landmarks and monuments.
One of my favorite food markets is Le Marché Bastille (also known as Richard Lenoir) in the 11th arrondissement. This vibrant market spreads out in the shadow of the Bastille column, a stone’s throw from where the prison was stormed by the proletariat which launched the French revolution. It is open Thursdays and Sundays from roughly 8 am-2 pm.
I was last there about two weeks ago and met a friendly Parisian couple while waiting behind them in line for fresh fruit. This is their local neighborhood market and they go each Sunday for produce and flowers. I went out of my way for this market because I love how spirited it is. Three aisles of vendors stretch for several blocks along the tree-lined boulevard. Roughly 200 sellers attend, displaying a range of goods from mountains of nougat to fish to cheeses to leather goods and scarves, and everything in between. Seasonal favorites go quickly. Asparagus and strawberries were my first purchases. Part of the fun is stumbling upon stands that specialize in items such as Loire Valley wines, free-range eggs, wild mushrooms, or marinated herring.
Clusters of benches provide opportunity to rest and people-watch. Sundays are especially festive with beret-clad musicians singing traditional French ballads. The lively ambiance challenges market shoppers, both locals and tourists, not to forget that an historic and bloody uprising occurred near this spot.
My co-author Dixon Long favors a very different market but similarly located near a famous landmark. It’s Le Marché Saint-Pierre, a fabric market on rue Livingstone in the 18th arrondissement near the gleaming white domes of Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre. Le Marché Saint-Pierre is in an old wooden building that houses five floors of fabrics of every imaginable color, texture, weave, and print. Each floor is devoted to fabrics for different purposes. If you want to take away something ready-made, you won’t be disappointed. Colorful handbag pouches, dishtowels, pillow cases, chair covers, and cushions await. Specialty stores dot this neighborhood with their stock of buttons, braids, and fabric trimmings. Other notable ones are Village d’Orsel, Marché Reine, and Moline, which has an impressive inventory of fabrics as well as all the hooks, buttons, fringes, bangles, and beads that decorators adore.”
In Markets of Paris, 2nd ed., Williams and Long describe these markets and over 120 others located throughout Paris. This fun, informative, pocket guide is for anyone visiting or living in Paris who enjoys food & shopping. With food, flea, antiques, crafts, fabrics, antiquarian books, and other hobbyist markets. Skim it and you’ll see why its tough narrowing down favorite spots.