The French capital is well-known for its fashion boutiques and stylish pedestrians. However, it's not all just about the latest trends. Parisian flea markets, or "brocantes", as the French call them, are treasure troves full of seducing second-hand items. And Vanves is probably flea markets enthusiast's favorite.
Flea markets first appeared in Paris during the 18th century. Back then, scruffy entrepreneurs would dig through the rubbish of the elite, in the hopes that they'd find trinkets to sell. They wouldn’t open within the city walls, as this would incur too many fees and taxes – instead Parisian flea markets would take place just outside the gates of the French capital. Therefore, today, the city's main flea markets take place on the outskirts near the Boulevard Périphérique. Usually, tourists head straight to the Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen (also known as Les Puces de Clignancourt), the biggest flea market in the city. While this market is certainly incredible, it can be a little overwhelming for some shoppers – its 2,500 stalls form a vast maze, with 17 kilometers of winding alleyways.
If you're on the search for somewhere more tranquil, then a suitable alternative is Vanves flea market. Hidden in a quiet corner of the city, Vanves flea market is easy to get to, and even easier to navigate your way around. One of the many reasons that the Vanves flea market is ideal for travelers, is that most of the products for sale are small and lightweight, meaning they fit into a suitcase perfectly. This friendly "brocante" (established in the early 20th century), hosts around 350 vendors, who sell quality goods for a very fair and reasonable price.
Try to arrive early in the morning (around 7:30 am), as the stock does tend to go quickly in Vanves. Crowds begin to appear at 9:00 am, so if you want the first pick then you should skip the hotel breakfast. Don't worry, you won't go starved, as Vanves hosts a variety of food carts offering up warm croissants and freshly brewed coffee. It may be advertised that vendor stalls are open until 5.30 pm, however, most sellers in Vanves pack up for a late lunch and often don’t end up returning. In their place, new stalls set up shop with less enticing modern goods, rather than the vintage wears that attracted you in the first place.
Most sellers at Vanves flea market only take cash, so make sure you withdraw enough money beforehand or from one of the nearby ATM. If you've got your eye on one-too-many alluring items, then your best bartering skills will need to take center stage. Vendors usually go down to around 10-15 percent of their original asking price.
Expect to find eccentric furniture, vintage collectibles, and quirky curiosities at Vanves flea market. Some of the items amongst the array include an ornate fan with hand-painted lilies, a pair of 1960s Bertoia wire chairs, a burgundy leather Accordion strap, genuine 1920s watercolors, and a collection of empty 1940s Chanel bottles.
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Samantha Philipps4th July 2015 at 15:54
Nice market that was bigger than expected. Most sellers spoke some English even though I tried my very limited French. Items tend to be over priced like the rest of Paris but well worth a visit and possibly find something unique – there’s a lot of antique knick knacks including much with African or oriental origins to. On Sunday there was also a nice market of various fruit, veg, meat and cheese stalls.
Viola Green10th October 2015 at 05:41
This market is becoming more touristy but it is still cheaper than St Ouen and you can find some cool stuff here. Vendors will bargain with you. Most of them speak some English but it’s helpful if you speak a little French too. I am usually able to use my high school french and get some nice things like vintage bathing beauty statues from the 20s, a beaded dress for 10 euros, an embroidered hippie vest for 5 euros, etc etc. On your way in to the market there’s a bakery that has decent macarons and as you’re leaving the place with the couscous always serves up a decent lunch. Good times.
Oh yeah-another reviewer mentioned to be sure to say “bonjour” to the vendors. The French are much more polite than we US Americans and “hello”, “please” and “thank you” go a long way. Just saying.
Teri Chandler26th October 2015 at 19:21
Totally cool items for the smart shopper. You can get furniture which you can reupholster, old books, tablecloths , antique toys or a semblance of them as well as trinket jewelry. It’s just fun searching for your personal treasures. Got a few items and had a wonderful walk in fantastic weather. Très sympa!
Peter Carlyle6th November 2015 at 17:34
Vanves is always a good plan. Much smaller than Cligancourt. Manageable to do in 1 1/2 at a walking pace. Lots of collectibles vs. furniture. Very popular with Asian tourists for small, unique, portable items. Some regular dealers but a good mix of itinerant sellers. Mix changes constantl, even from Saturday to Sunday. Lots of road vendors at the middle and end…disappear with police arrival. Dubious quality at best versus the marche proper. Good crepe truck at the fork about halfway down. Good selection of hotel silver and vintage jewelry. Art is hit and miss. Not inexpensive but fun to barter. Most vendors speak delightful French accented Englsi and love to charm/practise. Easy to get to by metro, bus or tram. Closes @1pm. Sat/Sun only. Great way to spen a morning before other plans.
Gregory Williams19th January 2016 at 19:24
One of the best real flea markets in Paris. You just have to get there early because they really do pack up and leave by 13:00. Vanves is also fairly large and will take a few hours to work your way through the two streets.
Kim Bridges9th June 2016 at 22:29
A good sized, enjoyable flea market – way less intimidating than St Ouen/Clignancourt and much better prices too. The “stuff” part of antiques, vintage etc is about 4 blocks long and at the end of that there are a few blocks of used clothing.
The day I visited there was a lot of vintage books, cool costume jewelry and miscellaneous household items. What there wasn’t a lot of is tourists, the crowd is mostly local. That’s nice but if you are a tourist you must behave properly. That means saying “hello” and “goodbye” if you enter a stall, not touching/pawing merchandise without permission and having some basic french at your disposal.
My mom did not follow these rules and she didn’t buy anything because prices magically skyrocketed for her. Be polite, and you’ll score some good deals and bring home a truly authentic souvenir.