Paris is known for its fashion boutiques and stylish pedestrians. But it's not all about the latest trends. Parisian flea markets, or "brocantes" as the French call them, are treasure troves of tempting second-hand items. And Vanves is probably the favorite of flea market enthusiasts.
Flea markets first appeared in Paris in the 18th century. In those days, scruffy entrepreneurs would rummage through the trash of the elite, hoping to find trinkets to sell. They wouldn't set up shop within the city walls, because that would incur too many fees and taxes - instead, Parisian flea markets took place just outside the gates of the French capital. Today, the city's main flea markets are located on the outskirts of the city, near the Boulevard Périphérique. Tourists usually head straight for the Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen (also known as Les Puces de Clignancourt), the largest 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 looking for something a little quieter, the Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves is a good alternative. Tucked away in a quiet corner of the city, the Puces de Vanves flea market is easy to get to and even easier to navigate. One of the many reasons why the Vanves flea market is ideal for travelers is that most of the items for sale are small and light, meaning they fit perfectly into a suitcase. This friendly "brocante" (founded in the early 20th century) hosts about 350 vendors who sell quality goods at a very fair and reasonable price.
Try to arrive early in the morning (around 7:30 a.m.), as the stock in the Puces de Vanves tends to go fast. The crowds start to arrive at 9:00 a.m., so if you want to be first in line, skip the hotel breakfast. Don't worry, you won't go hungry, as the Vanves flea market has a variety of food carts offering warm croissants and freshly brewed coffee. It may be advertised that the stalls are open until 5:30 p.m., but most of the vendors at the Puces de Vanves flea market pack up for a late lunch and often don't return. In their place, new stalls set up shop with less enticing modern goods rather than the vintage clothing that attracted you in the first place.
Most of the vendors at the Vanves flea market only take cash, so make sure you have enough in advance or at one of the nearby ATMs. If you have your eye on too many tempting items, you'll need to use your best bartering skills. Sellers will usually go as low as 10-15 percent of their original asking price.
Expect to find eccentric furniture, vintage collectibles and quirky curiosities at the Puces de Vanves. Some of the items on offer include an ornate hand-painted lily fan, 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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