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.