Between flea markets, vintage boutiques and op-shops, there is certainly no shortage of places for shopping aficionados to browse for the items they covet.
A flea market is an open air market in which vendors candidly display their products. However, there is generally no food sold at these markets. Antique hunters will find two big flea markets in Paris, both situated at the gates of the capital: porte de Vanves and porte de Saint Ouen.
A little bit more chic though, are the boutiques of Louvre des Antiquaires (rue de Rivoli) which have truly magnificent pieces on offer. Of course, do not forget to pass by rue Bonaparte as well as rue Drouot, the homes to several famous auction houses open to the public.
Another Parisian speciality is second-hand bookshops. They can be found throughout the city, and also include the stands that line the banks of the Seine. You’ll find used books, cartoon and comic books, postcards and all sorts of other opportunities to find something unique and special. The allure is in the hunt!
As for the trade & collectors fairs (large organised garage sales), they flourish throughout France. Vendors can sell items that are more or less old that they no longer want, which can often bring great opportunities to buy something that is no longer available commercially! The majority of these styles of markets (les brocantes) are organised for September and October in France.
It’s impossible to finish this without taking a jump into the country, to Lille, where each year they play host to the largest flea market in Europe, the well known Braderie de Lille. This event returns in September. On average, more than 2 million visitors from all walks of life will come each year, sharing in this wonderful event held over 2 days and 2nights. Streets, squares, neighbourhoods and the town centre all open up and give way to an enormous flea-and-garage-sale style market.
Op-shops and vintage boutiques*
Op-shops are second-hand clothing stores selling fashion generally from the ‘80s and ‘90s at really low prices. Everything is normally all over the place, and you more often than not sift through the whole lot to finally find those beautifully unique pieces. One of the principal neighbourhoods for op-shops in Paris is the 11th arrondissement, which houses close to 50% of the Parisian op-shops.
Regarding the vintage boutiques, they offer much older clothing, normally fashion from between 1900 and 1980. These items are generally hand-picked, therefore, allowing those more dedicated searchers to find items much more rare and of finer materials.