The Belly of Paris.
In March 1969, the fresh produce market in the centre of Paris called Les Halles, known as ‘the belly of Paris’,* moved from the location it had enjoyed for eight centuries. Along with the capital’s main meat market in the La Villette quarter, the produce market jointly formed the huge Marché d’Intérêt National (MIN) which set up a new home in Rungis, some eight miles south of Paris. Several years of construction had been required at Rungis before the new market was opened by President Charles de Gaulle on March 3, 1969.
Today Rungis is the largest fresh produce market in the world, and has become a model for others. Fish, meat, fruit, vegetables and flowers are bought in by 26,000 vehicles every day, stocking the 550-acre market that supplies retailers throughout the greater Paris area. Over 20,000 buyers arrive daily. The Rungis market feeds one out of five Frenchmen, and for the greater Paris region it supplies:
• 50% of seafood (fresh- and salt-water)
• 45% of fruit and vegetables
• 35% of meat products
• 50% of cut flowers and potted plants.
Access to the Rungis market is free but reserved for professionals, except on the second Friday of every month, when it opens its doors to the public and tourists for an exceptional guided tour. The rendezvous is set for 5 a.m. at Place Denfert Rochereau in Paris, where a bus takes participants to Rungis (and back to Paris again). Once at Rungis, visitors see five of the largest pavilions: fish, meat, milk products, fruit and vegetables, and of course the fabulous flower market. At 8:30 am, the visit ends on a gourmet note with a hearty ‘Rungis breakfast’ composed of cold-cut meats, cheeses and desserts, served in one of the best restaurants in the market.
The cost of the tour is € 75 and includes:
- transport by bus Paris–Rungis–Paris;
- a professional tour guide;
- a market smock and cap;
- the ‘Rungis breakfast’ (served from 8 a.m to 9 a.m.);
Tel: 0892 700 119 (11.2 eurocents per 20 seconds).
*’The belly of Paris’ (le ventre de Paris) is the title of a novel by Emile Zola that refers to the central market hall in Paris.