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, when 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 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 the 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.
In the header video, the team of “Jour de Brocante” followed an antique dealer who went antiquing at the Porte de Vanves flea market:
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. And did we already mention that the Vanves flea market was more affordable than Clignancourt? This friendly “brocante” (established in the early 20th century), hosts around 350 vendors, who sell their goods for very fair and reasonable prices.
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 flea market hosts a variety of food carts offering up warm croissants and freshly brewed coffee.
It may be advertised that vendors stalls are open until 4.30 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.
Keep in mind that most sellers at Vanves flea market only take cash, so make sure you withdraw enough money beforehand. 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 burgundy leather Accordion strap, and empty 1930s Chanel ‘Eau de parfum’ bottles.
What can you expect to find at the Vanves flea market?
The Vanves flea market looks more like an English car boot sale than the expensive antique markets near the Porte de Clignancourt, although most traders are professionals. There’s a good range of knick-knacks, some paper items, and books (although the nearby Georges Brassens book market is the place to go for books), and a fair amount of French vintage clothing (19th century, the 1910s – 1940s). The Vanves flea market also overflows with old postcard and photographs, paintings, vintage scarves, old keys, plates, silverware, jewelry, glassware, books, frames, tins, clothes from hundreds of years ago, furniture…
Pros of the Vanves Flea Market
A welcome reprieve from some of the tourist-filled areas in Paris
A market favored more by locals than tourists
Great finds at budget prices
Be prepared to bargain (dealers generally drop their prices by 10-15 percent)
Easy to get to (Metro Line 13)
Cons of the Vanves Flea Market
Fewer English speakers than in other markets in Paris
Most vendors take cash only
A lot smaller than the flea market of Porte de Clignancourt