How To Shop For Vintage & Antiques at French Flea Markets
Marché aux Puces and Brocantes
In France, flea markets are known as marché aux puces or simply, les puce, (the fleas). But googling “brocante” will take you off the beaten path to traveling flea markets that are only held a few weekends a year. They can be held anywhere from 1 day to a full 2 weeks. Bigger traveling flea markets in France will have billboards all over town advertising them – so when you see a sign stuck to a lamp post or a giant poster in the metro with the word brocante highlighted, get ready to shop! Brocantes attract vendors from all over France, selling everything from high-end antiques to vintage pieces and simply second-hand junk. Prices here are usually better and take you into neighborhoods you might never have reason to visit on your own. A great website for finding brocantes is www.brocabrac.fr. While the Paris Flea Market is a personal favorite and must-do (and The Antiques Diva & Co are the only official tour guides of Paul Bert Serpette at the Paris Flea Market), visiting other French flea markets in Paris and across France is ideal to shop for antiques and vintage pieces. Here are my top 3 brocantes in Paris – and my all-time favorite French flea market starts next week!!
tip: Check out our Antiques and Design Markets and Fairs 2017 Calendar for flea markets in France and across Europe!
While there is nothing more fabulous than getting lost in France and discovering some place (or something) magical, shoppers in the know research where to go before traveling overseas. We suggest you book an Antiques Diva tour so you can shop on the arm of a local who knows the area like the back of their hands – plus more importantly – has relationships with the vendors which allows you to get the best prices possible when negotiating. But if you decide to give it a go on your own, be prepared and do your research. Google the cities where you’re planning to antique, using keywords for the antiques and vintage pieces you want to buy.
On brocabrac.fr you will also find vide-greniers – essentially attic sales – set up in the center of town with anywhere from 50 to of 1000s of people participating. These aren’t professional vendors, but instead they private people wanting to sell their goods – think of it as a town-wide garage sale where anything and everything is for sale. While you’ll have to dig through second-hand clothes and used toys you can also find gorgeous antiques going for a song!
Salon des Antiquaires
If you’re looking for high-end antiques you want to go to a salon des antiquaires – a step up from a flea market or brocante – which can have second-hand and decorative objects. This will be more high brow and have higher quality pieces – but don’t let that phrase scare you – there are still bargains to be had. Remember French antiques are often 3 to 5 times less expensive in France than they are in America or Australia. Something selling for 2,000 Euro in the North of France might go for $6-10K in the USA. You have to spend money to save $$$!
Key French Shopping Phrases
Now that you know where to go whether it’s a puce, brocante, vide-grenier or salon des antiquaires you should know a few key phrases in French to get the ball rolling! Even if you don’t speak French, learning some basic vocabulary is worth it’s weight in golden Louis 15th antiques.
- Always start the conversation with a simple, Bonjour Madame or to catch the vendors attention try S’il vous plaît (SVP) Monsieur.
- Point then to the item you are interested in and ask how much it costs: C’est combien, SVP? or try Vous voulez combien?
- Ask how old it is? Quel âge a cette chaise? Ça date de quand? What wood it is? C’est quel type de bois? And where it comes from: Quelle est sa provenance?
- Don’t be shy – negotiation is expected. Ask for a good deal. Vous pouvez faire un meilleur prix? Will you make a better price? or C’est votre meilleur prix? or Vous pour faire mieux? Is that your best price? It’s best to ask the Vendor to tell you their best price BEFORE you offer a number – because sometimes they offer you more of a discount than you would have expected. If the piece is 100E and you ask for a best price, the vendor might come back and say 80E. You can then continue the negotiation – Will you take $70? Prenez Vous 70E? If said this way, the vendor might compromise on 75E. 25% is a reasonable amount to expect for a discount.
Be willing to walk away in order to get a discount. Leaving then returning to the piece helps with negotiation… but beware… you might just return and find your item SOLD to someone else!
- Verify they are giving you the export price – C’est le prix pour exportation? Is it too expensive? C’est trop cher! (said while batting your eyes!) A good deal? C’est bon marché – C’est un bon prix – C’est raisonnable. I’ll take it! Je le prends!
- And don’t forget to say Merci! Au Revoir!
Toma Clark Haines, The Antiques Diva
London Portobello Road Flea Market Tours. While the street market is positively heaving with people on the weekends, I prefer to meander in Notting Hill on weekdays when the shops are open but the crowds have dispersed sticky-beaking my nose into the individual retailers, finding vintage bits and bobs and everything in between.just love the cherry glossy red exterior of Alice’s Antique Emporium – a landmark on our
Dear Diva Readers,
n Antiques Diva reader recently left a comment on a blog I wrote about Flea Market Dogs and her comment so captured the essence of Paris that I asked if I could share her comment as a blog post!
On my first trip to Paris (circa 1976), while enjoying dinner at Le Train Bleu, I noticed a beautiful Bull Dog at the next table – he was known by the waiter and his service dishes were on the table – not under it! He sat at the table as proper as any human could, and sad to say, better than most people I know today.
On another day we stopped to have lunch at a small crowded sidewalk café. I squeezed into the back seat of a tiny table (I could squeeze into things back then!). For the entire time we were there, a red Dachshund doggie, being held by his mistress, snoozed with his head on my shoulder.
Photo credit above: from one of my favorite blogs, “Paris at a Certain Age”
On my more recent trip to Paris – in particular those to the flea market – I was amazed to see a dog wandering thru and lifting a leg on a high-end antique. I fully expected to hear a proprietor scold as only the French can do… but there was no reaction. It was eventually wiped off the furniture but no one appeared distressed. I came to the conclusion that perhaps this only added to the patina!!
My trips abroad are short because I have animals I don’t want to be away from. At the time of one of my trips, I was owned by a little Rat Terrier named RT (see photo at top). RT was a handful! When I spotted the beautiful little creature in the shelter, I knew he would be back and forth to the shelter unless I to the shelter, or worse, unless I took him home. I still have the image of a little “RT” in Paris trotting down the street and wishing how my RT could be there too! I think Paris would have been his kind of town!
Today’s post is in memory of RT. As Rebecca explained in an email to me about her adorable rat terrier, “He would be so pleased to be remembered in this manner. I had to put him down due to diabetes – it nearly killed me. He was such a character. He also perked up when I practiced my few words of French; in particular “BONE-jour”!
To all dogs full of French Spirit regardless of which side of the Atlantic they roam, I wish you “BONE-jour”!
The Antiques Diva
(seen below in my alter-doggie-ego)
While every client at The Antiques Diva™ European Shopping Tours is special, this summer I had the opportunity to travel with an extraordinary client – my 16 year old niece, Tessa! On her first European adventure I initiated her into The Antiques Diva™ Lifestyle by taking her to my favorite French flea market in Paris – Marché aux Puces de Vanves.
One of the things I love most about my job leading travelers around the flea markets of Europe is what my clients teach me as they introduce me to their passions and collections! Each client inevitably is unique – with a different interest, different hobby and different collections they’re looking to add to while out and about, shopping in the European flea markets. My 16 year old niece was no exception! With her pink head pulsing thru the market, vendors simply adored her, pointing out perfect Parisian pink treasures for her to take home. Ever the fashion plate, she picked up this gorgeous 1960’s French silk gown (above) shortly after we arrived at the flea market for a mere 36Euro. It fit as if it were made for her and a few days later she wore it to lunch at Café Marly nearby the Louvre!
She also fell head over heels for these vintage French frames at 12 Euro and sported them around Europe for the next month!
Of course, she was crazy for this Daisy Necklace picking it up for a friend as a souvenir de Paris for 6Euro!
I’m not certain whether it was she or me who noticed the stuffed camel first – but we knew that it said exotic travel décor with a 20 E price tag!
She decided against buying this Charlie Chaplin hat for 30E but was sorely tempted by it!
In general, the French hats were of great interest and we spent a good 30 minutes digging thru this box where all the hats were marked 10E or less!
But perhaps the catch that got away was the magnifying glass paperweight. We decided against purchasing it at 45E, but in retrospect perhaps we should have! Where else could she have been framed so perfectly in Paris?
After all that hard work shopping, we were ready for a break. So we hit a local café to have a Diablo Fraise! A Diablo Fraise is a typical drink you’d order on a sunny day in Paris – it’s carbonated lemonade with strawberry syrup that just so happened to match Tessa’s perfectly pink hair!
When the waiter noticed this, he decided that Tessa would make an ideal art installation on the Parisian streets! And he artfully arranged colored straws in her hair!
Tell me – where else but Paris would a waiter make you into street art?
From time to time I’ve had clients on Diva Tours tell me that their teenage sons and daughters wouldn’t be interested in antique shopping, preferring instead to antique/vintage shop solo. But I have to tell you, my 16 year old niece loved the Paris Flea Market! Tessa found nearly ever souvenir she purchased in Paris at the Porte de Vanves Flea Market – so for your next trip abroad, forget the typical souvenir t-shirts when shopping for a teenager in Paris, consider instead vintage fashion and fun French antique accessories!
The Antiques Diva™
(seen right with The Little Diva – Tessa at the top of the Tour Eiffel)
Located in the 14eme arrondisment at the avenue Marc Sangnier and avenue Georges Lafenestre, “The Other Paris Flea Market” is located near the Porte de Vanves metro stop. The market is open year round e
very Saturday and Sunday from 8am to 1pm – though experience tells me vendors aren’t really ready for customers until 9am, so take advantage of a “late start” and sleep an extra hour before shopping the fleas!
Bonne Shopping, Diva Style!
Dear Diva Readers,
Each month I write a column for Bonjour Paris Newsletter titled “Ask The Antiques Diva™”. In this month’s column a Parisian party planner takes time off from the hectic world of weddings to plan her own vacation in the Paris of the East. I dish out advice, giving her best bets for buying antiques in Budapest. From the Ecseri Flea Market to Falk Miksa utca, I explain why I think Budapest is called the Paris of the East!
Read the Article about Flea Marketing in the Paris of the East!
Until next time, Happy Reading!
The Antiques Diva™
“They are vintage… don’t you just love them? I figured if I had to wear glasses, I might as well wear frames with personality!”
Often in flea markets I see these massive piles of frames, with or without lenses, and it wasn’t until Katia’s revelation that I had considered the possibility of wearing vintage frames. I only wish I would have had the fore-sight to have snapped a photo on my phone so I could share her cute look on The Diva blog! I have vintage coats, hats, gloves, dresses, purses and sweaters – not to mention oodles and oodles of vintage paste jewelry, so why not wear vintage spectacles too?
Next time you’re at a flea market and see a basket blooming with frames why don’t you take a gander and see if you can find a pair that you could bring your ophthalmologist to fit with new lenses!? And by the way, doing so might just save you a bundle – most of the frames in this pot were marked around 2 – 5 Euro!
If you want to save money & create your own one-of-kind style, going vintage is the way to go! Of course – I think my husband, The Wine Guy, and I are taking the “vintage spectacle thing” a tad too far….
The Antiques Diva™
P.S. Stay tuned to “The Better To See You With, Part Deux” later this week….
When: Monday, April 5 2010
Where: Place d’Aligre near Metro: Ledru-Rollin
What: 100 vendors selling antiques, collectibles and bric-a-brac
The Antiques Diva™ is going Double-Diva on you… not only will you find me writing here on The Antiques Diva™ blog as normal, but twice a month you can also read my column as the In-House Antiques Expert in the Bonjour Paris newsletter – the definitive guide to Paris! I’ll be writing about everything from my favorite flea market towns in France to giving tips on how to bargain in France, what to buy and where and when to buy it.
To find out where the best brocantes are in Paris this March, April, and May see the Spring Parisian Flea Market Calendar in the Bonjour Paris newsletter!
Make sure to subscribe for free to the Bonjour Paris newsletter by clicking here!
Dear Diva Readers –
STOP THE PRESS!!!
La Foire Nationale à la Brocante et aux Jambons on the île de Chatou start’s today – March 12th!
Come! Come now to this suburb just outside Paris, France!! You’ll find the absolute best assortment of French antiques plus some wonderful food all in one locale – what more could a person ask for??
Friday, March 12 to Sunday March 21*
Daily from 10am – 7pm.
*Dealers shop early on March 11 with invitation for entrance.
the Parisian suburb of ile de Chatou
Europe’s best twice annual flea market with over 800 vendors !
How to Get There :
Take RER A Direction Saint Germain en Laye to stop Chatou
Don’t forget to book an Antiques Diva Tour to visit the famed flea market on the arm of a seasoned shopper !
The Antiques Diva™
La Foire Nationale à la Brocante et aux Jambons on the île de Chatou!
After we’ve shoppped until you drop, The Diva will revive you with champagne or café au lait – you name your poison – and we’ll leave the flea markets behind, stepping into Hemingway’s Paris, hitting a bar named after him and parading through the Ritz as if it were built for us alone. In fact, we’ll don an apron and pick up golden spatulas, taking an afternoon French cooking lesson at the Ritz Escoffier – dining afterwards in the Ritz’ kitchen! For an additional charge, you can leave “les miserables” behind while enjoying pampering in Paris at a Posh, Private Day Spa Atelier with a Diva-tested, Diva-approved English speaking skin care and massage specialist.
Well-rested and looking our best, arm-in-arm we’ll stroll past the famous Parisian sites and do a little vintage and clothes shopping in Saint-Germain-des-Prés! We’ll visit the hottest shops, the best boutiques, the obvious and the out-of-the-way in The Antiques Diva’s private Paris, sharing memories and making new ones!
Diva Tour Details!
Tour 1: 12-15 March, 2010
Tour 2: 18-21 March, 2010
Also inquire for tour dates in May, October and November 2010
4-Day Paris Tour costs 1000 Euro per person *
* Discounts apply on multi-person group booking.
Hotel and Airfare are not included in tour cost; however, The Antiques Diva Tours can make hotel recommendations and suggestions on the best areas of the city to stay!