I had this fantasy about shopping in the flea markets of Paris. I wasn't dreaming about finding a bottle of Guerlain Djedi for 3 euro or anything of that sort. Maybe just a bottle of a discontinued something or other, a vintage Piguet, perhaps a Monteil. Honestly, I was modest. I did look forward to browsing the weekend markets, seeing some real antiques, checking out European mid-century modern design and hopefully bringing something home with me.
The good news is that the markets are absolutely amazing. They go on forever, offering everything under the sun and then some. The antiques and art are magnificent. There are stores in Les Puces de Saint-Ouen are better than museums, if you ask me. There's quite a bit of crap, of course, but still, the amount of original items from furniture to art deco jewelry was mind boggling. The area is made of several markets. In Marché Vernaison (99 rue des Rosiers) we stumbled upon one of the most magnificent perfume store. You're not allowed to take photos (and as a matter of fact we chose to leave our bags and valuables, including the camera in the hotel) so I can't show you the utterly amazing rarities we saw there. Sealed perfumes from the 50s, 60s and 70s, famous Baccarat and Lalique bottles in pristine shape, the most coveted Guerlain, Patou and Dior items... I was in heaven. Except for the price, that is.
Which brings us to the bad news. Don't expect crazy bargains. The merchants know what they have and what it's worth. While you can definitely negotiate and get a better deal than what they offer at first, this is valuable stuff and the prices are fair to jaw-dropping. We managed to find a beautiful Lisa Larson pottery item at a reasonable price, so that was our big achievement of that day. It thrilled me to no end because it was something I wanted for ages and this ceramic lion was beyond cute.
The next day was rainy and quite cold, but we still braved the street market of Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves (avenue Georges Lafenestre & avenue Marc Sangnier). This is a far less formal place than the one I mentioned above and is not about real art or furniture, more vintage knickknacks and random tchotchkes. This is where you can find real bargains if you take the time and effort to dig in the piles of odds and ends. You can haggle quite a bit, especially if the weather is crap and the tourists escape to the nearby cafes. It was a lot of fun and if I needed any more vintage Shalimar that would be the place to get some.
The markets are open on weekends and while it's recommended to get there early, don't overdo it as most merchants don't really show up at 7 am. The formal antique market also has places that offer packing and worldwide shipping. I'd avoid the food there at all costs, though. Dirty doesn't even begin to describe the situation, so bring a sandwich and bottled water and go eat elsewhere once you're done.