In the northern part of the city, there are blocks and blocks of antique markets. As many times as I have visited, I have yet to cover them all. The markets can be a little tricky to find, however not as troublesome as the covered passages.
The markets are located in an area called Saint Ouen; take the Metro north to the end of line 4, Port de Clignancourt. The station will get you within a few blocks walk of the main thoroughfare, Rue des Rosiers. A word of warning on the walk, there are temporary stores and stalls selling all sorts of faux goods: iPhones, sneakers, African artifacts, handbags etc. Do not be dismayed! These are not the markets you are visiting! Keep walking past these stalls and the hustlers trying to get you to buy a new watch.
My favorite antique market is the little shanty ensemble of Vernaison on the Rue des Roisers. The narrow winding passages of the market criss-cross each other and you can never really be sure if you have viewed each stall. The market is crammed with everything you would never really need, but somehow, must have: cut-glass goblets, ornate silver-plated flatware and dishes, Russian war medals, pastoral paintings, pencil sketches, lighting fixtures, copper pots, chairs, clocks, paperweights, lace and the list goes on. Over the years, I have managed to limit myself to small trinkets and pill boxes that remind me of Paris, but I know someday I am going to lose my senses and buy a 200lb gilded mirror.
Along the Rue des Rosiers, other very popular and perhaps more well known markets exist. Namely, Paul Bert, carries weight in France with multiple vendors and levels to the semi-outdoor market. I read that you can never really get a “deal” at Paul Bert or any other Paris antique markets. They have become too popular over the years. I suppose price opinions are truly determined by the buyer, but I tend to agree. These dealers know they are not selling to professionals. They spot a tourist quite readily. However, the experience of enjoying a morning or afternoon in this area has to be added to the cost, right?
People watching is an equally enjoyable activity and more specifically, checking out the actual antique dealers. These weathered warriors man their stalls in the cold blustery days of winter as well as in the stagnant summer heat. I can tell they are characters and so are the little dogs who help with crowd control (when not napping). The dealers have a kinship; watching a neighbors’ stall while they run an errand or ensuring a potential sale does not get missed. More than once I have seen a shanty picnic at the market: a bottle of red wine and foie gras in the middle the walkway. I imagine each dealer brings their own glass goblet or medieval chalice, should you have one in inventory.
The markets are open Saturday, Sunday and Monday all year round. It’s recommended to get to the markets in the morning, the afternoon tends to be crowded. Keep in mind, not every stall/dealer is open for business on Mondays. Saturdays and Sundays are the prime days for shopping, although you might be able to catch a motivated seller on Monday if the previous weekend had been slow. Be sure to negotiate – all prices are flexible. And one last tip, on crowded market days, watch your wallet, handbags and cell phones; there are other “shoppers” at the markets as well.