Guide Tour of the Saint-Ouen flea market, Paris, France

The Saint-Ouen flea market designates both a district and a set of markets in the city of Saint-Ouen-sur-Seine, on the edge of Paris. The various markets bring together nearly 2,000 merchants and extend over 7 hectares. The Paris Saint-Ouen flea market is located at a northern gate of Paris opposite the 18th arrondissement, it is held every Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

It is the largest art and antiquity market in the world, totaling more than 5 million visitors a year, including many foreign tourists and very often celebrities, and attendance peaking at 150,000 people on certain weekends, it is the fourth or fifth French tourist destination (after Euro-Disney, Notre Dame, Le Louvre, the Eiffel Tower).

The Paris Saint-Ouen flea market is the largest concentration of antique and bric-a-brac dealers in the world, They mainly offer antique items but also clothing and garage sale items. It’s an original experience of popular Paris, a walk rich in surprises and a gold mine for lovers of vintage pieces or antiques…

Seven hectares make up the entire Flea Market, which currently consists of twelve covered markets (Antica, Biron, Cambo, Dauphine, l’Entrepôt, Jules-Vallès, Malassis, le Passage, Paul Bert and Serpette, l’ Usine and Vernaison), five Pucières shopping streets (Rue Jules Vallès, Rue Lecuyer, Rue Paul Bert, Rue des Rosiers and Impasse Simon) and merchant unpacking on the sidewalks, each with its own identity, forming a whole quaint and friendly.

The fleas are mainly organized around the rue des Rosiers, the Porte de Clignancourt and the Porte de Montmartre. These three places correspond to the triptych that forms this activity and this district. The flea streets which include many shops and open-air markets, themselves specializing in antiques or clothing. These stands are mainly installed on the streets Jules-Vallès, Lécuyer, Marceau, Paul-Bert, Voltaire, and of course the avenue Michelet which concentrates an important linear of clothing shops; the Carré des Biffins, a solidarity sales space under the Porte-de-Montmartre bridge where the resale of salvaged objects is practiced, perpetuating the tradition of flea markets.

The fleas are the largest concentration of art dealers in the world (1100 antique dealers, second-hand dealers and art galleries), which earned them the nickname of “Attic of the World”, and one of the major tourist places of France, which contributes significantly to the reputation of Saint-Ouen, Paris, and the Country. It is a high place of Culture and History, also of transmission of know-how and knowledge, including in the field of crafts.

It is a multitude of craftsmen: cabinetmakers, bronziers, marble workers, glassmakers, restorers of ceramics, chandeliers, restorers of paintings etc. which ensure the maintenance and safeguard of the artistic heritage of France, which consequently also makes it possible to preserve the know-how of all these professions. It is estimated that 3,000 spin-off jobs depend on the Les Puces site (Artisans, multiple and varied suppliers, hotels, restaurants and bistros, etc.). Gastronomy also has its place at Les Puces where around forty establishments are there to welcome passing visitors.

At all times, the Puces have inspired great names in the arts and literature, including André Breton, Jacques Prévert, Raymond Queneau, Robert Doisneau, Pablo Picasso, César, Willy Ronis, Woodie Allen and Thomas Dutronc. The famous Goulue de Lautrec, who made the great days of the Moulin Rouge, lived at the Puces, as did Charles Aznavour, whose parents had a shop.

The origins of the flea market date back to 1885, following the decree of the prefect Eugène Poubelle prohibiting the deposit of garbage at the doors of buildings in Paris. The ragpickers settled in the plain of Malassis, land contiguous to the fortifications of Paris. This plain is part of the Zone, a 250-meter-wide strip of non-edificandi land around the enclosure of Thiers, the “fortifs”, built in 1844. On this zone, any construction is prohibited, for security reasons military. On these vacant lots will accumulate the slums of a very poor population.

Almost 150 years ago, when, driven out of Paris, the waste collectors came to settle on the other side of the “fortifs”. The Marché aux Puces draws its roots from the yardstick of the profession of rag picker. A corporation counting about 11,000 people, brewing 75,000 kilos of goods, at the end of the 19th century. Chased away from the center of Paris, the ragpickers will then find refuge in Clignancourt straddling Saint-Ouen and Paris, served by the railway of the small belt and by two lines of the new metropolitan. Their “Peu” market will be set up between guinguettes, refreshment bars, circuses, and other fairground stalls.

Very quickly, this small village will be surveyed by Parisians from the upscale neighborhoods and socialites of the Belle Époque who came every Sunday morning to haggle over incredible bric-a-brac from which treasures were already surfacing. While our ragpickers formed their first union, the press of the time echoed this parallel life “This picturesque court of miracles, this jungle where Apaches and bourgeois snobs mingle”.

The metropolitan arrive in the first years of the 20th century, helping to make the Puces a place of Sunday wandering much appreciated by Parisians. Little by little, tired of packing up their wares after market days, second-hand goods dealers organized themselves and set up in new “hard markets”. During the demolition of the fortifications in 1920, the Puces moved to reorganize in Saint-Ouen. Entrenched although precarious, the Puces remain in balance thanks to their success.

The first closed markets then appeared, the pioneer would open in 1920: former parking concessionaire at the Halles de Paris, renter of chairs from public gardens, Romain Vernaison who owned a 12,000 m2 plot of land in Saint-Ouen where seats were stored. build prefabricated huts there to rent to 150 antique dealers.

Followed by Biron, inaugurated in 1925 by the Union des Brocanteurs de Saint-Denis, expelled from the Clignancourt area: nicknamed the “Belles Puces” before earning its nickname of “Faubourg Saint-Honoré des Puces”. Biron was the first flea market in Saint-Ouen and also the first flea market to sell restored old objects. More chic therefore, frequented by all Paris of Fashion and the Arts, Biron will launch Primitive African Art. This same year 1925, by municipal decision, the Puces operate from Saturday to Monday. The merchants’ association has 120 members when the Puces round up 300 free Puciers around the Market.

In 1938, Amedeo Cesana, a Venetian merchant, in turn opened the Jules Vallès Market. In 1942, on land reserved for the cultivation of fruits and vegetables, granted for life by Mr. Bourdin to Mr. Malik, the latter continued horticulture and subsequently created the Market which would bear his name in order to sell thrift and old clothes, while adding streetwear and sneakers, goods that today have taken over the old. In 1946, the Rosiers market, then stronghold of resourcefulness, emerged in a former garage.

At the turn of the 1960s and 1970s, the Flea Market supported 2,800 working people, excluding merchants, including 400 craftsmen living in Saint-Ouen or the surrounding area. The opening of the new markets, Cambo, Marché des Rosiers, Hall de la Brocante and Allée Verte, will increase the area occupied to 7 hectares. In 1977, Alain Serpette, son of Pucier, in turn opened a new Market: Serpette, Covered Market.

From 1985 to 1995, the regrouping of Puces near Porte de Clignancourt led to the disappearance of a few markets – the Hall de la Brocante located rue Lécuyer, the Allée Verte, Rue Jules Vallès and the “sheds” on rue Lécuyer. Two new markets opened in compensation: “Malassis” reserved for antique dealers and equipped with underground parking, was opened in 1989. And two years later, in 1991, the Dauphine Market accommodated 150 stands on two floors. in a structure à la Baltard.

In 2001, the “Defense and Promotion of Flea” Association, created in 1995, succeeded in having fleas classified as ZPPAUP: the Saint-Ouen Flea Market became one of the first sites in France to be classified as an Architectural Heritage Protection Zone., Urban and Landscape for its ambiance and atmosphere. This classification aims to protect the identity of each of the markets constituting the Puces, it is also responsible for protecting the Flea activity in its entirety and its specificities.

The MAP (Marché Aux Puces), an association governed by the law of 1901, aims to unite second-hand goods dealers, antique dealers, art galleries, market owners and craftsmen and it acts as a relay with communities and partners. It develops several actions in order to safeguard, develop and promote the Puces.