5 Feb 2010

Thinking Of Paris And The Cligancourt Flea Market

Everyone who loves the hunt for trashy treasure has their own flea market story. My fabulous finds have more often than not taken place at Cligancourt in Paris or Ile sur la Sorgue, a small town about 20 minutes away from Saint Remy de Provence. 

I love the hunt. Antiquing (that’s what I call it) has always been as much about the search as the find. I think it’s about that dusty smell that comes with objects of age, I think it’s about imagining what you can do to restore a particular piece and make it yours, I think it’s about meeting like minded souls who love the chase just as much as you do and I think it’s about finding a bargain. Antiquing is a total experience: it’s not about speed and spending money.

Cligancourt, or Le Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen is reached by taking the magenta coloured metro Line 4 to the station Porte de Cligancourt. It is advertised as being one of the largest flea markets in the world – if confusion and sensory overload are the measures of size then this market wins hands down. The area that it covers is enormous and the best way to tackle the vastness is to accept that you can’t see everything in one visit. For the die hard ‘antiquer’ like me this is tough advice to follow – these flea markets make me feel like a child in a candy shop – but I know from past experience that unless you focus in on one area you are most likely to finish the day empty handed. Too much looking means too much choice and too much choice means too much indecision…for me anyway.

One of my best days ever was at Cligancourt. It was 1995 and I was in Paris with my three children. We four had struck a deal. If I would ride up to the very top of the Eiffel Tower with them, then in return, they would come antiquing with me. (I am fearful when it comes to heights and become irrational when I leave the first floor..ok a slight exaggeration but you get what I mean. Tall buildings with observation decks and me are not a good fit. Meg Ryan waiting for Tom Hanks I would not have been; that, ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ romance would have been doomed from the start. Sorry I digress, but I wanted to point out that it was a fair trade between my three and me. A morning of fear and terror for me and a day of excruciating boredom for them. They have always been great sports and very indulgent of their mother who likes to spend hours and hours on what they would have considered back then to be a fairly dull pastime…)

So off we went to Cligancourt and we walked and we searched and we conquered. Well, we thought we did. We found a very pretty painted bed with original damask upholstery, bolster covers and bedspreads. It was in excellent condition and very well priced. Fast forward fifteen years… My daughter is still sleeping in that bed when she is home in France and she loves it just as much as she did at first glance.

Where to Shop:
*Paul Bert Market, 18 rue Paul Bert, 94300 Saint-Ouen
*Serpette Market, 110 rue des Rosiers, 94300 Saint-Ouen
*Vernaison Market, 99 rue des Rosiers, 94300 Saint-Ouen

Opening Times:
*Saturday, 9:00a.m until 6:00pm
*Sunday, 10:00am until 6:00pm
*Monday, 11:00am until 5:00pm

If you can’t carry your goodies shipping is available and easy to arrange. Registering with an international shipping company on site is the first step. They will take your details and give you a reference number to use when purchasing any goods. When you have finished buying, all goods will be collected from the individual vendors by the transporters and sent on to you as arranged.

Cligancourt is not the bargain flea market that it once was but as the eternal optimist I truly believe there will always be treasure waiting there for me…I just have to find it, xv. 

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Little Emma

Dear Vicky, I love the way you talk about Paris and France, and give so many detailed information about your favourite places. I happened to Isle sur la Sorgue last summer just during the flea market. I was really enchanted, it's one of my favourite places in Provence… besides Arles…Can't wait to read more about your living in France. Thanks for sharing and making me dream…

Fabulously french

Great post! I also love hunting for treasure and sometimes it appears in the most odd places, and when you least expect it :-)

Have a very happy weekend,


ps I plan to go "treasure-hunting" on Sunday, weather permitting!


Oh I love Cligancourt, Vicki. It's so lovely walking around, even if you don't buy anything ( but I challenge you not to ) and it just goes on and on and on, doesn't it ? …..and, I had the best creme brulee that I have ever eaten in a tiny little restaurant there. XXXX

mondo cherry

Oh wow! The very thought of that huge a flea market makes me weak at the knees. I would have to be dragged away kicking and screaming as I think I would feel that the perfect bargain would be just at the next stall…. just one more…. I think the only way I could persuade My husband to let me visit would be to hide the very useful fact that overseas shipping can be arranged. Thanks for that gem of a tip!
Clare x


I was to Cligancourt just once back in '99. It was our last day in Paris and my husband and sister and brother in law indulged me. We all had a fabulous time poking around and each brought home several little treasures. Thanks for bringing back happy memories of that wonderful day!
Take care,
Laura :)

Linda c.

Beautiful bedroom! Thank you so much for the advice. So, we can buy & ship to Australia no probs?


What a gorgeous bed-I can see why your DD still loves it. I do enjoy the hunt, and especially when I unearth something very special. Something I have been looking for~ or drempt of owning.
Taking it home, cleaning it up and finding just the right spot for it-now that's a good, good day!

My Carolina Kitchen

I love that you struck a deal so you could go antiquing. I'm going to give it a try with my husband, although he's usually a good sport.

The hunt for a treasure is one of the best parts of the game. I can only imagine how fabulous a Paris flea market would be.

Simply Luxurious

What a find! I too enjoy "antiquing", and you're exactly right, it is about the hunt. Often I find I can gain inspiration even if I don't find anything. I have enjoyed your posts this week. Have a wonderful weekend!


my husband and I have actually been to Cligancourt and had a great time–he found a few desk accessories and I was in love with the fabrics and trimmings. Next to it (or on the way to get there) I seem to recall the real "fleas"–chanel bags for $40 anyone?!

A Gift Wrapped Life

I could live in these markets and have always read of the one you are writing about. My favorite part of Paris was roaming all those antique markets and missed a chance to purchase a gorgeous Fragonard print….how dumb. I still think of it even though it was a bit risque. I could have quessed you were an Aquarius as well……Happy Birthday Miss Vicki with love (this week?). Have the best weekend. XO


Bonjour Vicki. Always love to hear stories of the "find". You have both the hunter and gatherer in you, it seems. I bought an distressed caned canape at a sale here in California.It had a "Detroit" tag on it, so I was resigned to it being less French than I'd like. When I got home and examined the tag better I saw that it was the French flea market shipper "Detroit 93 Saint-Ouen
Déménagements Transports". Hoping to use them again someday. Thanks for the great post. Trish


How fun! I can't wait for next Sunday to hit the Rose Bowl market in Pasadena again. This post gets me jittery with excitement for that day! I once had the chance to visit one of the Paris markets, but I can't remember which. Being young and naive, I was looking for cheap souvenirs. I did walk away with a small needlepoint pillow with the Eiffel Tower. That was my best find there.

Susu Paris Chic

Thanks for your comment! We seemingly share some same interests;) I still have to make it out to the ever so famous Clignancourt flea market. Almost eight years in this wondrous city and I haven't been out there yet… gotta remedy that!


Ahhh….it's all about the companionship and bargaining (even with the kids…) Great post and awesome information, Vicki…Definitely keeping this, should I happen to find myself in France someday….(definitely working on it!) Happy weekend to you! :) xxoo

la la Lovely

Oh that sounds like a dream right now…wandering around a flea market in Paris! I love how you traded with your kids.. that is a fabulous idea. And I am right there with you …. hate heights.. when we were in Paris I told my husband I would go halfway up but that was it. And he couldn't be bothered if he couldn't do it properly. Maybe next time I'll trade a day of shopping for a ride to the top ;)
Hope you are well. Is your book out in the US yet?
xx Trina


Perhaps we should all approach life as you do antiquing ….
and know there will always be a
treasure waiting for you.

(my daughter – now 39- still sleeps in the beloved antique bed we found for her when she was 6)


Renee Finberg

you are right on about it not being a bargain anymore.
i imported for years from Cligancourt, it is no longer the
treasure box of finds that it once was.
a few of my fave shop owners are long gone now. :(
to me it sad….
it was convenient for me,
i could leave from miami at 5pm and be in paris at 10:30am the next morning.
work for 2 or 3 days and come home.


donna baker

Oh that bed! I heard by a store owner a few years ago, that the Paris flea markets were all art deco stuff. I think she was exgagerating, but wonder if it still is. Do you know if they have early American furniture, and also American made 40's and 50's furniture?


Oh, if only….
Somehow the fleas in ol' Illinois of the USA don't quite compare…
(My DD would love that bed as well)


Hi Vicki–sounds like heaven to me! I, too, have to limit my options. I call my hunts "auction fever" and I usually never come up empty handed. The project for the week is creating frames and mats for 20 (yes, the complete portfolio) of early 19th c. French engravings of drawings by Rafael. The operational word here is affordable–but it is always the hunt and the creative venture that it inspires. Thanks so much for this post, it brought me back to Europe. I love the DD's room. xo


A beautiful vignette — the room is in perfect harmony, the bed fit for a princess, What a treasure you found — a sweet antique bed with beautiful fabric that is both elegant and has a touch of whimsy, looks new as it baths in the sunlight, a bed made to dream beautiful dreams in.

Have a beautiful 'dreamy' week-end


Hi Vicki – thanks for visiting my blog. I read your blog often and love my visits. I live vicariously through you. Being an Aussie girl – I look forward to visiting Paris one day.


Hi Vicki- Thanks for the memories. I've been to Clignancourt and at first I was disappointed, but as I walked further and further, I was in awe of the antique vendors and vintage treasures. Happy weekend!

Beadboard UpCountry

I love this post Vicki!
This was the first Parisian flea market we ever went to and I still have old glasses I got for two francs that I dug out of an old box in one of the Allees at Vernaison. Our favorite discovery was this hysterical restaurant where they sing Piaf and Jacques Brel in the corner of the allees called Chez Louisette. The singers sing and pass the hat etc. The place just rocks everyone sits together and it always has xmas decorations up all year long…….Thanks for making me think of it again oh and the bed is fabulous! MaryanneXO


Vicki – I hear you on the "dragging your kids around doing the things you love and the bargaining.
– the things we do. My kids have come to love tat "dusty smell" too.
The bedroom photo looks completely out of an interior design mag. I love the bed, no wonder you were thrilled with your find…gorgeous.
have a super weekend. x Suzi

Velvet and Linen

Your daughter's bed is beautiful. I'd never leave!
Thank you for the flea market tips. They will definitely come in handy during my next Paris trip!
Have a wonderful weekend Vicki!



Hi! I love your blog and this recent post hit home. Great story. We were there 5 years ago, 3 young kids in tow doing a little bit for them (Paris playgrounds) and a little bit for us–the flea markets! The big one that got away (and I'd love to hear your thoughts on this) happened on the streets of Paris, way far from any market, and it was almost dusk. We were headed back to our rented apt., walking along some wonderful scenic street, shussing the kids and telling them not to be too loud when suddenly we spied a trash can out on the sidewalk waiting for next day pickup with a huge beautiful Persian rug all rolled up stuck inside. We contemplated this unexpected treasure not quite knowing what to think…or do! Why was it in the trash? Something icky? Blood from a crime scene? The kids' imaginations went wild with gruesome possibilities. And then we thought, how could we get this home? So we decided to pass. I still think about that rug and what might have been…ahhh, all those wonderful stories we could've regaled out friends with over cocktails, standing on our beautiful rug snatched from the streets of Paris. Alas, it was not to be.

Concrete Jungle

Gorgeous image, I do know the feeling re: the tower, I wouldn't go above the first level it was sooo windy the evening we were there…and those tilty elevators…my husband was annoyed…luckily he returned many times after with darling sons and daughters !

Shell Sherree

How like you to kindly provide your insider tips, Vicki ~ you're a sweetie!! Much as I love the thought of the whole experience, I can only do this kind of thing in small doses. Those musty smells of which you're fond make me feel odd and unsettled, but I'd endure them for as long as I could in hopes of finding something with character that I love. Have a lovely weekend, Vicki!


After this post, I am definitely going antiquing, the next time I go to France. You made it sound so much easier, for shipping items back to US. That is the part that has always intimidated me.

I think that you and your children will have many great memories.

Have a wonderful weekend.

jules @ The Diversion Project

Fabulous tips!! I so wanted to head there on my last trip to Paris, but travelling alone with two young boys, something had to give..and this was it. I'll just have to save your tips for my trip – sans enfants!


Dialing Home.

Your blog is so wonderful. I want to come and visit someday and do all these things you so eloquently describe!

What music do you listen to while shopping, or on your way to shop?

The Editor

ps. thanks for stopping by our blog, we are feeling much better, merci!


Hi Vicki
Well if that were my bed .. I would never give it up.. nor the coverlet and chair.. and the lamp.. they would all have to travel with me wherever I go!! Have a great weekend.. xx Julie


THANK YOU, Vicki for the info on international shipping!!! i'll be in Paris next may and Cligancourt is a must for me, I already made a deal with my DH :-)
have a wonderful weekend.

The Eternal Intern

thanks for the tips! i'll be heading back to paris soon, and love antiquing. it's true however that lately les puces de clignancourt seem to be getting more and more expensive – a trap for foreigners i find! i much refere saint ouen and ile sur sorgue!!!
thanks again!
flora xoxo


thanks for the great info – i have a similar story – when miss is and i went to london and paris with dh we struck a bargain – miss is was ages 4 -10 during these trips – dh was working – so we would start off the day with the agreement – something for mom – something for is – in london it was fabric store to playground on and on all day…fun memories

Madame DeFarge

Now that I'm pondering on summer holidays, I'll need to consider France seriously again after reading all your posts. And M. DeFarge may need a bigger credit card.


I love your blog and am so excited to have come across it :) I am an antique hunter too. I love seeing how people used to live and create imaginary stories of the items in the flea markets. Cligancourt will be a definite on my list for when I visit Paris. Thanks for all the info on how to get there. Now I just need a babysitter to watch the kids while I go shop. Any suggestions ? ;)


Vicky, To my amazement I just found your wonderful sight of Paris. I have been in love with Paris formost of my life and I'm above 50 so you can imagine. Never been but its wonderful places and stories like yours that take me there and thank-you for this.Your flea market story would be something Id jump right into if only I could be there.
So I'll come here and cuddle in and read your stories and dream.

Dumbwit Tellher

Thank you Vicki for the flea market tips. So very appreciated. Hopefully that day will arrive sooner than later. I too love the hunt & the history that each lovely piece seems to embody. Great post ~ deb x


Bonjour Vicki – glad to have you back – hope you are fully recovered now from the dreaded J.L – thanks for the shipping info. Wish I had known it was that easy when we were living in Sydney…it would have probably been cheaper to fly to Paris, choose the things we wanted and have them shipped than buy in Sydney (but seeing the prices when we were there last, maybe not!!) Hope you are having a great weekend. Susie x


I contemplated going to the top of the ET once, lol, you are very brave Vicky. The flea markets sound wonderful though and you and the girls found a gorgeous treasure. My friend told me about the fleas too (she found some pretty Tagines), I meant to go on my last trip but ran out of time. Your posts are really tempting me to call my sister to see if she would like a day or so in Paris, while I am this side of the pond. Hope you had a wonderful weekend. Kathy.


Is that actually your daughter's gorgeous bed/room? It's so pretty Vicki.

I've yet to do the Paris flea markets but am thrilled to have all this info. for when I do go – thank you so much. I was in L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue year before last, and of course many brocantes in Provence and the Languedoc regions, love all the little treasures I brought back but sure would love some of those big pieces too!!!


The Armchair Parisian

I adore the flea markets and Clignacourt is absolutely up there on the favorite list, however, if I only have time to visit one per trip, I usually choose Vanves for some reason. As you say, Clignacourt is not as much of a deal as it once was, but there are treasures to be found ~ even of only with one's with a camera…


Hello from California I just spend the early morning antiquing, truly one of the great joys in life. My husband and I will be traveling to France in May and we will be visiting the chateaus along the loire valley. Please Please help me, I will have only four days and I would love your imput to the most fabulous sites not to be missed. I must see Diane de Poieters chateau especially after reading the book what was it called something and the moon, by Princess Michael, oh well if you have time give me a short list and lovely places to stay. Grateful fan Janet


Will we see you at L'Isle sur la Sorgue this Easter ? my fellow textile dealer Lizzie and I are driving down for it. Our First time !
we are Staying at L'Oasis just out of town
Vanves is my favourite in Paris ciao Linda

Lorraine Wafer

Wonderful blog, we spent an amazing week in Isle sur de la Sourge a couple of years ago staying in a small apartment on the island. It was amazing..we woke to a market on our doorstep almost every day. We are planning another trip from down under to France in 2017 and this market in Paris is now on our list thanks. We thought we saw the biggest market ever in Madrid earlier this year. Looking forward.


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