Once the weather starts warming up, a favorite weekend activity is going to a vide-grenier, brocante, braderie or the marché aux puces. You’ll find these markets popping up all over Paris in different areas. They bring all sorts of treasures and sights where you are bound to find something (or more) to your liking.
They’re a great place to find a unique souvenir to bring home with you from your travels or as gifts for family members when visiting your home country. You can usually pick up something different and inexpensive. They’re also a great way to furnish your home! Thomas and I have a list of things we still need and are slowly checking items off the List.
I’ve gone through explaining the different types of second-hand markets you’ll find in Paris (and France) as well as some tips and tricks to help you have a stress-free and enjoyable experience.
So what's the difference?
Vide-grenier: means “empty the attic”. This is more similar to a yard sale or garage sale. A lot of the vendors at these vide-greniers are mainly individuals selling their wares with a few professionals through out the event. The event can take place from a few days during the weekend to longer. You’ll find a little bit of everything at a vide-grenier.
Brocante: a slightly more upscale version of the vide-grenier. Here you will usually see more professionals present selling their items in stalls. This also means that prices are a bit higher and you may be able to negotiate prices down, but do not be dismayed if some vendors do not budge on items. You will be able to find a lot of gems at these types of markets. Brocantes can also have a theme (vintage, specific decades, by item, etc…). They will be named appropriately.
Braderie: Think of a brocante, but on a much larger scale and usually with activities for children and food stalls. These lean more towards a vide-grenier in terms of items, quality, and pricing. This is can have a festival feel where you can buy other peoples’ items.
Marché aux puces: a good, old-fashioned flea market where there will be everything under the sun, although typically no food is sold. It can either be a permanent location (marché aux puces de Saint-Ouen) or a temporary event held either yearly, quarterly, or more frequently.
Where to find the announcements
There’s many ways you can find out when the next market is happening. Social media is a whiz when it comes to this: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, you name it, you’ll find it. There are a handful of websites that I check on a fairly regular basis that I use to find out what’s happening on the weekends and where. Here’s my top 5 websites I use:
Tips & Tricks to navigate your next market
Yes, the early bird may get the worm, but sometimes going towards the end of the event may earn you some extra goodies. Vendors are more likely to be generous in their prices as they are looking to get rid of as many items as possible. This is also an excellent time to negotiate if you find something you’ve got your heart set on.
Cash is king. You’re more likely to get a better offer if paying in cash. Some vendor have cashless payment systems, but it could be in your favor to offer cash. Plus it helps with the next tip…
Stick to a budget. Know your limits. Setting a budget allows you to not blow your bank account. Because those small purchases add up! Take it out in cash, then once it’s gone, it’s gone. Do not go back to the ATM.
Go with a list. This will help you not be overwhelmed. It also helps you narrow down what you’re looking for. I always get distracted and veer off the path, particularly because I put myself on a budget.
Do not be afraid to negotiate a price, especially if know it’s worth it. Also, be respectful of the vendor. You can always start by asking if the price is firm (est-ce que c’est votre dernier prix ?), that is a good leeway into negotiating.
Allow yourself the space to browse. While looking for items on your list, allow your eyes to wander. I always love finding a stand that is piled high with stuff, usually a good sign you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Always (and I mean always) bring a few sturdy reusable bags with you. Some vendors may not have any and if you’re in luck, they may knock a few euros off your purchase when you say you came prepared! I’m a fan of the thick canvas bags that have a sturdy bottom and handles. I’m usually transporting something fragile (and I’ve unfortunately broken enough items to know better).
If you find something that’s bulky and big and don’t want to lug it around the rest of the day, ask if you can pick it up on your way back. Most vendors will let you swing back by later if you ask nicely.