Some of the loveliest pastimes of Parisian life are immersing oneself for hours in one of her many marchés.
Having being spoilt by the iconic markets of Byron Bay, the Parisian markets took my breath away. Of course fabulous food, fresh flowers and quirky pieces are to be expected, but my favourite lust-haves are antique furniture, chandeliers, quirky objets and linens such as I’d only previously set eyes on in glossy books on French life.
Traditional French Rituals
A charming discovery I made about the French from the time I began living in Paris is how deeply they care about rituals. They celebrate the first wines of Beaujolais season, centuries-old Christmas festivities, the passing of each season and the multiple religious holidays in May.
So it’s no surprise that on Sundays, families are often at home together, honouring each other with the sharing of a traditional Sunday meal. Tables are set beautifully to honour the occasion, wine is opened, and à table ! (lunch is ready!) is happily announced.
Having embraced the French way of living, shopping at French markets for me is about more than decorating your home with French style. It’s about creating that same warm and welcoming ambience for yourself, your family and guests, with pieces that have been loved and used by previous generations, and are of a quality and charm hard to find in modern times.
Timeless French Treasures
You can expect sellers showcasing piles of antique tea towels, napery, tablecloths and bed linens - so much more charming for their wear and tear, because someone before you owned these pieces, cherished them and probably handmade them, delicately embroidered with their family’s initials.
In soft, countryside pastel hues like duck egg blue, watermelon or classic beige, they are impossible to resist and I can understand why some buy endless quantities to store in their armoires.
ANTIQUE AND VINTAGE FRENCH DÉCOR
I swoon over antique silverware, bone handled cutlery and etched crystal stemware. Candlesticks, dried flowers and serviettes are all laid out gracefully on tables beneath softly lit chandeliers, to suggest how your own laid table may look at home .. to be enhanced only by a fresh baguette, selection of cheeses and wine, bien sûr!
The most wonderful part of shopping at the marchés is releasing the need for matching sets of things. You could find six matching serviettes, then decide later you’d like a set of ten, so go to buy more but not be fussed about them matching perfectly.
The romance is in each individual piece, not attempting to create magazine-like perfection.
Charming Parisian Markets to Shop for French Décor
1. Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen | 91 Rue des Rosiers, 93400 Saint-Ouen
The “flea” market most famous in Paris, and the biggest. Open air streets and covered boutiques are arranged into smaller markets. I enjoy the endless trinkets, furniture and homewares stalls, nestling next to each other. Find antiques like dilapidated chaises longues begging for repair coupled with with chandeliers, linens and quirky curios. Expect to pay a little more at this market but feel free to haggle a little too, if your French is good!
2. Marché Bastille | Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, 75011 Paris
Go on a Sunday with an empty stomach and fill your face with crêpes then stagger home with armfuls of some of the most photo-worthy fresh Parisian blooms like peonies, roses, iris and lilies, for your Sunday lunch table.
3. Christmas Markets
In every neighbourhood of Paris at Christmas time - and every corner of France - are the traditional markets. Visit at night and wander along the cobblestones beneath twinkling lights flickering on the nearby snow, sip on warmed, spiced wine, gorge on tartiflette and take home all kinds of trinkets for home or gifts, plus tiny, hand carved Christmas ornaments for your tree.
4. Marché aux Fleurs et aux Oiseaux | 37 Place Louis Lépine, 75004 Paris
Set on the banks of the Seine, this is the place to find exotic potted plants such as potted orchids in dozens of species and colours, or traditional local blooms like blowsy peonies. On Sundays you’ll hear the squawks and chirps of feathered friends for sale. And at Christmas, expect to find all sizes and kinds of fresh pines ready to add an authentic touch of noël to your maison.
Et voilà !