Best of Paris shopping: The street market guide

Best of Paris shopping: The street market guide

Don't shop in Paris for the stuff you can find everywhere else -- come for the unique and the quirky, found only in the city's market areas

Chanel, Vuitton, Dior -- Paris, historically, is a key item on any true shopper's wish list.

The Champs-Elysées, however, has become passé with stores like Banana Republic and Abercrombie attracting a different type of clientele, disappointing those looking for that unique Parisian splurge.

Sure, the ever-glamorous Avenue Montaigne and the streets of Saint-Germain are still home to all of the ritzy designers and names to love and go broke for, but globalization has taken its toll.

The brand names, and their prices, are equally available in New York and London, according to Jennifer Balmadier, a guide with Antiques Diva.

She helps find shopping alternatives to guidebook favorites, creating custom shopping experiences for her clients. “I often like to combine shopping with history and Paris is a great place for that,” she says.

Fortunately, there are still places to find true treasures, one-of-a-kind objects, and inspired purchases at any price that are unmistakably Parisian.

Just avoid high expectations and always use your "bonjour" and "merci" courtesies in stores and you'll have fun whether you buy or not.

Above all, Balmadier urges shoppers to slow down and give in to the Parisian way of shopping. “Take in the flavor and do as the French do. Just make it this lengthy experience while enjoying the city a bit."

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Village Saint-Paul: Antiques and art 

Village St-PaulFormerly royal living, now required viewing.

From boutique-studded rue des Rosiers to the art galleries around the Place des Vosges, the Marais district mixes chic and shabby, with vintage stores interspersed between higher end designers.

At its southern end, the lesser-visited Village Saint-Paul, site of a former medieval royal residence, houses a series of color-coded courtyards filled with high end antique and art shops that open at sporadic hours throughout the week.

“There’s no rush to open, people do things on their own time frame here -- it’s not practical but it adds to the charm,” Balmadier says.

Des Photographies carries 19th- and 20th-century prints and photos, including views of Paris from some of the earliest hot air balloons.

For something more modern, La Boutique des Inventions offers innovative items sold by inventors through Paul de Trentinian, the store’s owner, who finds one-of-a-kind products from around the globe.

Also, the Village hosts a monthly brocante, an open-air antique market that fills the courtyards with even more potential dust collectors that you’ll have to have.

Metro: Saint-Paul; multiple entrances along rue Saint-Paul;


Flea markets at Saint-Ouen: Antiques and secondhand goods

St. OuenThe more clutter, the more charming. With the moniker “largest market in Europe,” it’s hard to talk shopping adventures in Paris without mentioning the mighty marché aux puces, the flea market, at Saint-Ouen

Fourteen separate markets carry some of the highest end vintage designs, home decor, antiques, and other fabulous finds.

The market is a true test of patience. The first 10 minutes wandering through stalls with knockoff sunglasses and bedazzled jeans may seem disheartening and almost seedy.

Once in the thick of it, under the covered portions further inward, when it feels like you’ve left the city completely, the diamond emerges from the rough. Browse the Marché Dauphine, possibly the largest collection of 17th- and 18th-century objects that you’ll find before lunching at the new Philippe Starck restaurant Ma Cocotte.

Brush up on your haggling skills if you’re not bringing a guide, as this is the place to strike a deal. While she said there are few true budget bargains in Paris, the flea markets are the place to try. “Never appear overly interested or give too much away,” Balmadier offers.

Hours vary by market, generally Saturday-Monday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; arrive by metro Porte de Clignancourt and follow the signs up Avenue de la Porte de Clignancourt;


Bastille Arts Market: Artisan jewelry and decor

Bastille MarketDon't mistake this jewelry stand for the patisserie across the road. The Boulevard Richard Lenoir is better known for its massive food market on Thursday and Sundays.

On Saturday, however, the Marche de la Création takes over where up to 100 or so local artists peddle their watercolors, sculptures, jewelry, and other handmade designs.

Looking for an original photo? Painted glass art objects? Handmade ceramics? This market has it all.

Patricia Maltempi, owner of Des Petites Babioles, has been selling her homemade glass jewelry since the market’s opening in 2004. “It’s only designers and artists, there’s no reselling of other brands here,” she says.

Her clientele is mostly tourists, but she hopes that the market, one of only two like it in the city, gains popularity with Parisians.

Saturday from 10 a.m.-7 p.m., earlier in winter; metro: Bastille; center of Boulevard Richard Lenoir starting at the


Canal Saint-Martin and Rue Beaurepaire: Designer clothes and accessories

BeaurepaireAn artistic area for your avant-garde buys. There’s been lots of buzz around the Canal Saint-Martin district over the past few years, and with reason.

This once-sordid neighborhood now hosts up-and-coming artists, designers, and some lesser-known brands for travelers looking for hip and cool experiences.

The clothing and decoration brand Antoine et Lili has one of its largest locations along the Canal, with its unavoidable green, yellow, and pink façade.

Around the corner on rue Beaurepaire, shoppers will find more approachable boutiques to those on the Ave Montaigne.

French brand The Kooples (No. 32) as well as IKKS (No. 34) have homes alongside lesser-known designers like Liza Korn (No. 19) or the eco-friendly threads of Ekyog (No. 33).

Quirky gifts and home designs can be found at Ideco (also No. 19) including whimsical purses, notebooks, and other fun odds and ends for children and adults alike.

Most shops are open until 7 or 8 p.m., but closed on Sunday; metro: République; rue Beaurepaire hits the northern edge of the square and continues to the Canal

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Marché Saint-Pierre: Fabrics and home decor

Marche St. PierreFabrics you never knew you needed. Visitors to Montmartre come mostly for the domed Sacré Coeur church or to retrace the steps of Audrey Tatou’s Amélie. Few venture to the eastern part where rolls of drapery in all colors, patterns, textures, and quality wave in the street.

For over a half a century the Marché Saint-Pierre has been the mainstay, with six floors devoted to hundreds of types of fabric, tablecloths, drapes, and pillow cases that are a treat for both the eyes and the fingers.

The prices follow you up as you climb the stairs. Prepare for a lengthy process if you intend on buying even a simple cut of cloth.

“It’s all very French and there are four or five steps that you need to go through to purchase -- they’ve turned fabric shopping into a higher science,” Balmadier says.

A walk through the market is enough to inspire even the least savvy design wannabe. “Sometimes you go into these random stores or the Marché Saint-Pierre and you find what you couldn’t live without,” Balmadier says.

Open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m., until 7 p.m. on Saturday; metro: Anvers; 2 rue Charles Nodier 75018,


Bercy Village: Home decor and modern design

Bercy VillageReviving old architecture for a retail experience. A newcomer to the retail scene, and a geographic outlier, the old wine merchant district, Bercy Village is a marvel of architectural revival.

On the eastern end of the city, along the Seine, the outdoor shopping escape is easily accessible by the speedy and efficient metro line 14. At the Village, 19th-century wine warehouses have been meticulously converted into one of the most unique shopping centers in Paris.

The shops here are more basic, with standards like Coté de France for household decor and Alice Délice for food enthusiasts.

Photography fans can do some damage in the Sakura gallery while modern design fans can spend time sifting through the knick knacks and contemporary prints at the Arteum boutique.

If nothing else, the many cafés and restaurants in this post-industrial setting are a great change from the huge crowds or potentially snobbish shopping experiences in other districts.

Open every day 11 a.m.- 9 p.m.; metro: Cour Saint-Émilion and you’re there;

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Bryan Pirolli is based in Paris, covering innovation and travel on an otherwise pastry and wine-soaked scene. He is a freelancer for various media outlets, editing his own blog about experiencing the quirks of Parisian life, running marathons among the French, traveling around, and pursuing a doctorate at the Sorbonne. His byline also appears on CBS’s SmartPlanet, EuroCheapo, and TimeOut.

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