Europe’s outdoor markets are not just places to shop for antiques, art, souvenirs and great food at reasonable prices. For American visitors to Europe, they also are a memorable way to explore a foreign country’s culture. Among the markets that offer the best products and atmosphere…
Best for food: Le Marché Raspail is a standard farmers’ market on Tuesday and Friday, but on Sunday, it becomes Le Marché Biologique Raspail, one of the city’s best organic food markets. On that day, you’ll find wonderful artisan cheeses, distinctive breads, delicious pastries and organically produced meats and produce, as well as freshly prepared foods. Try the wonderful potato-onion pancakes from Les Gallatins…paella from Interface 3000…and baked goods from the Valérie Debiais-Healey’s stand. Or just sip hot chocolate or tea from Buvette du Marché.
Details: On boulevard Raspail, between rue du Cherche-Midi and rue de Rennes in the sixth arrondissement. Sunday 9 to 3.
Best for atmosphere: Rue Mouffetard offers delicious breads, cheeses, fruits and more, but it truly stands out as the perfect place to soak up Parisian ambiance. The market dates back to 1350, and the street’s cobblestones and centuries-old buildings give it a decidedly medieval character. Try the rotisserie chicken at Boucherie Saint-Médard for a picnic lunch, or linger over a glass of wine at Cave la Bourgogne.
Details: On rue Mouffetard, between rue Calvin and rue Edouard Quénu in the Latin Quarter. Tuesday to Saturday 10 to 6, Sunday 10 to 1.
Best flea market: Le Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves. There are treasures buried among the bric-a-brac—Parisian antiques dealers buy merchandise here. Even if you don’t find a masterpiece, vintage French items can make distinctive and affordable souvenirs and home décor pieces.
Details: On avenue Marc Sangnier and avenue Georges-Lafenestre in the 14th arrondissement. Saturday and Sunday 9 to 6.
Best for antiques: Le Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen, often called Les Puces Clignancourt, officially is a flea market, but it has evolved into a sprawling series of upscale antiques markets. It’s a great place to find distinctive home décor such as vintage lithographs and antique armchairs that you could ship home. There are hundreds of vendors—too many to see in one day.
Details: Clignancourt sprawls across several blocks, but many of the best markets are off the rue des Rosiers. Monday 11 to 5, Saturday 9 to 6, Sunday 10 to 6.
Best for art: Le Marché de la Création Edgar Quinet offers works from more than 100 undiscovered artists. Quality is uneven, but you will find plenty of beautiful works here, many for less than $100. I bought some very nice watercolors of Parisian scenes for less than $50 apiece. I also got to chat with the artist.
Details: Boulevard Edgar Quinet, between rue Huyghens and rue du Départ. Sunday 10 to 7.
Best for food: At Borough Market, you can sample exceptional British and international produce, baked goods, cheese, wine and more. It also is a great place to talk food—many stalls are manned by the skilled food producers themselves. There are plenty of delicious foods to eat on the go as well, such as the chorizo sandwich from the stall outside Tapas Brindisa…or the pork belly sandwich from Roast restaurant.
Details: This market spans several blocks near Cathedral Street and Middle Row in Borough. Thursday 11 to 5, Friday 12 to 6, Saturday 8 to 5. www.BoroughMarket.org.uk
Also: At Covent Garden Market’s Real Food Market, there are delicious artisanal cheeses, meats and breads for a picnic or pastries and cakes for dessert.
Details: Located in the East Piazza of Covent Garden, near the Royal Opera House. Thursday 11 to 7.
Best for antiques: Portobello Market actually is several street markets rolled into one along a three-mile stretch of road—and tourists unfamiliar with Portobello Market sometimes give up before they reach the world-class antiques market at the southern end, which is open only on Saturday, 6 to 5. The northern end is a somewhat scruffy flea market. Farther south is a vintage clothing market, followed by a food market. Arrive before 10 am to avoid the crowds.
Details: The antiques section of the market is on Portobello Road, between Chepstow Villas and Elgin Crescent in Notting Hill. www.PortobelloRoad.co.uk
Best for exploring London’s ethnic cultures: At Brixton Market, you can sample authentic African and Caribbean foods and shop for merchandise.
Details: Electric Avenue, Pope’s Road and Brixton Station Road in Brixton. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday 8 to 6. Wednesday 8 to 3.
Also: Ridley Road Market offers a wide range of interesting Indian, African, Caribbean and Mediterranean foods, and plenty of general merchandise, too. It has a wonderfully energetic atmosphere.
Details: Ridley Road in Dalston. Monday through Thursday 6 to 6, Friday and Saturday 6 to 7.
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