It’s getting to be the season when Paris markets are coming into full bloom. Juicy gariguette strawberries and spears of asparagus will soon be widely available, along with cheeses and butter made with milk from animals that have been chomping on young flowers and grasses. At flea markets, summery dresses and scarves start to dominate the racks. Whether you’re shopping or simply browsing, here are 5 practical tips to keep in mind.
- Avoid Mondays. Most markets in Paris are closed on Monday or have a limited number of open stalls. So, plan your market excursion for any day except Monday, when there are plenty of options. Open days and hours are included under every market description in Markets of Paris. Or check my Paris Market Finder.
- Don’t touch! Some vendors won’t mind, but plenty will bristle if you start handling the goods before purchase. Look around to see how other shoppers are conducting themselves. If baskets are being provided at a food stall, then it’s usually okay to touch the produce. At many stalls, the vendors will do the selection–and best to leave that to them. They’re knowledgeable and can pick produce that’ll be ripe when you’re ready to eat it, if you ask. At flea and antiques markets, the opposite advice holds true: Examine items with forensic scrutiny before you buy, if the quality and authenticity (e.g., age or origin) matter a lot to you.
- Look for lines. When Parisians form a line (or even something vaguely resembling a line, since the jockeying that can take place is worthy of an Olympian sport) at a particular vendor’s, take notice and get in queue. The locals are discriminating about where they purchase, so any market stall with a line is almost always worth the wait.
- Go where there’s limited selection. At food markets, a limited selection of fruits and vegetables indicates a local farmer who is selling what’s currently in season. Vendors with a broad array of produce, some of it off-season, are usually resellers. That doesn’t mean that the food isn’t good, but it’s a way to distinguish the resellers from the local producers. The more specialized the selection, then generally the better the quality. I’ve found this to be a general rule of thumb in France. It often applies at flea markets and restaurants too.
- Take along a market basket. I’ve learned to never go to a market without one. Even if I think I’ll only be picking up cheeses and bread, I invariably come away with a slew of purchases. It’s a mess when a bunch of plastic bags get tangled up, which invariably happens the moment that a photo opportunity presents and requires a free hand. Make it easy on yourself and take along a basket if you can, or buy one while you’re there if you’ll be going to several markets. They’re sold at many markets or stores and are relatively inexpensive. Besides, it’ll be a memento of your Parisian market excursions.
Are these tips helpful? Please comment. Plus I’d love to hear your ideas about other useful tips–even if you learned them the hard way. (Which is how I learned these!) ~Marjorie