There’s always a surplus of things to do in Paris, including the temptation to do nothing at all. A very walkable city, Paris rewards those who travel through it at a slow pace. There is so much to see, and I’m not talking about tourist sites like the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre or the Champs-Élysées.
I mean soaking up Paris at a granular level and noticing the Mansard-style rooftops, artistic door knockers, pigeons alighting on sculptures, and the faces of passersby most of whom have a scarf wrapped around their neck and are absorbed by the intensity of their thoughts as they scurry along.
While it’s amply rewarding to walk aimlessly, I usually structure my days in Paris loosely around market outings. Each morning I select a different market which becomes an entry ticket for discovering the city’s diverse neighborhoods. On weekends, there are many market options, ranging from open-air food markets to flea markets to indoor markets, bird and flower markets, book markets, and art and craft markets.
Paris has two arts and crafts markets each weekend. On Saturday, there’s Le Marché de la Création Bastille in the 11th arrondissement. On Sunday, there’s an arts and crafts market on the opposite side of the river in the Montparnasse neighborhood in the 14th arrondissement known as Le Marché de la Création Edgar Quinet (also referred to as Le Marché de la Création de Paris-Montparnasse). Each neighborhood has a distinct personality. The Bastille neighborhood, on the Right Bank, thrums with the pulse of the city. It’s anchored by the large July Column with a bronze sculpture on top (Le Génie de la Liberté), a remembrance of the revolution of 1830.
By contrast, the Edgar Quinet market is dominated by the commanding presence of the Montparnasse tower which is visible from all over the city. The neighborhood has a mellow vibe, with a long history of attracting artists.
In terms of market goods, the Bastille Arts and Crafts Market has vendors selling jewelry, paintings, hats and clothing, photography, and ceramics.
At the Edgar Quinet/Montparnasse Arts and Crafts Market, the focus is more on paintings, drawings, and sculpture. So, you’ve got a choice depending on which neighborhood you’d like to explore, or the kind of art that interests you most.
The vendors at both markets are local craftspeople who have made the goods themselves. They’re very genial. Many of them speak English. Quality varies, and the number of vendors may have diminished over the years. And yet, I’ve found earrings and bracelets, hats, and watercolor paintings that are priceless to me as mementos of a great day that started in a market and then shifted to exploring nearby neighborhoods, punctuated with stops in public parks, pâtisseries, and cafés. That’s my favorite kind of sightseeing in Paris.
Edgar Quinet/Montparnasse Arts and Crafts Market (Le Marché de la Création Edgar Quinet or de Paris-Montparnasse) is open Sunday 10 am-6 pm. Arrive well before closely, since some vendors close early. It’s on boulevard Edgar Quinet between rue Huyghens and rue du Départ. Closest Métro is Edgar Quinet. Free entry.
Bastille Arts and Crafts Market (Le Marché de la Création Bastille) is open Saturday 10 am-6 pm. Arrive well before closely time. It’s on boulevard Richard Lenoir, starting at la Place de la Bastille. Closest Métro is Bastille. Free entry.
Note that there are open-air food markets held in these locations other days of the week. The Bastille open-air food market is on Thursday and Sunday mornings. The Edgar Quinet open-air food market is on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. These are entirely different from the arts and crafts markets.