Things You May Not Know About Paris Markets
If you’re a foodie in France, chances are that visiting typical Paris markets is on your bucket list. But beware: shopping at amarché is not the same as picking up groceries at your local supermarket. Here are our dos and don’ts to make sure your shopping experience is a success.
Do Plan Ahead
Each neighborhood in Paris has its own market, and each market has a different personality.
- Some markets will be on a place du marché, like the Place Monge market, which is arranged around a central fountain in the 5th. Others will be along a boulevard, like the Raspail market in the 6th.
- Each market takes place on a different day.
- While it’s completely possible to stumble upon a market on your wander through the city, most are hidden away in a residential area where they’re easy to access for locals, which means that in order to avoid disappointment, you should do an Internet search for a list of Paris’ markets in order to find out which ones are where and plan your mornings and early afternoons accordingly.
Don’t Worry About Showing Up “Late”
- Most markets begin at around 8 or 9am, and many assume that you have to get there early in order to take advantage.
- While it’s true that once it’s around 10, especially on Saturday or Sunday mornings, you’re going to have to take a place in line, don’t assume that just because you overslept you’re completely missing out.
- The end of the market is one of the best times to come if you’re looking for a deal, as most vendors hawk leftover produce at a fraction of the cost in order to avoid having to truck it back home with them.
- A market is not a supermarket: it’s an experience. Buying produce isn’t the same as going through the checkout; talk to your vendors!
- This all-important do isn’t just about practicing your French, however. Most market vendors are not actually farmers at all, and making conversation is one of the best ways to suss out those that picked their produce in a field rather than in an aisle at Rungis.
- Seek out stands with seasonal produce on display, and ask your vendor for recommendations or information. Those who truly care about where their produce comes from will be happy to answer and chat with you.
Don’t Pick Your Own Produce
- We can’t say it enough: a market isn’t a supermarket. When you’re in the aisle of your local mega mart, you may pick up your peaches or tomatoes, squeezing them to make sure they’re ripe. Here that’s a big no-no.
- Part of your vendor’s job comes from his expertise: he’ll be happy to choose your fruit and vegetable for you… and he knows what he’s doing.
- When it comes to fruit and vegetables, be sure to let him know if you’re planning to consume them right away or wait a few days; he’ll pick the perfect specimens. And if you don’t know how much you need of something by weight, feel free to tell him how many people you’re feeding, and he’ll judge for you.
Do Stay True to Your Vendors
- If you’re spending a long period of time in Paris, eventually you’ll find your own regular markets… and your own regular vendors.
- Most markets have at least two produce stands; larger markets will have more than one butcher, cheese monger and fishmonger as well. And when you’re a regular, they notice.
- Regular customers often have their prices rounded down, free samples of end-of-the-season strawberries tucked into their bags, or bunches of herbs added to the top of their order.
- And an unfaithful customer can sometimes stumble upon a bruised peach at the bottom of his or her bag!
While you likely won’t want to shop willy-nilly once you get to the market, do try to stay flexible. You might show up thinking you want to make green beans to accompany your steak marchand de vin, only to find that the first of the season’s wild asparagus are available. Or maybe you wanted to make a butternut squash soup before you saw the delightful parsnips on the market stand. Allow yourself to drift towards what your vendor is suggesting: he knows best!
Do Ask for Recipes
The biggest thrill that many market vendors get is when a customer asks how to prepare something; everyone has a favorite recipe they want to share. If your vendor seems particularly excited about a certain product, be sure to ask him how he prepares it. You might have another recipe in mind today, but at least stow his idea away for another day.