Retro by metro as Paris goes vintage

Springtime, most of us tend to agree, can be rather wonderful in Paris. But what if you’ve been a few times already and want to experience something a little different? Here’s a suggestion: jump on a Metro and take the 15-minute journey northeast to Porte de Clignancourt, a hop from the usual tourist haunts but a world away from them in spirit, texture and tone.

This area, Saint-Ouen, in the 18th arrondissement, is a different sort of Paris: grittier, more multicultural, a bit edgy (and perfectly safe during the day, though keep your wallet away from pickpocketing fingers). It’s also home to one of the city’s great institutions, the Puces, or flea market.

Leaving the metro station, just follow the crowds towards the large concrete overpass. Most of the stuff here is unexceptional, so unless you have a passion for cheap T-shirts or cut-price kitchenware press on into the real market.

Rue des Rosiers is the main street you walk down to go into the individual markets, which have vaguely separate identities but tend to run into each other. Some are quite elegant, arcaded affairs; others are winding warrens. Each has its own specialities. The Michelet and Malik markets are all about clothes, for example, while the Dauphine is the place for objets d’art.

Taken together, there are 16 of these, providing 11km of stalls- over 20 hectares. The Puces (the Fleas) is the world’s largest antiques market, visited by up to 150,000 people each weekend. From art-deco furniture to 1970s couture, mint-condition magazines to box-fresh 1930s train sets, the place is a trove of the arcane, the beautiful and the plain odd.

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