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10 French Flea Market Finds I Can't Stop Thinking About

Plus, the vintage items you don't need to get on a plane to buy.

October 18, 2019
Photo by Ty Mecham

One of the things I most look forward to in an unfamiliar city is getting to know it through its flea markets. There’s something so thrilling about weaving through a warren of alleyways, colliding with history, jostling past locals, and sifting through a bounty of treasures.

Paris’ flea markets, for many years, have held a special appeal, and I’ve been waiting for my chance to visit. This summer I was finally lucky enough to go to Le Marchè de Vernaison in Paris’ 18th Arrondissement on a Food52 sourcing trip—yes, yes, one of the great perks of my job as a buyer.

While some people extol the virtues of wandering through a flea market without a plan, I always have a plan. I meticulously map my way through the aisles, intentional about every lane I patrol, and strategically plot my way through every (yes, every) single booth. Pro tip: Never skip the very first aisle as these are often the longest-standing vendors. Once I spot a really good one, I let myself get lost: in the piles of linens, stacks of dinner plates, and drawers of old hardware.

Can you tell I'm happy?

While I certainly didn’t come home empty-handed, I’m still thinking of all the things I didn’t bring back with me. Did I actually consider shipping a 1960s rattan-and-oak dining chair set to my Brooklyn apartment? Guilty. And the vintage gingham picnic basket complete with porcelain plates? Most definitely my summer spirit animal.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Love the Transferware—beautiful pieces! So many great finds, and I don’t have to go to Paris to get them. Gotta get those mustard pots!”
— Ela

So here’s a look at all my favorite finds that didn’t make it back home with me, but also, lucky for you, a peek at some amazing vintage buys that are just a couple clicks away.

1. Vintage Silver-Plated French Flatware

Photo by Aja Aktay
Photo by Aja Aktay

This vintage set was hand-picked from the French countryside, and is exactly the kind of flatware that takes your holiday table up a notch (or many). I love to mix this kind of thing with more modern linen napkins and airy botanical dinnerware.

2. Vintage Copper Cookware

Photo by Aja Aktay

Late 19th-Century Copper pots and saucepans likely used to cook beurre blanc butter sauce. Think of all the stories these pots would tell hanging in my kitchen.

3. Transferware Plates, Sauciers, and Tureens

Photo by Aja Aktay
Photo by Aja Aktay

My heart skipped a beat when I stumbled upon Jacques and Jules’ shop. It was tiny, but bursting at the seams with French country charm by way of these transferware treasures. In the technique called “transferware,” a botanical or floral print is delicately transferred from a metal plate to a sheet of paper and then onto the ceramic. Transferware has gone from being a more affordable alternative to hand-painted dinner sets in the mid-1700s, to being super covetable today.

4. Antique Spindle back Cane Chairs

Photo by Aja Aktay

The woodwork and hand carving detail on these dining chairs from the 1800s were truly spectacular. Not only is cane having a major moment in interiors right now, but black lacquer finish feels really fresh when paired with a round dining table.

5. Vintage Gingham Picnic Basket

Photo by Aja Aktay
Photo by Aja Aktay

My heart skipped a beat when I came across this perfect rattan picnic basket complete with wine glasses, vintage French flatware, and floral plates, all nestled against a classic gingham fabric. Tell me you don’t immediately imagine yourself toting this to a picnic in the park.

6. 16th-Century French Canopy Bed

Photo by Aja Aktay

In the deepest corner of the market, I stumbled upon this wildly beautiful bed. This 400-year-old masterpiece was upholstered—pillows, headboards, curtains and all—in an antique French blue toile adorned with birds and branches. I can only imagine a movie stylist picking this up for the next Saoirse Ronan period film.

7. Vintage Overdyed Indigo Linen Napkins

Photo by Aja Aktay

Does table linen get any better than hand-embroidered indigo napkins? Want to take that up a notch and have them monogrammed? Come right this way.

8. Still life

Photo by Aja Aktya

Its neutral earthy tones make this French country still life feel modern, and it’s exactly the kind of thing that I could see in a Brooklyn-meets-Catskills weekend home. Do I currently own a house upstate? No. But until I do, it would also fit nicely in my 2’x6’ entryway.

9. Wood and Rattan Dining Chairs

Photo by Aja Aktay

I know, I know, the whole rattan and blonde wood chair trend is everywhere. However, the structure and clean lines of this silhouette combined with the light oak wood and rattan makes the combo feel fresh and modern. Plus these chairs were so comfortable.

10. Vintage Brass Hardware

Photo by Aja Aktay

My apartment deserves the upgrade that this vintage French brass hardware would give it. Plus, this could have fit in my suitcase. Paris, I’m coming back for ya.

Vintage Picks (without the trip to paris)

Shop all our vintage here

What is your best best flea market find, and from where? Tell us in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Idées Broc
    Idées Broc
  • Kym Sorenson
    Kym Sorenson
  • bette mckenzie
    bette mckenzie
  • Kim
  • Emily Hoban
    Emily Hoban
Aja Aktay

Written by: Aja Aktay

Senior Merchandiser at Food52


Idées B. August 28, 2023
So Nice and usefull article.
Thank you for speaking about Marché Vernaison fleamarket and our store !!
Just a precision it's not the store of Jacques and Jules but the store of Gilles and Julie. :) haha ! Have a look on our instagram : @ideesbroc.puces.

Hope seeing you next !

Gilles & Julie
Kym S. June 22, 2020
Was in Provance at a local flea market and found the most unusual pewter beverage dispenser. It was Norwegian pewter which I had never found before(I collect pewter and have over 300 pieces including flatware service for 12)
It had a working spider but no top and it looked as though it never did. Would love to know what it was originally used for
bette M. January 18, 2020
Oakland Museum White Elephant Sale every February thru March is as good as it gets for finding treasures. A block long warehouse full of curated second-hand items from vintage buttons sewn on cards, stacks of dinnerware, housewares, folk art, vinyl records, furniture....especially for collectors of the unusual and oddities. Not too late to check it out! https://www.whiteelephantsale.org
Kim November 13, 2019
When I was a child we lived in Germany and my mother went crazy for antique copper
Emily H. October 19, 2019
Great article, felt like I was at the market myself! Loved the tips and want everything on your list! Keep these articles coming!
Ela October 18, 2019
Love the Transferware—beautiful pieces! So many great finds, and I don’t have to go to Paris to get them. Gotta get those mustard pots!
Bmassey October 18, 2019
Great tips! Love picking up vintage hardware around the world, it's the easiest to pack!
Arati M. October 23, 2019
I agree! I always go on a trip armed with an empty bag (or many) Do you have a favorite flea market you keep returning to?
Natalia P. October 18, 2019
Literally want everything. Those picnic baskets, that bed. Heaven. Now I need to book a trip to France.
Arati M. October 23, 2019
The picnic baskets got me, too. LOVE.