If you enjoy the Marais and are a history buff or a market troll, you must take the time to discover the oldest market in Paris : le Marché des Enfants Rouges.
First off, a little history to get everyone situated. Marguerite de Navarre, sister of King François the 1st and mother of King Henri the 4th (who was the one to end the religious wars that had been bloodying France), was a very well educated, politically engaged and charitable member of the royal family. In 1534 she had an orphanage constructed in what is now the Marais whose little pensioners were dressed in red as a symbol of their status. The orphanage was closed in the beginning of the 17th century and in 1615 was transformed into a market dubbed the Marché des Enfants Rouges (market of red children) to commemorate the charitable establishment that had occupied the site for almost a century.
It remains a market today and has been on the list of national historical monuments since 1982. Today, neighborhood locals still congregate to shop for produce and fresh products, to have a coffee and to converse with other locals, old-timers and merchants. What is interesting about the marché now is the diversity of its different merchants and products. An Afro-Antilles café serves up delectable bites to hungry shoppers; the friendly owner of the Italian booth proposes Illy café on its year-round terrace and will advise you exhaustively on his wines (for which he has a secret passion); a Breton will whip you up a crêpe (but don’t photograph him without asking, he might squawk at you); Moroccan delicacies tempt you from one corner while Portuguese and South American products beckon from the other… You can even browse an antique shop or park yourself on a bistrot terrace in the back. People even actually still come here for their weekly produce runs, for goodies from fish to flowers to figs.
Located off of the Rue de Bretagne in the 3rd arrdt., the market is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday from 8:30am to 1:00pm and from 4:00pm to 7:30pm; Friday and Saturday : from 8:30am to 1:00pm and from 4:00pm to 8:00pm; Sunday : from 8:30am to 2:00pm
Métro Arts et Métiers (line 11 & 3), Temple (line 3), Filles du Calvaire (line 8).
- Meg Zimbeck’s excursion
- Le Best of Paris also stopped by
- Our thoughts on what to do if you’re spending the day in the Marais.