If you are on vacation in Paris for a few days and want to discover a new side of the city that will be less touristy than the sumptuous St. Germain, the shopping Mecca found in the Marais, or the student-filled Latin Quarter, check out the Marché Barbès, a fantastic outdoor market in the 18th Arrondissement.
The market, which takes place on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7:30-3:00, is located under the metro line 2 on the Boulevard de la Chapelle between Blvd. Barbès and Tombouctou. You can arrive there easily on the number 2 or 4 trains, getting off at Barbès-Rochechouart and walk a block down the boulevard until you run right into the market.
This part of Paris is off the beaten path—just down the way from Sacré Coeur and Montmarte, the neighborhood is pretty much an ethnic enclave of Arabs and Africans. The area has been changing some in the last few years with contemporary designers opening boutiques and new restaurants, but when you leave the trendy, touristy Montmartre and cross Boulevard Barbès, you feel the change.
Paris Barbès market is sensory overload- a frenetic, vibrating experience that will totally throw you in a new direction. As the little old ladies in head scarves roll their carts over your toes and nudge you out of their way, take pleasure in the fact that you are in a city that can transport you from one corner of the world to another in a 10 minute walk. The vendors are loud, shouting to passerby’s and cracking jokes. All range of fruits, vegetables, spices as well as clothing and other knick-knacks are for sale and great prices.
If you have your own apartment during your visit in Paris or are in town for long enough that the thought of a home cooked meal sounds ideal, the Marché Barbès is a great resource for shopping. Yes, of course you can buy amazing foods around Paris, but for some of the best prices, a variety of products and a different experience, you can’t beat Barbès. After your visit through the market, you should walk up into the 18th Arrondissement and take in some of the smaller markets that sell teas, spices, dried foods and other delicious items. Clothing and jewelry stores are also around.
The area, like the rest of Paris, feels historical, but rather than the glorified history of Napoleon or Louis XIV, the Barbès neighborhood speaks of another type of French history- a more contemporary and perhaps sensitive history. But this is even more why it’s important and interesting to visit.
The best thing to do is make a full day of it in the 18th Arrondissement. Have a late morning stroll through the Barbès market, buying some fruits and veggies, maybe some olives and cheese, almonds and loukoum then head up to the park by Sacré Coeur for a little picnic before climbing the stairs to take in the panoramic views of Paris. Then continue on your exploration of Montmarte, winding along the hilly, cobblestone streets which will no doubt bring yet another Parisian adventure.
Picture of Paris Barbès market by Blaire Dessent