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Marché des Enfants Rouges, built in 1615, is the oldest covered market in Paris. It happens to be located in Le Marais a few minutes from where I am currently living. I popped in one Sunday and purchased three gorgeous flat peaches and by Tuesday morning they were clearly not doing well.
I decided to quickly return them. But I forgot my own golden rule of shopping in Paris. Don’t be in a hurry. Especially in this deconfinement period. The French aren’t rushing. They take their time selecting their gastronomic delights.
I patiently waited my turn. In France, the market vendors are very attentive to their customers. Wait your turn and just see what kind of attention you might receive! Be open to the possibilities. You just never know….
After inviting me into his stall to select more peaches, the market vendor started a conversation, in French.
“Are you English?” I seem to be getting mistaken for British quite regularly. My “joli petit accent” is clearly not a native French accent.
“What do you do?” This one always stumps me. I was a teacher for years and now I am a travel writer. And of course, the dreamer at Dreamer at Heart.
“Travel writer,” I told him. It seemed the simplest to share.
The next question was fired in my direction straight away. “Are you happy here?”
“It’s my dream to live here,” I replied.
“Hmmm… Are you looking for a French husband?” There was no holding back with this question. His masked face was difficult to read. I detected a twinkle in his eye. Was there a smile hidden behind that mask?
At the time, I was in the middle of a French love story but marriage is really not on my radar. He made me pause once again.
“Ummm…. (the classic filler) Well… it is my dream to be here.”
And then this.
“What’s the second dream?”
“To be bilingual,” I shot back.
“And the third, the fourth, the fifth?”
“I don’t think I know right now,” I answered in a ponderous tone with a slight grin.
“Madame. It is important to know all five of your dreams because often they arrive together.”
I laughed and told him sincerely that I would figure out my five dreams. I left thinking of my vision board scotch taped to the kitchen wall in my apartment. Perhaps I wasn’t spending enough time visualizing. Perhaps I needed a blatant reminder to clarify my dreams.
Whatever this Tuesday morning philosophical encounter was meant to be, it felt good for the soul.
Perhaps this market vendor at Marché des Enfants Rouges was a descendant of Descartes or Voltaire.
Perhaps every French man and woman has a little “philosophe” running through their veins. I, for one, am happy to be on the receiving end.
1. Where Is Marché des Enfants Rouges?
Marché des Enfants Rouges is located at 39 rue de Bretagne and 33bis rue Charlot in Le Marais, Paris 3
Closed Mondays. Check here for the hours
The Marché des Enfants Rouges is tucked off of rue de Bretagne in Le Marais. Keep your eyes open for the entranceway, it is easy to miss.
2. Why Should I Visit Marché des Enfants Rouges in Paris?
Marché des Enfants Rouges has fruit, vegetable and flower stalls alongside cheese, meat and fish stalls. It’s a great place to pick up mussels and oysters. It also has ready-to-eat dishes such as Moroccan, Italian and delicious sandwiches and wraps found Chez Alain. Just follow the longest line-up and you will be at his stall.
The bonus at the Marché des Enfants Rouges is the tables. There are plenty of tables to eat at that are sheltered from the weather. It was here that I had one of my first experiences eating as a solo gal at a communal table. You never know who might strike up a conversation with you!
3. Why Is It Called Marché des Enfants Rouges?
Les Enfants Rouges was the name given to the 16th-century orphanage nearby. The children’s red uniforms denoted that they had been donated by Christian charities. The name remained in the neighbourhood after the children were moved to another orphanage.
4. Tips For Shopping at French Markets
- the most popular stalls have long lineups.
- do not touch the produce.
- wait your turn and while doing so eye what it is you want.
- you have to wait, but you will be given excellent service, most of the time.
- when it is your turn, the market vendor will usually pick your produce for you. They are experts at this. If you want an avocado to eat in two days, they will select the perfect one.
- the vendor keeps tabs as you go.
- each selection is placed in a paper bag.
- you can hand over your shopping bag and the vendor will fill it as the produce is selected.
- when you are done, the vendor will tell you the total ( I am terrible at orally understanding French numbers and always have to ask several times). The vendors can easily pick a tourist out and will often write the total down on a piece of paper.
- the produce in Paris is not cheap but it comes from Spain, Morocco, Senegal and other warmer climates. It is usually DELICIOUS!
5. Guided Market Tours
More Paris Info…
Where To Stay In Paris
After exploring Le Marché des Enfants Rouges you might want to add these areas of Paris to your list of places to visit!
Get mixed up with the arrondissements of Paris? This guide to the Paris arrondissements will help you plan your best visit to the City of Light!
This post on Montmartre leads you to the most popular sites as well as some lesser-known places in Montmartre.
Another of Paris’s most-loved areas is Saint-Germain des Prés. Here are my best tips on things to do in Saint-Germain des Prés.
Le Marais is one of the best areas of Paris to flâner. Here are 23 tops things to do in le Marais.
La Butte aux Cailles, tucked away in the 13th arrondissement, is another place in Paris that has retained its village-like charm. My article on La Butte aux Cailles will lead you to discover some of the area and its visually enticing street art.
Canal Saint-Martin is another place full of small restaurants, boutiques and plenty of character. Stroll the bridges of the canal under the chestnut trees and feel like a true Parisian. All the details on this “bobo” district are in this article on Canal Saint-Martin.
Here are all the things to do on Ile Saint-Louis, one of the oldest villages in Paris.
Don’t forget that the 7th arrondissement has lots to see and do once you have seen the Eiffel Tower.
And the 11th arrondissment of Paris? Authentic and full of great restaurants and shopping (like a local).
Other Paris and France Travel Tips:
Travelling to Paris alone? This article on navigating Paris alone is full of tips and tricks for the solo traveller.
This page has all my articles on Paris that will help you plan out your trip, including day trips from Paris. I hope you subscribed to my newsletter to get my free download – An Amazing 2-day Itinerary in Paris.