Before Les Puces, the rag-and-bone men of Saint-Ouen

After the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, the rag-and-bone men who had been ousted from Paris built the first merchant villages in Saint-Ouen. These wandering scavengers were nicknamed “bone pickers”, “rag grabbers” and “street grubbers”, and also, more poetically, “moonlight sinners” as they would roam through towns at night looking for discarded items or rubbish that they went on to sell at the markets.

Official opening in 1885

The year 1885 saw the official opening of the Marché aux Puces flea market. The town of Saint-Ouen rallied together to cleanse and secure the area. The merchants wishing to sell their wares at Les Puces had to pay for the right do business here. The press published several complimentary reports about the market between 1905 and 1914. More and more Parisians would come here on Sundays, in keeping with their tradition of going for a walk outside the city walls.

Between the World Wars and opening the first markets

After WWI, Les Puces became so popular that businessmen bought up the land surrounding the rue des Rosiers. They built streets and connected certain stalls with the water and electricity networks and sold these spots at a very high price. This is how the first four markets were established between 1920 and 1938. They were the Marché Vernaison, the Marché Malik, the Marché Biron and the Marché Jules Vallès.

Atmosphere at Les Puces – a trendy area for a stroll and the birthplace of “Gypsy Jazz”

From that time on, the flea market became a very fashionable place, where the crowds sought the atmosphere of Les Puces – famous for its cafés, bistros, restaurants and entertaining activities. At the time, the many bistros in the area were very popular with the new working population of Saint Ouen. This community started to mix with another, that of the gypsies who were also living here in caravans. The gypsies brought life to the town with their music – the Gypsy Jazz. The famous Django Reinhardt was known to have played at Les Puces, as well as in many open-air cafés from here to Montmartre.

World’s first antiques market

Between 1946 and 1991, 12 other markets were set up for trading. 
The world’s first antiques market, the Marché aux Puces (also known as the Puces de Clignancourt) is one of the largest tourist sites in the Greater Paris region. 
The history of the Saint-Ouen Flea Market, from the day it opened to the present.
Relive the history of the famous flea market Les Puces, from the day it opened in 1870 right next door to Paris up until the present day.