Le Marché Bastille (also known as Richard Lenoir)
Boulevard Richard Lenoir from rue Amelot to rue Saint-Sabin, 11th arr.
Thursday 8am to 1:30pm; Sunday 8am to 2pm
(see pp. 144-147 of Markets of Paris, 2nd ed.)
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My favorite activity in Paris is strolling through markets. Whenever I’m asked to name a few favorites, out pops a different list depending on what springs to mind and mouth first. Paris has markets galore: food, antiques, flea, crafts, books, antiques, stamps, birds, flowers, and more. The markets reflect their neighborhoods. Some are chichi and leisurely. Others fast-paced and gritty. Each offers a chance for cultural immersion and also to see Paris in a fresh way–off the beaten path of typical tourist sites, even if not far from famous landmarks, museums, and monuments.
One of my favorite markets is Le Marché Bastille (also known as Richard Lenoir) in the 11th arrondissement. It spreads out in the shadow of the Bastille column, a stone’s throw from where the prison was stormed by the proletariat which launched the French revolution. On Thursdays and Sundays it’s a food (primarily) market. On Saturdays it is an entirely different market focusing on art & crafts: the Marché de la Création Bastille.
I was last there about a month ago and met a friendly Parisian couple while waiting behind them in line for fresh fruit. This is their neighborhood market and they go each Sunday for produce and flowers. I went out of my way for this market because I love how vibrant and spirited it is. Three aisles of vendors stretch for several blocks along the tree-lined boulevard. Roughly 200 sellers attend, displaying a range of goods from mountains of nougat to fish to cheeses to leather goods and scarves, and everything in between.
Seasonal favorites go quickly. Asparagus and strawberries were my first purchases. Part of the fun is stumbling upon stands that specialize in items such as Loire Valley wines, free-range eggs, wild mushrooms, or marinated herring.
Clusters of benches provide opportunity to rest and people-watch. Sundays are especially festive with beret-clad musicians singing traditional French ballads.
(My description of this market also appeared on LongitudeBooks.com.)