Paris is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations and for good reason. From the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre to Moulin Rouge, there is no shortage of attractions in la ville lumière (the city of lights). However, why not step off the well-trodden tourist path a bit and discover a market that most Parisians don’t even know? Le Marché des Enfants Rouges (The Market of the Red Children), located in Paris’ 3rd arrondissement, is sure to wow first time Paris visitors as much as Paris veterans with its gourmet delicacies, diverse food stands and amiable clientele.
Complete your shopping at the market stalls
“La Belle France” conjures up thoughts of pungent cheeses, fresh sliced ham, hot-from-the-oven baguettes and perfectly-aged Bordeaux. Unfortunately, many of these traditional items and local markets have been replaced by industrial foodstuffs sold in supermarkets in the fast-paced French capital. Have no fear though, a strong contingency of proud producers still bring their products to a handful of markets in Paris. Le Marché des Enfants Rouges is Paris’ oldest market, dating to 1615, and is arguably one of the best.
Once at the market, you can easily complete your shopping list. At the fishmonger, choose from freshly-caught oysters, salmon or sardines. Next, follow your nose to the rotisserie chicken case and buy the most sumptuous bird that catches your eye. The butcher can supplement the rest of your protein needs with French-raised beef, duck and pork. Right next door, find the cheese shop, which features over 30 varieties of cheese ranging from creamy camembert to delicate chèvre (goat cheese) to smelly Roquefort. Local vegetables and fruit and sold in the middle of the market, but if you have trouble finding them, let their bright hues and luscious odors lead the way. To finish, pay a visit to one of the two florists for a lively bouquet to brighten up your home.
Grab a bite at one of the food stands
For those who don’t feel like cooking or those who simply want to enjoy a delicious casual meal at an affordable price, the market offers food stands. These stands are a step up from street food and a step down from bistro dining, making them a great option for a weeknight dinner or a weekend lunch. Even better, there is a great variety of food choices. Explore Moroccan dishes like couscous or tajine at Le Traiteur Marocain, sample traditional Japanese family-style cuisine, support local organic farmers at one of the two organic stands or fall back on an old favorite like lasagna from Pizza Mario.
Order at the counter if you want to emporter (take away) or take a seat one of the stand’s tables for sit-down service. Be aware that seating is often shared at communal tables and can be difficult to find. Typically the takeaway option will save you a few euros, but even if you decide to sit down, you will only pay between 9 and 15 EUR (10 to 17 USD). Portions are generous for the price. Those who know how expensive dining in Paris can be will recognize that this is an incredible value.
If you’re looking for a more upscale dining experience, head to l’Estaminet, a small restaurant situated at the back of the market. Here, find cheese and sausage boards, seasonal plates and a comprehensive wine list. Even here prices are reasonable.
Around the market
While the market itself provides everything you could want, it is often crowded during the weekend. If you don’t want to fight the crowds, take a meal to go or scoop up some basic ingredients for a picnic at the nearby Square du Temple park. On the way, you’ll pass boutiques, art galleries and tearooms. Take a quick peek inside if you’re not too hungry. After lunch, feel free to let your curiosities lead you around the neighborhood. It is one of Paris’ most ancient and most interesting.
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For an off-the-beaten-track spot in Paris, look no farther than the Marche des Enfants Rouges. Regardless of your tastes or shopping list, you’ll find everything you need, along with some surprises, at this ancient covered market. It is located in a neighborhood referred to as Le Marais, which is known for its trendy eateries and upscale boutiques. Access is an easy five minute walk from subway line 8, stop Filles du Calvaire and is found at 39 Rue de Bretagne. The entrance is marked with a gate and a large sign. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8.00 am to 8.30 pm and Sunday from 8.30 am to 5.00 pm. It is closed on Mondays.
Please note: below sites are in French but an internet translator should provide an accurate English version
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