Somewhere between the Seine and Place des Vosges you’ll find it. A little village that might be anywhere in France, tucked away in the unlikeliest of places. All vintage stores and cobbled lanes, this is Village St Paul, Paris’ very own antique market in the heart of Le Marais, the 4e arrondissement of the city…
Village St Paul: a time warp in the middle of Le Marais
Head out of the St Paul metro station and walk towards Église Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis. This ancient 17th-Century church, commissioned by Cardinal Richelieu himself (you know, that guy from the Three Musketeers), may well be a must-see Le Marais attraction in of itself, but it’s not the reason you came here. Instead, head left just before you reach the church, and down a little lane.
At the end, the cramped space will open up into an intricate maze of open-air spaces and covered passageways. Congratulations, you’ve reached the Village St Paul, the most secret of Le Marais’ neighbourhoods. There, as you’ll soon come to discover, dozens of artists and antique dealers tout their wares. Peruse the goods on offer, speak with the locals and stay a while. After all, it’s not often you find such a friendly vibe in the French capital.
In search of the best shops and antiques in Village St Paul
Since the 20th Century, artists spaces and traders have set up shop in what was (before the French Revolution) where the rich and wealthy lived. As time went on, as it always does, the many mansions once called ‘home’ by the wealthiest of Parisians were transformed into shops and broken down to be used as office spaces, museums, and restaurants.
The best of Village St Paul can be found only by perusing the neighbourhood’s many small shops. Browse through shelves of dusty wares, and wander through dimly lit corridors. Come the summer months, the storefronts move outside, spilling their goods onto chairs, park benches… And pretty much anywhere else you could display goods to sell!
Inside the shops themselves, there’s no telling what you’ll spot next. For, everything you could possibly imagine is on sale here; from ancient artefacts to retro pieces only ’60s fans will treasure, there are even actual kitchen sinks on sale in some stores. Wandering the little lanes and ducking into each doorway is the only way you can ensure nothing will be missed in your quest to find that perfect souvenir. Even if you’re not sure what it is yet!
Tips for visiting Village St Paul & Nearby Attractions
In total, over 80 antique dealers and artisan boutiques sell and trade their goods within the confined walls of the village. Entrances can be found on the rue Saint-Paul, rue Ave Maria, the St-Paul and Charlemagne gardens, though the shops stop trading on Tuesdays. Free to visit and wander around, most shops are open Wednesday-Monday, 11am-7pm. Who knows, you may even find a unique Parisian souvenir to bring home with you…
Other attractions close by to the Village St Paul include the Hôtel de Sens, a beautiful medieval mansion and the oldest building in the area. Once a grand family home, the interior of Hôtel de Sens has since been transformed into Bibliothèque Forney, a public library anyone can visit, study, and work at during opening times. The library specialises in the humanities, making it a perfect spot for the centuries worth of history that transformed Le Marais from marshy swampland to a luxury arrondissement.
If you find yourself with a little more time on your hands to explore Le Marais area, then I highly recommend going on the trail of Nicolas Flamel (yes, he was a real person and he lived in Paris), or heading to Carette, Place des Vosges in order to find the best macarons in Paris!
Just across the street from Église Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis, you’ll find Place des Vosges. This is the oldest public planned square in the city, and is a perfect place to enjoy a Parisian picnic or simply to hang out with friends! Closer still to the iconic church, you’ll be able to spot the timber-framed façade of the oldest house in Paris. A building with a complicated past that now allegedly serves as a libertine’s club…