Last Updated on June 7, 2023
Of the dozens of markets that grace Paris, the teeming stalls and old covered market that regularly open on and around the Place d’Aligre are certainly among the city’s most beloved. Foodies and chefs regularly cite this market-matrix as their preferred place in the city center to procure uber-fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, meat and fish, cheeses, wine and beer, fresh flowers and baked goods, among other products.
Dozens of vendors preside over stalls heaped high with bright-scarlet cherries, fragrant melons, artichokes that look as if they’ve been delicately hand-painted in stripes of pale purple and white, yellowish mounds of earthy chanterelles, and oranges so acidic and sweet you can nearly taste them on the air as you pass.
Towards the back of the square, there’s also a brocante (antiques market) where you can sift through jumbled piles of anything from old books, posters and exhibition catalogues to china and decorative objects, used clothes and shoes.
The Experience: A Riotous Treat For the Senses
You might stroll through the market to whet your appetite before lunch and perhaps taste a juicy slab of mandarin orange and mango, or go to stock up on ingredients for a meal or impromptu picnic. There are also plenty of restaurants and bakeries in the area that merit a visit (see more below).
As you wander down the Rue d’Aligre and towards the square that shares its name, you may hear vendors pushing out traditional “cries”, sometimes in the form of catchy little rhymes or even jingles, as they attempt to lure you to their stand and away from their many competitors’.
They might bellow singsong invitations along the lines of “Artichauts, tous beaux, deux Euros!” (Artichokes, all beautiful, two Euros!) or “Asperges, pas chers!”(asparagus, not expensive!) I freely admit that these are not actual cries I’ve heard at the market– but this is just to give you an idea of the traditional market cries that might hang on the air as you amble past.
I’m always struck by how many regional varieties of fruit and vegetables are on offer here: the sense of abundance, and choice, is almost overwhelming at first– from ‘gariguette’ strawberries grown in the Gironde region to Limousin raspberries and mushrooms from the Dordogne.
I encourage you to sample widely and find your own favorites. It’s well and good to claim that one stand outdoes them all, but the standards at this market are high enough that you can safely experiment and make your own discoveries.
Meanwhile, if you can’t make the morning open-air market or want to extend your exploration, the Beauvau covered market is itself packed with high-quality stalls selling fresh produce, cheese, olives, wine and other items. It’s also a good choice for a gourmet stroll indoors on a rainy day in Paris.
A Short History of the Marché d’Aligre (& Marché Beauvau)
Opened in 1781, the Beauvau covered market initially supplied the poor residents of the then-working class Faubourg Saint-Antoine area with fresh food items. It was constructed on the marshy former grounds of the Citeaux Abbey, and named after the Abbess Gabrielle-Charlotte de Beauveau.
Very quickly, the market and its surrounding area was thronged with local farmers selling their products, as well as butchers, bakers and other artisans. At some points, it even rivalled Les Halles, the sprawling, chaotic market then known as le ventre de Paris (the stomach of Paris).
After the French Revolution, the Beauvau market was rebaptized as the Marché Lenoir. It wasn’t until 1867 that the area and its open-air stands were given the name “Marché d’Aligre”, in homage to the eponymous chancellor and donor of a charitable hospital nearby, the Hospice des Enfants-Trouvés. The area is also named after her husband and the then-president of the Parisian Parliament, Étienne François d’Aligre.
A Tradition of Revolt
The market has strong historic ties to revolution and popular revolt, with the merchants and residents of the Aligre area participating in both the French Revolution of 1789 and the short-lived but powerful Paris Commune of 1871.
It’s slightly ironic, then, that the Aligre market has been embraced by those claiming gourmet cred. Despite mounting gentrification in the area (and notably the appearance of several trendy restaurants and bakeries nearby), prices at the open-air and covered markets here generally remain modest.
The “Communard” spirit also continues to exist, however unassumingly, in the area– evidenced in the cafés associatifs (community cafés), theatres and children’s centers, some operating like co-ops and staging anything from musical performances to used clothing exchanges.
You might pay a visit, for example, to the Commune Libre d’Aligre (3 Rue d’Aligre), a vibrant community café in the neighborhood that hosts card nights, charity events, concerts and themed events.
Location, Hours & Getting There
The outdoor Aligre farmer’s market is open every day except for Mondays, from 7am to 1:30 pm on weekdays and from 7 am to 2:30 pm on weekends. Meanwhile, the covered market (Marché Beauvau) is open Tuesday to Friday from 8 am to 1pm and from 4 pm to 7:30 pm; on weekends it’s open all day from 8 am to 7:30 pm. It’s closed on Monday.
The outdoor stalls and shops and the Beauvau traditional covered market are located on the Place Aligre, just east of the Bastille area and easily accessible by metro.
Address: Place d’Aligre and Rue d’Aligre, 12th arrondissement
Metro: Ledru-Rollin (line 8) or Faidherbe-Chaligny (line 8)
Tel: + 33 (0)1 45 11 71 11
Best Times to Visit:
If you want to amble through the open-air stalls at the Marché d’Aligre and explore surrounding shops, restaurants and/or cafés, make sure you reserve at least a couple of hours in the morning to allow for adequate time.
For those who are crowd-averse, I recommend going during the week if possible, since the market is often swamped on weekends. Photo opportunities and the full experience of Aligre at its merry, noisy best are probably most easily encountered on Saturdays and Sundays, though.
What to See & Do Around the Market?
There’s plenty to see and do around the Aligre market, from pastry and bread-sampling to wine tasting and strolls.
For superb bread, viennoiseries and pastries, try bakeries such as Blé Sucré (7 Rue Antoine Vollon; headed by renowned pastry chef Fabrice le Bourdat), Farine et Ô (153 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine), and Arnaud Delmontel (1 Rue Théophile Roussel).
For excellent wine tastings paired with cheeses and/or charcuterie, Le Baron Rouge (1 Rue Théophile Roussel, sharing an address with Arnaud Delmontel ) is a local favorite. For French and world cheeses, try the Fromagerie Aligre (15 Rue Aligre), as well as browsing the excellent cheese vendors in the Marché Beauvau.
For a bit of greenery and fresh air, a stroll on the leafy above-ground path known variously as the “Promenade Plantée” (Planted Promenade) or “Coulée Verte” (Green Corridor) is always worthwhile, as long as it’s not too wet out. The 3-mile-or-so stretch of tree and plant-lined paths were established above street level, along what was formerly a railway; they extend from the edge of the Place de la Bastille to the enormous Bois de Vincennes park to the east.
Finally, consider poking into the artisan shops, galleries and cafes below the promenade, carved into the arched vaults of the former viaduct and known collectively as the Viaduc des Arts.
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Courtney Traub is the Founder and Editor of Paris Unlocked. She’s a longtime Paris resident who now divides her time (as well as she can manage) between the French capital and Norwich, UK. Co-author of the 2012 Michelin Green Guide to Northern France & the Paris Region, she has been interviewed as an expert on Paris and France by the BBC, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Le Figaro, Matador Network and other publications. Courtney has also written and reported stories for media outlets including Radio France Internationale, The Christian Science Monitor, Women’s Wear Daily and The Associated Press. In addition to pursuing an insatiable interest in French culture, history, food and art, Courtney is a scholar of literature and cultural history whose essays and reviews have appeared in various forums.