Le Marché des Enfants Rouges, which literally translates as “Market of the Red Children”, was named after a 17th century orphanage where the children wore red uniforms. Built in 1615, Paris’ oldest covered market is hidden behind an inconspicuous green metal gate – and for good reason.
This non-touristic destination is lovely but always crowded on sunny days. But the crowd seems to be one committed to a kind of idleness: slow food somehow needs slow people and slow places, which is a fabulous change from the usual Parisian pace, meaning you can take a kind of refuge here. Walking around this market infects you with a contagious carelessness. A glorious maze of 20-odd food stalls selling ready-to-eat dishes from around the globe, it is a great place to come for a meander and munch with locals. End with a coffee across the street at Café Charlot, a great neighbourhood cafe in a former bakery with retro white tiles and the perfect pavement terrace to lap up the authentic haut Marais vibe. Très chic!
The Marché des Enfants Rouges is in the middle of bobo land. What is a bobo? A slang French term, which is short for the bourgeois bohemians — they are not unlike New York hipsters. Le marché des Enfants Rouges is where these bobos stroll on Sundays with their kids, where they buy their organic food and where, on weekdays, they have lunch in one of the numerous market restaurants. Middle-Eastern, Italian, Afro-Caribbean, Moroccan food − you name it!
There is a special vibe here. The photographer for example, with his neighbouring atelier, is always hanging around at the market, selling old photographs for horrendous prices between a café and a petit rouge, a glass of red wine. There is also the guy from the bakery, who often has a joke on his lips and who’ll always give you a mini pain au chocolat for free. The atmosphere at the market is what they call “bon enfant” in France: everybody is always in a wonderful mood – which is not always the case in Paris, but boy it’s refreshing!
You’ll find everything here from bouquets of vibrant flowers, a wide selection of fine wines, a bounty of organic pumpkins, tomatoes, cauliflower, and other richly coloured fruits and vegetables, fresh pasta, Italian olives and extra virgin olive oil, walnut oil and super fresh mixes of green salads. Some of the other stands have a great selection of fresh seafood, meat and charcuterie, and French & imported cheeses. What more could you want?
The Marché des Enfants Rouges was closed in 1995 and was supposed to be torn down. They wanted to construct a huge car park and a kindergarten.
Back then, the free-spirited bobos put up a fight to save their beloved market. People wanted to get their market back. Thanks to the mayor, and some stars like filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier, who lived in the Marais, the market was saved from an uncertain future.
When the market was built in the early 1600s under the rule of King Louis XIII, the Marais was still in many ways what the name suggests: a marsh. But French nobles had started to build their urban mansions there and quickly it became their favourite place of residence. Paris’s history is so rich that knowing some of its fascinating past can make walking the streets so much more evocative, taking a historical walking tour of the nearby Ile-Saint-Louis would be a great way to get to grips with Paris’s history.
But be careful: strolling down the lovely rue de Bretagne, you can easily miss the two iron-gate entrances of the market. And don’t come on Mondays. Like so many other places and shops in Paris, the market is closed on Mondays, like most things in France.
39, rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris
Open from Tuesday-Thursday from 8:30am–1pm, 4 pm-7:30 pm
Friday and Saturday 8:30am-1pm, 4pm-20pm
Sunday from 8:30am-2pm
Agathe was absolutely delightful! Her knowledge and charming personality made her an excellent tour guide. I would highly suggest this tour!!
Jesica was a great tour guide and made the experience one of the highlights of our entire trip to Paris. It certainly met our expectations.
Marjorie was just great! I didn't really want to do the Louvre but she made the history come alive in stories and I just LOVED our experience!
Alberto was a great guide, he was very informative. The Catacombs were just awesome. Would definitely recommend this to everyone!!
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