Tucked away between tiny Parisian streets, surrounded by apartments and crowded cafes is Marché d'Aligre. This street market is not completely off the beaten path but is far enough away from any major attractions and wandering tourists. Marché d'Aligre is where the true locals shop for all things French, baked, freshly butchered, and just picked.
The majority of the market is on the street with pop-up vendors lined up, side-by-side, selling fresh produce. There is also an indoor component to the market which looks more like little storefronts, carrying all of the refrigerated, preserved, or packaged items.
We started first with the indoor market, ducking through the door's plastic flaps. The indoor market was quiet and cool with a low humming of casual shoppers. We walked past several cheese vendors, butchers, and charcuterie stands, all with gorgeous and tempting displays.
And no French market is complete without some organ meat, also known as Offal meat. Offal meat refers to the non-muscular things that would 'off fall' from the animal when being butchered. Yes, eating things like tail, lung, heart, brain, and tongue (all pictured below) are common throughout Europe. Personally, I am not the first one to jump up and try some tongue or kidney, however, I am head over heels for pâté and foie gras. And this would be the place to get some, for sure!
Although I am not a fan of all offal meat, I absolutely love that organs are embraced in the French culture. The idea of using every part of the animal is so humbling, letting nothing go to waste. And maybe, someday, we can all warm up to the idea of having a little organ meat for dinner. Maybe.
Walking through the flapped doors to the outdoor market took my breath away. Under the tented roofs and vendor stands were beautiful, ripe produce of all different colors, shapes, and varieties. Some produce was familiar, some were specialty items in the US, and others were absolutely unique and completely new to me.
The market was quietly buzzing with locals walking from vendor to vendor, picking up their produce for the week. The market was full of different tomato varieties and countless bunches of white asparagus - I was in produce heaven, knee deep in French favorites.
I saw a few families and casually dressed Parisians shopping, however, I also saw a couple of ladies wearing dresses, sky-high heels and fur coats, all picking up their produce, just like everyone else. It made me laugh just thinking 'there are no excuses for not wearing and looking your finest' - even when picking up groceries.
Mostly the vendors kept to themselves, not heckling the shoppers, letting them casually peruse their produce.
However, there was one vendor who was shouting, exciting the crowds, handing out samples and claiming he had 'the best strawberries in France' he told me in broken English. And honestly, they were so delicious! He then got so excited when I brought out my camera that he told me he wanted me to take his picture so he could 'be the next Hugo Boss'. He was putting on quite a show.
The last, unexplored part of the market was the thrift store-style market where you could buy handmade jewelry, used books and old shoes. I was reminded of my time rummaging through Goodwill Stores, looking for unique plates, silverware or table sets. There seemed to be a lot of unwanted items on display but who knows, maybe someone will find a hidden gem!
Making our way back through the market, we stopped for one last look at the beautiful flower stand. The eye-catching colors and delicate petals were just stunning, capturing every essence of Paris in the spring!
I felt so lucky to be able to take a peek into the daily life of a Parisian. Food is so humbling and to even, for a second, get a glimpse into what the locals are picking out for dinner that night, almost half way across the world is what fuels my soul and is one of the main reasons why I travel. For me, this market was more exciting than any tourist attraction in Paris!
Tip: The market is closed on Mondays - which we found out the hard way. Avoid a second trip to the market and check out this site for the market's opening and closing times.
Also, there are tons of little restaurants and cafes in the area, so I recommend grabbing a croissant and hanging out in the nearby park. My French family also recommended going to Table - which was closed when we were in the area. They described the restaurant as one of the best French restaurants around! Definitely a must-try if you have the time.
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