Lyon’s flea market
For Les Puces, it’s all about mingling, so head out here and get stuck in.
If you’re a treasure hunter, Les Puces is made for you. It’s in Villeurbanne on the outskirts of Lyon, on the Jonage Canal, and is the most famous Sunday activity for the Lyonnais, drawing in 500,000 visitors per year and between 5000 and 8000 per week.
Ali Baba’s cave of curiosities
You won’t find many tourists in Les Puces, this is a place for locals.
Professionals on the early-morning look-out for a rare gem, young children in search of plastic super heroes, people from all backgrounds and walks of life, all wander around the domino-like set-up of the second-largest flea market in France, where vintage phone boxes wobble next to art deco tables and kitsch religious knick-knacks. When it’s sunny, Les Puces is truly magic, making everything and everyone glow. In this antique mash-up of the past, time literally stops. In winter, antique dealers and second-hand sellers burn wood outside their stands, allowing you to hover over a fire to defrost your hands. It’s embedded with atmosphere, with humanity. Seriously. Go.
Unearthing hidden gems
With nearly 400 stands, Les Puces du Canal is a paradise for cravers of good deals. Basically, there are three parts to it.
The face-lifted Hangar is where you can dig up all the riches of Les Puces. It’s a place that brings together reputed antique dealers, showcasing a large variety of antiques from the 16th to 20th centuries. Next up there’s Louis La Brocante, also known as ‘les tôles’, which is what Les Puces is all about. A spider’s web of second-hand dealers unveiling their speciality. This means wandering and bargaining ad eternum. And last of all, the Village of School Containers, offering a more contemporary twist. Here it’s deco and colour unleashed. Latest trends find themselves alongside improbable finds in the ideal place for the vintage addict in Lyon.
So if you’re scratching your head for something to do on Sunday and want to live like a local, if you’re itching to go back home with a trove of treasures, get yourself along to Les Puces du Canal. Memories and memorabilia guaranteed.
When thirst needs quenching and belly needs filling
‘L’avenir appartient à ceux qui se lèvent tôt’ or the early bird catches the worm.
Well, if you’re one of the few who manages to yank themselves out of bed on Sunday morning and get to Les Puces early, you’re in for a treat.
It won’t just be bird-chirpingly calm, you won’t simply have more space and opportunity for good finds, but at 9 o’clock you’ll find yourself in one of the bars, drinking a ‘mâchon lyonnais’ with the locals (from the verb ‘mâcher’ meaning to chew). And you’re going to need your jaw because the dish is usually pig’s innards, washed down with a bottle of Beaujolais or Mâconnais. Bathe in the electric atmosphere where bargaining professionals check out each other’s latest prizes.
At 12, with weary feet and laden-trollies, take another slurp of white or even something non-alcoholic, in one of the many local bars and restaurants. Les Puces du Canal is literally teeming with wafts of good food. There are 8 eateries to choose from, each shaped to your wallet size. You have the very Lyonnais Broc Café, the warm and musical Canaletto, the Expo Bar where you come to chat and play cards, Le Malcolm, where you eat outside surrounded by violins, the Boulangerie Bettant with its exquisite dough, Don José for pizzas and grilled sardines, and the all new Oscar, run by Jean Christophe Cons whose 1000 square metres promise very fine dining indeed (reservations 04 37 57 09 83). Wherever you may find yourself, you’ll no doubt share stories of latest finds, insult politicians, and put the world to rights whilst duelling with a traditional chitterling sausage (pig intestines again, yum).
What’s new at Les Puces
Since its inauguration in September 1995, thanks to the tenacity and umph of Denise David et Jean-Pierre Gaboriaux, Les Puces du Canal very quickly won the hearts of the Lyonnais.
Today, its new president, Stephan Blanchet, together with site manager Jerome Balme, have all sorts of projects in the pipeline. In a few words, it’s about injecting even more dynamism to Les Puces, while safeguarding its DNA. This involves extending opening hours, doing business on Bank Holidays, going about extensions and renovations, setting up more sellers in the newly-revamped containers, improving traffic by swapping the exit and entrance around, creating 900 more parking places, and forging new partnerships.
Since September last year, Les Puces has a whole new look. It’s dazzling.
Tip 1: You can get there in a 2CV
New in: from the presqu’île in Lyon, visitors can reserve shuttles in 2CVs. It’s 30 euros for 3 people, there and back, and a lot of fun. For reservations: [email protected] or 06.73.86.93.45.
Tip 2: You don’t have to be a pro to sell your stuff
Although restricted to selling twice a year, non-professionals are allowed to come and sell whatever they want on Sundays from 7am. The price is 35 euros for 20 m2. All you have to do is go to the main desk with an ID card, and bingo.
Tip 3: The auction house
Sound the hammer in the new high-tech auction house and go back home with a mahogany armchair signed by Jacob. For instance.
Tip 4: Samedis mécaniques
Delight in the rows of vintage cars, freshly polished and on display every first Saturday of the month.
Even though they accept cards in certain places, best to come with lots of cash.
If you’ve come with little ones, why not pop into the new Exalto, next to Les Puces. You can laser gun your brother, pretend to be Spiderman, bounce to the moon and back on the new trampolines.