Last Updated on 7th August 2023 by Sophie Nadeau
Continuously busy, bustling, and buzzing: the oldest covered market in Paris can be found in the heart of Le Marais, in a district known locally as Haut Marais thanks to the fact that it lies in the northernmost part of the area. Here’s how to visit the 17th-century Marché des Enfants Rouges, as well as what to know before you go…
Le Marais itself has only been populated since the 16th-century. Prior to this, the land which Le Marais now occupies was literally just a swamp. You see, during the 14th and 15th-centuries, the French Population hardly grew.
Between plagues, the 100 years war, and pests, the population never grew up until the 16th-century when Paris suddenly swelled in population size and people needed somewhere to live.
The wealthier Parisians moved to Le Marais, which had recently been drained of water. They also needed somewhere to buy food, and thus King Louis XIII commissioned Sulfice Richard et Jean Duflos to create a market.
And thus, in 1615, “Petit Marché du Marais” was born. In 1722, the name was changed to “Le Marché des Enfants Rouges” when local Philanthropist, Geoffroy d’Assy, acquired the covered market.
Unfortunately for Geoffroy d’Assy, he was guillotined during the French Revolution and his descendants took over. In 1912, the city of Paris purchased the market and has owned and managed it ever since.
Located at 39 Rue de Bretagne in the Marais, since 1982, the market has been listed as a public monument.
The market got its name, which is translated into English as the Market of the Red Children, from the fact that it was close to the Hospice des Enfants Rouges, an orphanage where children were clothed in the colour red (historically red was the colour of charity in France).
Highlights of Le Marché des Enfants Rouges
What’s so great about this particular covered market is, even if you’re visiting as a tourist, there are a number of restaurants and food stores where you can dine and get prepared dishes to take away.
As the principle purpose of this market has always been about fresh produce, you can still buy fresh fruits, vegetables, breads, and cheese. If you’re planning a picnic in Paris, then this could be a great spot to gather all of the ingredients you need.
L’Estaminet: This delightful little French restaurant was once tucked away within the halls of the covered market but is unfortunately permanently closed.
Chez Taeko: This Japanese restaurant proposes a small number of tables and chairs within the covered market where you can eat on-site. Bentos are one of the most popular options and there are vegetarian offerings on the menu.
Visiting the Marché des Enfants Rouges
The closest metro station is Filles du Calvaire, which is on the line 8 (light purple line) and is around a five minute walk away on foot. As you can imagine, the best time to visit the market is around lunchtime, though this is, of course, the busiest time to visit.
Parisians tend to dine around 1 PM and so, for the best possible chance of securing a table at one of the restaurants, you’ll want to arrive around midday. The market is open Tuesday-Saturday: 8.30am-7.30pm; Sunday: 8.30am-2pm.
While you can always take yourself to visit the market at your own leisure, there are a number of food-focused tours of the area which will show you the market (and some other spots in Le Marais) together with a local guide.
For example, this small group tour will take you through the medieval streets of the city and includes trying an array of French dishes and delicacies. If you’re looking for an extra special visit, then this tour is completely private and includes several glasses of wine and food tastings.
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Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, travel, pizza, and history. A fan of all things France related, she runs solosophie.com when she’s not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming something sweet. She lives in London but travels as much as she can. Subscribe to Sophie’s YouTube Channel.