Fresh-food markets across Paris are convivial, epicurean hubs where you can fill your basket each day with the best that French growers and food artisans produce.
The 82 "marches alimentaires" across Paris give "shopping local" a new meaning. In any part of the city, shoppers can meet producers and discuss what to buy, what to cook and how best to cook it.
Most are open-air markets operating one or two days of the week, while others are permanent, covered markets open most days. Only metres from the nearest Metro station, each market has its own flavour and sensory appeal.
Marche des Enfants Rouges
Where 39 rue de Bretagne, 3rd arrondissement
Metro station Filles du Calvaire
Open Tuesday to Saturday, 8.30am-7.30pm; Sunday, 8.30am-2pm.
This covered market is the oldest in Paris and it's a real food enclave, where Moroccan spice scents mingle with the appetite-sharpening smell of organic chickens turning on a rotisserie and made-to-order wholemeal crepes.
Lebanese, Japanese and Italian stalls complement the fish, pates and terrines, cheese, fruit, vegetables, wine, oils and flowers available. Don't try to resist the soups, brochettes, tagines and chicken dishes from Au Coin Bio - Monsieur Wagner's organic stall, which provides a great lunch for €10 ($15.50).
Where Place Constantin Brancusi, 14th arrondissement
Metro station M Gaite
Open Saturday, 9am-3pm.
The scent of the organic Boulangerie de L'Ouest breads, croissants and pastries wafts over this small market, which is one of three Paris markets that specialise in organic and biodynamic products. Here you'll find butter, eggs, cheese, fish, seasonal vegetables and fruit, including dates still on their stems.
Marche des Batignolles
Where 34 Boulevard des Batignolles, 17th arrondissement
Metro station M Place de Clichy
Open Saturday, 9am-3pm.
This large market also features a wide range of organic produce: meat, butter, eggs, cheese, poultry, honey and jars of pollen, bread, fruit and vegetables. It's a visual feast, where the fruit and vegetables in one self-serve stall are arranged in tiers, like seating at the opera, and Marennes-Oleron oysters the size of your hand lie ready to be shucked by their proud grower. Ducks (you'll get used to seeing them with head and feet still attached), fish, flowers, olives and spices are also available.
Where Place Monge, 5th arrondissement
Metro station M Place Monge
Open Sunday, 7am-3pm; Wednesday and Friday, 7am-2.30pm.
Lebanese dips, salads and hot galettes are made on the spot and ready to eat at Marche Monge. Organic fruit and vegetables, fish, poultry, cheese (including goats' cheese), herbs, mustard, honey, nougat, jams, wine and flowers also feature here.
The cured meats and saucissons from the Bourgogne stall are irresistible, though, and you'll be amazed by what's matched with pork to make the perfect sausage: figs, hazelnuts, mushrooms and basil to name a few.
Where 4/6 rue Lobineau, 6th arrondissement
Metro station M Mabillon
Open Sunday, 8am-1.30pm; closed Mondays; other weekdays, 8am-8pm.
This covered market is a multicultural treat with Iberian, Greek, Italian and Asian fare, as well as fish such as oursins (sea anemones) - beautiful with scrambled free-range eggs - meat, fruit, vegetables, charcuterie, poultry, cheese and olives. You can also get a fresh fruit juice, soup to go, bread, wine and olives here.
The market complex also houses cafes as well as other retail outlets.
There's not much market activity in Paris on Mondays, so this is the day to explore some of the Paris food emporiums. You don't need to go to the Louvre to find art in Paris: at La Grande Epicerie de Paris (38 Rue de Sevres; M Sevres-Babylone, 7th arrondissement) they've turned food into an art form.
It's a food department store on a grand scale, and you'll soon learn that any ingredient you've ever needed is here, including those hard-to-find vodka lollipops and edible designer jewellery. There's also France's finest fresh produce - in its raw form or packaged as takeaway meals or snacks.
Open Monday to Saturday, 8.30am-9pm.
If you haven't bought your sweet treats at La Grande Epicerie, finish with a visit to Fauchon (24-30 Place de la Madeleine; M Opera, 8th arrondissement) for those sweet temptations to end the meal - macarons, exquisitely delicate pastries and cakes.
Or at La Maison du Chocolat (in the Carrousel du Louvre complex, 99 Rue de Rivoli, M Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre) try the delectable eclairs that come packaged in individual boxes, or the ambrosial fruit jellies.
Where Boulevard Raspail, 6th arrondissement
Metro station M Rennes
Open Tuesday and Friday, 7am-2.30pm. On Sundays, Marche Raspail is a large organic produce market.
After leaving the Rennes metro you walk straight into this fresh-produce bounty from all food groups, and the evening meal takes shape while you walk through the market: mushroom pasta or salad with girolles or cepes (mushrooms); veal escalopes or roasted rack (it's the palest, milkiest veal you'll see) with a roquette and cress salad; and a tarte tatin - either before or after the cheese, which you can smell before you see it.
There's also fish, shellfish, shrimp and squid, herbs and flavoured salt, rabbits and a wide range of poultry (often with head, feet and feathers intact), wine, flowers, and Algerian dates and Iranian pistachios for your cheese platter. Jean Gremillet from Foie Gras Lafitte will demystify foie gras for you and after trying his duck- and goose-liver pates, you won't need much lunch.
Where Place Maubert, 5th arrondissement
Metro station M Maubert-Mutualite
Open Tuesday and Thursday, 7am-2.30pm; Saturday, 7am-3pm.
This is one-stop shopping at its best because the range of market stalls is complemented by speciality shops around its perimeter: a butcher, a baker, a fishmonger, deli, wine shop and a fromagerie with a tantalising array of cheese including camembert with layers of calvados-soaked apple.
Market purveyors here sell poultry, quail, rabbit and crepinettes (small flat sausages encased in caul fat), fruit (beautiful berries and currants) vegetables, cheese, jams and honey.
For €10 ($15.50) you can take home three award-winning saucissons from Salaison du Val D'Allier made with pork and cheese, pimento, smoked hazelnuts, walnuts or chestnuts. You should try the duck, pheasant, or venison saucissons, too.
Marche Edgar Quinet
Where Boulevard Edgar Quinet, 14th arrondissement
Metro station M Edgar Quinet
Open Wednesday, 7am-2.30pm; Saturday, 7am-3pm.
Just down from the Montparnasse cemetery, the Marche Edgar Quinet is a friendly place where, as well as the usual market produce (fish, meat, poultry, fruit, vegetables and freshly made terrines and charcuterie items), you'll find terrific mushrooms - shiitake, pleurote (oyster), chanterelle, trompette, pied de mouton and girolle - and plenty of ready-to-eat dishes such as paella, rotisseries, sauerkraut with chunky sausages, and dhal. There is organic bread and crepes, too.
Where Boulevard Richard Lenoir, 11th arrondissement
Metro station M Richard Lenoir
Open Thursday, 7am-2.30pm; Sunday, 7am-3pm.
There's a feast from the sea waiting to be cooked at this market: live crabs, snails of all colours and sizes, mussels, oysters, shrimp, local and deep-sea fish and the non-deadly rascasse for bouillabaisse.
There's also a selection of sea sponges. Giant cepes, white asparagus and every other fruit or vegetable you want, meat, rye and speciality breads from Pains Speciaux, olives and oils, cheese, pates, terrines, honey, Happy Hen free-range eggs, flowers and seedlings are all ready to take home.
Marche Beauveau/Marche d'Aligre
Where Rue d'Aligre and Place d'Aligre, 12th arrondissement
Metro station M Ledru-Rollin
Open Tuesday to Friday, 7.30am-1.30pm; Saturday and Sunday, 7.30am-2.30pm.
This large market features a covered area as well as plenty of stalls selling fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, poultry and everything else for the perfect meal and table, including blooms of all types and colours.
Apartments border the market and while enjoying coffee in one of the conveniently positioned cafes, expect to see locals coming out of their front doors with baskets in both hands, or a Moliere volume under their arm. This is a market with soul, where part of the locals' daily ritual is shopping for the freshest and tastiest.
For a list of all 82 Paris fresh-food markets and their opening hours, see equipement.paris.fr.
- Sydney Morning Herald