No trip to Paris is complete without a personal investigation into the French love of great food. For most visitors this means a few fine meals at a restaurant, but if you're in a mood to probe deeper, go where the locals get the finest ingredients of their cuisine one of the city's 65 food markets.
To experience a classic market, visit the Rue de Lévis, a busy market street in the sedate 17th arrondissement (9 a.m.-7 p.m. daily, closed Monday and Sunday afternoons; Metro: Villiers), where vendors offering cheese, roast chicken and mounds of seasonal fruits and vegetables are nestled among bakeries, clothing stores and wine specialists. Now that autumn is upon us, the stalls are filled with squash, delicate mushrooms and soft purple figs.
Next to the Château Rouge Metro station in the 18th arrondissement is the Marché Dejean (8 a.m.-7 p.m. daily, closed Mondays and Sunday afternoons). The surrounding neighborhood is home to a diverse mix of peoples, making this the market to come to for African and Caribbean staples. Tropical fruit and chili peppers add an exotic touch to the fruit and vegetable stalls. Take a stroll down the surrounding streets and discover specialty shops selling bolts of African wax cloth, plantains, sweet potatoes, dried fish, manioc and other mysterious root vegetables. Hawkers unloading cheap watches and perfume complete the feeling of being transported to another continent.
At the organic Marché du Boulevard Raspail (6th arrondissement; Sundays, 8 a.m.-1.30 p.m.; Metro: St. Placide), prices can be two to three times higher than elsewhere, but as American Michael Healy, who has been serving his homemade English muffins here for 10 years, attests: "Every time there's a mad cow, you get a few more people who want to eat well." Here you can pick up organic yogurt, rustic breads and dirt-caked potatoes, as well as a hand-knit wool sweater, a jar of seaweed tapenade or a cup of squash-and-coriander soup to help take the edge off a cool fall morning.