Chateau Rouge, or Quartier Africain, is a metro station in the 18th arrondissement of Paris that is alive with African vendors, restaurateurs and merchants. In this thriving area, everything from Gambian spices to waxy haute couture fabrics imported from Nigeria is a treat for the senses.
Whether you find yourself navigating the busy crowds in search of juicy sea bass marinated in peanut butter, or shopping for traditional West African clothing, this is the perfect place for your next international carnival. Here’s a round-up of the top 10 shopping spots in the Red Fort to make your shopping in the Red Fort easier.
Pomi Les Primeurs.
Pomi Les Primeurs is the exotic frontier of Chateau Rouge. Located at the intersection of rue DeJean and rue Poulet, it opens up the area with its huge fruit and veggie stalls that stretch for nearly two blocks. les Primeurs boasts an array of fresh produce, from standard Western fare to more exotic fruits and veggies. Despite not being drenched in pesticides or treated with hormones, everything is reasonably priced. The old-school brand of farming and harvesting hasn’t gone completely out of style. Anyone seeking exotic cuisine would do well to start here.
8 Rue de Jean.
At the top of the Chateau Rouge food chain is the butcher shop. Their windows are often stocked with a large selection of beef, pork or other locally raised meats. At Boucherie Atlas, you’ll find a mix of traditional meats, from beef hooves to hind leg meat perfectly arranged in the window. Don’t be fooled by the people behind the glass counter; they’re not just butchers. They’ve got plenty of healthy recipes on hand to give you plenty of ideas on what to do with your chosen cut of meat. The prices are quite reasonable and the shop is open every day.
1 Dejean Street.
Champagne at the Poissonnerie du Chateau Rouge.
Perhaps just as important in the Chateau Rouge food chain is the fish market, where the Poissonnerie du Chateau Rouge’s fish heads peer at you from a pile of ice. Vendors, barely tucked into the back of the carts that carry them, hawk the day’s latest catch in a variety of languages. The selection usually ranges from traditional sardines and cod to catfish and eels. The latter are notoriously expensive. At Poissonnerie du Chateau Rouge, it sits somewhere in the middle between catfish and cod, where it gets a lot of attention from knowledgeable gourmets and curious buyers who don’t know what it is. The fish prices range from mid-range to high-end, and the quality is exceptional.
3 Rue de Jean.
Togo Exotique is one of the many grocery stores located in the heart of Quartier Africain, each specializing in its own region’s rarities and gems. Togo Exotique is bustling with gourds, fiery red peppers, dried fish, vegetables rarely seen in the Western world, and roots and herbs that are boiled and eaten. Everything is ripe here. When your palate is in need of rich flavors and rustic authenticity, this is the perfect place to get a dose of it. Tip: Buy dried fish, usually bent in the shape of a doughnut and served with peanut butter (pate d’arachide). Add the dried fish to boiling water to replenish the moisture, then season with a paste and exotic spices.
6 Rue de Jean.
Au Gamin de Paris
Somewhere in the world, it’s happy hour, so the good folks at Au Gamin de Paris won’t criticize anyone who decides to stop by for a stiff drink at brunch time. This bar-restaurant is a mixed bag. The menu here is not only African, but also globally inspired to tempt all palates. The bar is stocked with exotic drinks and simple, unpretentious food. When the weather is right, patrons can sit on the sidewalk and enjoy a glass of Monaco or cider. During football games, you can expect shoulder-to-shoulder action, with fans cheering on the Blues while double-fisting their brown ales.
55 rue Doudeauville.
The employees of La Poissonnerie have a tradition of fishing engrained in their DNA. The vendors come from sub-Saharan and West Africa. And the talk of fish has a strong accent, these people know how to catch fish with a net in a simple canoe.La Poissonnerie also has bragging rights, as some of the biggest catfish heads can be found in the region. But it doesn’t charge for those fish. The vendors are like part-time athletes and comedians: they push your choices and joke about them, then hold large portions of fish up to the overhead counter and cut them to your liking. Open daily.
5 Rue de Jean.
Joli African wax
Wax cloth stores sit door-to-door and compete closely. But there are some major differences. Not all of the stores sell fabrics imported from Africa, and Wax Joli Afrique makes up for modesty with its intimate storefront atmosphere, with plenty of real wax fabrics from the continent. Fashion week creatives are known to patronize this unassuming boutique for new ideas for their shows and lookbooks. Fabric samples are priced from €15. Open daily.
28 Poulet Street.
With its window display of layered cakes and puffs, dark chocolate and long eclairs, Bh Patissier is the only large bakery in the district with an African flair, unlike the traditional Parisian bakeries. The family-run bakery draws a lot of North African inspiration from its recipes. The sandwiches here have a subtle impact, while the cakes are a tart and sweet taste bud stimulant. It’s a moderately priced bakery where the small bites and Big Mac delights are to die for.
22 rue des Poissonniers
The Beauty of Africa
One of the less expected effects of a trip to Chateau Rouge is a sudden desire to buy wax fabrics.African Beautiful not only sells the precious fabrics used in traditional gowns and dresses, they are also seamstresses. The window displays are brightly coloured and take the viewer to the bustling open-air market of Jos or a nightclub party in Abidjan. The silhouettes of the women’s dresses are slender and curvaceous, the drape of the necklines giving way to pleated seams and unforgettable patterns of magical colours. If you’ve had enough of haute couture in Paris, browse the boutique’s Lookbook for fresh wardrobe inspiration.
68 rue du Deauville
Every Wednesday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. under the impressive Metro Bridge, there is a huge market of produce, antiques, clothing and electronics. The market features fresh local produce, exotic goods brought in from the African Union, and rare specialty items. This is the place to go when you want a rewarding outdoor market experience. The people are friendly. The produce is fresh and ripe. You’ll find yourself either haggling with the locals or drawn to the people who venture out to peddle their goods and wares.
Metro Babes Roschuate Station