Friend of IT Kathryn Dill is spending her summer working in Geneva. As a recent college grad with a limited budget, she shares her favorite way to save in one of the most expensive spots in Europe (and that's saying a lot).
Is your fondue pot just crying out for a new burner? Do you need a Barbie doll sans la tête—guillotined decades ago during the course of childish play? How about copper kitchen utensils or elegant, hand-embroidered table linens? Discount surplus household goods? A clock whose pendulum may have once swung in an 18th-century salon?
Whatever your desires, from the refined to the eccentric, from the voyeuristic to the neurotic, from the practical to the downright bizarre, the market at Plainpalais in Geneva has everything your heart could desire, at a price your wallet can accommodate.
Strollers, shoppers, and the ambiguously intrigued can amble along the rows of stalls every Wednesday and Saturday, digging through dog-eared stacks of Tintin comics and Victorian pornography. Amidst the high sheen of impeccably maintained fine wood antique furniture and the tacky appeal of paperback novels and bent toaster tongs, the most highly-trained antique enthusiasts and the average flea-market-goers alike can find something to strike their fancy.
But the market shouldn’t be dismissed as just another place to dig up an eccentric gem destined to one day find its way into your own yard sale heap. In a city consistently ranked one of the most expensive in the world, where a significant part of the population is comprised of an ever-changing, transient group of internationals attached to the United Nations and myriad NGOs that call Geneva “HQ,” the market at Plainpalais is also a viable source of economically priced essentials.
I first learned of the market when a fellow expat ahead of me in line for lunch overheard me bemoaning the recent discovery that a medium-size saucepan from a reasonably priced grocery store was going to run me CHF 60 (about $60). Intrigued by her recommendation, I headed straight for the market early the next Saturday morning and, after some digging, went home the proud owner of two pans and a place setting whose price didn’t prevent me from buying food to put in them.
Since then I’ve returned to the market every time I’ve had an impulse that seemed like it might fall under the category of “unnecessary expenditure.” When I decided I couldn’t live without a European A4 two-hole punch, for example, or when it seemed like the best way to polish my emergency-use-only French might be by reading one of the novels of Colette. With a casual stroll through the stalls my whims were pacified—all for less than the price of a cup of coffee.
For true enthusiasts, the market continues on Sundays as well, providing an array of fragrant produce, bread, and cheese, as well as world market booths where colorful cotton peasant skirts lend the breeze their patchouli scent.
Whether you’re satisfying a craving for kitsch or surviving in Switzerland without the luxury of one of the country’s famed bank accounts, the market at Plainpalais will suit your fancy, your needs, and most importantly, your budget.
Read More: Find the best chocolate and cow-callers in Switzerland in Traveler's Authentic Shopping Guide.
Photos: Kathryn Dill