Police riot squads fired tear gas to disperse a splinter group of protesters heading towards the Place de la République in Paris from Montmatre in the north of the city.
The group had set rubbish bins alight and smashed up the entrance to a bank as they descended on the square.
But their rampage was blocked by a cordon of security forces - some of more than 6,000 deployed throughout the capital.
The demonstrators fled into the surrounding streets.
"Given the number of officers that were deployed and what they've had to face, it has been an effective day," Pierre Puente, a chief of one of the police snatch squads, told LCI TV station.
Interior minister Christophe Castaner said nearly 41,000 people had taken to the streets in France.
Some 5,000 of them gathered in Paris on Saturday for the 9km walk between Denfert-Rochereau in the south of Paris and Montmartre.
Gilets jaunes protesters, who have gathered each weekend to complain about government policies, had been forced into the detour after the traditional rallying grounds around the Assemblée Nationale building and near the Champs-Elysées had been designated no-go areas.
The exclusion came as part of a crackdown imposed by the new Paris police chief Didier Lallement.
Castaner drafted him in on Monday to replace Michel Delpuech who was dismissed for his disastrous handling of the gilets jaunes protests in Paris on 16 March.
Fouquet's restaurant was torched along with several newspaper kiosks along the Champs-Elysées. Shops and boutiques were also ransacked.
Outside Paris, several thousand protesters were ushered away from an exclusion zone at La Place du Capitole in Toulouse in Nice 60 people were arrested during clashes with police which left a woman in her seventies in hospital after she fell in a crowd.
"I send my best wishes to her and the police officer," said Castaner. "Order has been maintained. The new policies have stopped the people who have come for violence.
"We have given people the chance to demonstrate. I want to thank the security forces and emergeny services but we rest determined and vigilant."