If you’re planning a trip to Europe in 2014, there are maybe a few other things you will want to do apart from visiting monuments, touring museums and savoring the local food. For instance, how about dropping by at one (or some) of the biggest flea market(s) in Europe? France, the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Spain are among the most antiques-aware and flea market friendly locations in the world.
One of the great things about Europe, is that its railway network is one of the most modern and best connected worldwide; you can thus for instance (day 1) land in the UK, shop in London, grab the Eurostar to Paris (day 2), do a little flea market shopping there, and then take the Thalys to go to Lille (day 3), Brussels (day 3) and then Amsterdam (day 4). But enough of logistic for now.
Enjoy our ranking of what we consider being the Top 15 mega European flea markets you absolutely MUST visit in 2014. Don’t hesitate to share with us your feedback in the comments section below, if there’s anything we forgot to include in this flea market listing/ranking or if you want to share your own advices and experience. Happy reading!
1. Braderie de Lille Flea Market: The Biggest Flea Market in Europe – From Saturday 6th September, until Sunday 7th September, 2014 (10,000 exhibitors)
Just an hour outside of Paris by TGV, the town of Lille is home to one of the most anticipated events in France: the annual two-day Braderie de Lille flea market. As the largest flea market in all of Europe, this vibrant event dates back to medieval times and now attracts almost two million visitors each September. The “Braderie” (French for “sell at a low price”) flea market offers over 10,000 exhibitors hawking their wares with everything from knick-knacks to treasures. Saturday kicks off the Braderie de Lille flea market, and as with any yard sale, the first day offers the best selection. Note that “window shopping” is allowed on Saturday morning, but the sale does not officially begin until 2:00 p.m.
“More than 10,000 exhibitors over 62 miles of streets”
Although the streets will get crowded and may even come to a standstill at times, it pays to do your research to know what you want to purchase ahead of time. There are tons of original pieces on sale at this flea market, but there are also many items that are seemingly mass-produced just for the Braderie de Lille flea market. With over 62 miles of vendors, the Braderie de Lille flea market is divided up into sections: the smaller boulevards, the friendlier non-professional vendors (where you’ll find smaller antiques, records, and books), and the larger streets where there’s a huge selection of new ethnic items for sale, including fabulous artwork and paintings.
Antiques are displayed along Jean-Baptiste Lebas Boulevard, while décor furniture can be found at la Facade de l’Esplanade and Deule Canal. There’s also a large gathering between the streets of La Porte de Roubaix and L’Opera where professional vendors specialize in antiques from the U.K. Here is a video of the Braderie de Lille 2012 flea market (I’d recommend to watch it in HD to see all the nice details…):
Recommended Travel Guide: Make the most of your flea market trip in France with the book The Flea Markets of France by Sandy Price
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2. Munich’s giant flea market – Saturday 26th April, 2014 (> 3,000 exhibitors)
Once a year on the opening weekend of the Munich “Frühjahrsfest” (the first Saturday of the Spring Festival of Munich, in April) there is a very large flea market on the Theresienwiese, the grounds where the famous Oktoberfest takes place some months later. Two years ago we wrote about Munich’s giant flea market, which was held for the 46th time!
This truly gigantic flea market, which brings together every year around 3,000 exhibitors and above a million visitors from all over Europe, for a one festive day of flea market sales in the Theresienwiese, constitutes an amazing opportunity for flea market and thrifting lovers, to find great second-hand goods at a very low price (if you follow at least some of the recommendations we shared in our post “The Art Of Flea Market Haggling”): clothe, design furniture, flea market merchandise, militaria, home appliances, electronic, antiques, etc. are at the reach of any budget! Have a look at our 2010 review of the flea market if you want to have a more in depth overview of this event. We also shared some pictures for the very pleasure of your eyes. More about Munich’s Giant Flea Market
3. Vrijmarkt Amsterdam flea market, Amsterdam – Saturday 26th April, 2014 (> 3,000 exhibitors)
The vrijmarkt is a nationwide car boot sale or flea market. Koningsdag (From 1890 to 2013, the day was known as Koninginnedag) is the one day of the year that the Dutch government permits sales on the street without a permit and without the payment of value added tax. ING Bank found in 2011 that one in five Dutch residents planned to sell at the vrijmarkt flea market and estimated they would earn €100 per person for a total turnover of €290 million. Over half of the Dutch people buy at the vrijmarkt flea market; ING Bank predicted they would spend €28 each at the 2011 vrijmarkt. The Queen has been known to buy at the vrijmarkt flea market; in 1995 she purchased a floor lamp.
The bank also forecast that the lowest level of sales at the vrijmarkt flea market in 2011 would be in the province of Limburg, site of the Queen’s visit. Among the most popular areas for the vrijmarkt flea market in Amsterdam is the Jordaan quarter, but the wide Apollolaan in front of the Hilton hotel in southern Amsterdam is gaining in popularity. Children sell their cast-off toys or garments at the Vondelpark, also in southern Amsterdam, and in a spirit of fun passers-by often offer the young sellers more than they are asking for the goods.
Until 1996 the vrijmarkt flea market began the evening before and continued for 24 hours. This was ended in the hope of gaining a pause in the celebrations so preparations could be made for the daytime activities. Utrecht, uniquely among Dutch municipalities, retains the overnight vrijmarkt.
4. The Antiques Market/flea market in Arezzo – The first Sunday of every month and the Saturday before (500 exhibitors)
The ancient Tuscan city of Arezzo, with its Roman ruins, medieval walls, Renaissance architecture and incomparable Piero della Francesca murals, has always been a magnet for art lovers. But on the first Sunday of every month, and the Saturday before, when its Piazza Grande is filled with a motley collection of old furniture, musty paintings and stained silverware, tarnished candlesticks and kitchen cabinets, chipped china and violins, Roman coins and a harmonium, old-fashioned telephones and grandfather clocks, it is a lodestone for connoisseurs and bargain hunters.
A one of a kind flea market
The monthly Antiques Market/flea market with its 500 exhibitors and about 100 little shops open all year round, is, since 1968, an added incentive to visit this art-laden city. The flea market takes advantage of the extraordinary scenery of Piazza San Francesco, Piazza Grande and the Logge del Vasari, but the stalls spread over the side alleys and squares across the historic center, transforming the character of the city for the two days of the Antique Market/flea market. For forty years the appointment on the first Sunday of each month and the Saturday before is a must for fans and curious: it has been estimated that each edition is visited by an average of 20,000 people, including, of course, many tourists.
“Exhibitors come from all over Italy and offer their items with a very broad overview of cultural traditions and regional costumes.”
The Antiques Market/flea market in Arezzo has been the first to have a lasting and regular success and it was in past years the scene of real hunting to the best pieces, even the day before the opening of the market, when the best pieces were still packaged on tracks. Exhibitors come from all over Italy and offer their items with a very broad overview of cultural traditions and regional costumes. Besides the outdoor stalls there are antique shops which are an old tradition in Arezzo. The variety of items found in some shops reflects the same diversity that is found in the stalls: antique furniture, paintings, different fancy items not only for age but also for quality, mixed with no order leaving to the visitor the pleasure of discovery.
But some other are the preferred destination for researchers and collectors, with selected pieces and great specialization: old books, scientific instruments, classical archaeology, antique archaeology, antiques & collectibles, antique bottles, liberty windows, art deco objects, jewellery, watches, silverware , 19th and 20th Century paintings, as well as furniture and old time objects. Lately, in coincidence with each flea market, some initiatives like antique exhibitions and meetings have taken place, with qualified exhibitors proposing some selected pieces within prestigious galleries.
The offer is very diverse to meet the needs of the most demanding collectors and art lovers. But also non connoisseurs will have the chance to enjoy the visit to the Antiques Market/flea market in Arezzo: they will find a great choice and also those who, with patience, will give explanations and assurances. In recent years there was a major growth in the sector of restoration as well. This has helped, along with that of art historians which was already very active, the formation of an environment suitable for new initiatives: better preservation and enhancement of artistic heritage publicly owned that has ended up stimulating the Antiques Market/flea market itself. Numerous furniture restorers, thanks to their great tradition and experience, will be able to solve even the most difficult and complex problem.
The fame and respect, sometimes almost myth surrounding the most famous Antiques Market/flea market in Italy provide a constant presence of vendors in any season and any time, without influence in the prices. The event, ideated and strongly wanted by the Aretino Ivan Bruschi, is the most popular and visited by Italian and foreign tourists, thanks to the scenery of an artistic and architectural landscape of enormous value.
Where: The historical town centre of Arezzo: Piazza San Francesco, Piazza grande, Corso Italia and the surrounding alleys. When: The first Sunday of every month and the Saturday before. By train: Most trains going from Florence to Rome will stop at Arezzo. The market is just 10 minutes away from the station. By car: Once arrived in town follow signs for “Petri” car park. The escalator leads in front of the duomo in the highest part of the town centre, where the flea market is.
5. Portobello Road Flea Market – opened all year long (> 2,000 exhibitors)
The famous Portobello Road antiques and flea market in Notting Hill takes place every Saturday although there are also stalls from Monday to Friday. Running from Chepstow Villas to just under the Westway, it is a colourful, dynamic stretch of London that oozes trendiness and fun. On Saturday, it’s huge, with over 2,000 stalls, selling everything from books to bric-a-brac and lace to Limoges – everything from fresh fruit, fashion and exotic cooking ingredients are on sale. Thousands of people mill around browsing second-hand clothing stalls of this flea market or choosing outlandish material. For those who have the patience to search, there are some fantastic bargains. This flea market is really is the place to shop-and-eat and then shop some more while soaking up the bo-ho atmosphere. It is best to go in the morning, by the afternoon you will find yourself getting a little flustered winding your way through the crowds.
And since you are in London, you may also want to pay a visit to the Petticoat Lane Flea Market (World-famous Sunday market with clothes for men, women and children), Camden Passage Flea Market (A selection of market stalls intermingled among antique shops and restaurants), Brick Lane Flea Market (A chaotic, bustling market with second-hand furniture, unusual clothes and curry houses), Greenwich Flea Market (A number of markets offering a variety of hand crafted goods, antiques and food stalls), Berwick Street Flea Market (Fruit, vegetables, fabrics, clothes and household items), or Camden Flea Markets (Several markets wrapped into one canalside shopping experience).
Recommended Travel Guide: Make the most of your flea market trip in London with the book The London Antiques Guide: Street-by-street, Style-by-style by Kimberly Jayne Gray
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6. Waterloo flea market, Belgium (300 exhibitors)
What a great flea market this is. Held every Sunday morning in the car park of the Carrefour supermarket in Waterloo, there is plenty of parking, and a good fast-food restaurant. The 300 or so stalls are all laid out in an orderly grid so it’s easy to cover the whole flea market and not get confused about the location of a particular trader. It offers a good mix of genuine antiques and more contemporary antiques & collectibles, but watch out for replicas. More information: see the regional tourist board website
7. Turin flea market, Italy (250 exhibitors)
Carmagnola flea market is about a 20-minute drive south of Turin and held every second Sunday of the month (except August). Be prepared for a trek through this one: there are over 250 stalls laid out in the main square and winding pedestrian streets of the pretty town centre. With modern craftsmen set up beside bric-a-brac stalls, visitors can find lots of lovely Italian glass and jewellery, alongside genuine antique, collectables and even some lovingly restored Vespa scooters. More information: see the regional tourist board website
8. Paris flea market, France (> 2,000 exhibitors)
There are flea markets in every pocket of the French capital, and you can get anything you want, from authentic Euro antiques to fake watches, classical furniture and the latest sneakers. However, the three main Paris flea markets are the Marché aux Puces de Montreuil (500 exhibitors) in the 20th district, or arrondissement, to the east; the Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves (> 300 exhibitors) near Montparnasse to the south; and the massive Les Puces de Saint-Ouen (> 2,000 shops), just outside Montmartre to the north. All three flea markets vary in size and there are smaller flea markets to be explored, but they are as much an essential part of a Paris trip as the Louvre. And once you’ve mastered the Metro, you can see the best of them in one day of all-out shopping. More information: read our article about the Best Flea Markets in France (2012)
Recommended Travel Guide: Make the most of your flea market trip in Paris with the book Paris Flea Market Style by Claudia Strasser
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Uncover Paris’ mysterious secrets and magical places with The Best Vintage, Antique and Collectible Shops in Paris travel guide.
Fifty-eight antique, vintage, and curiosity shops–as well as the Saint-Ouen flea market–are profiled and photographed in this lavish guide to all things collectible in Paris.
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9. Milan flea market, Italy (150 exhibitors)
You need to be an early bird for the flea market at Cormano, near Milan. It starts at 7.30am every Saturday and is over by lunchtime (2pm). If you want a real bargain – and have comfortable walking shoes – you should find plenty of things to tempt you among the 150 stalls. The area is famous for silk – Como produces 80% of Europe’s silk and has been doing so since the 14th century – and we found some lovely fabrics among the household goods, toys, old clothes, glass and silver. More information:see the regional tourist board website
10. Brussels flea market, Belgium (200 exhibitors)
The flea market at Place du Jeu de Balle is in the centre of Brussels and takes place daily. Here you can find everything from junk and antiques to bargain buys and rip-offs. About 200 dealers turn up every day from 7am until lunchtime. This flea market is a great place to find things you never knew you really wanted, and at knockdown prices. Once the dealers have gone, take one of the side roads from Rue Blaes into Rue Haute. Here they have a great selection of antique, brocante and craft shops. It’s a little more chic, but still good value. More information:see the regional tourist board website
11. Alba flea market, Italy
One of the great “discoveries” we made while touring flea markets in Italy, was the warehouse flea markets. These are huge spaces where ordinary householders take their things to sell (the equivalent of British car-boot sales). You can buy everything, from fully fitted kitchens and furniture, to televisions, dinner services, toys and clothes. You name it – if you want to furnish your home, you can buy it here. Everything has a price (usually very cheap), and this decreases by 10% if the article has not sold after one month. Mercatino di Torino flea market is certainly worth a rummage! More information: see the regional tourist board website
12. El Rastro Flea Markets, Madrid, Spain (3500 exhibitors)
El Rastro de Madrid or simply “el Rastro” is the most popular open air flea market in Madrid (Spain). It is held every Sunday and public holiday during the year and is located along Plaza de Cascorro and Ribera de Curtidores, between Calle Embajadores and the Ronda de Toledo (just south of La Latina metro station). A great variety of products (new and used) can be found at el Rastro flea market. A number of antique shops in the local area are also open on Sunday. According to municipal rules, el Rastro flea market takes place every Sunday and public holiday of the year, from 9 am to 3 pm, in the barrio de Embajadores (‘Ambassador’s neighborhood) in the Central District of Madrid.
The Madrid town council regulates the markets. A maximum of 3500 stalls cover the area from the Plaza de Cascorro, with its statue dedicated to Eloy Gonzalo, who was a Spanish soldier who fought in the Cuban War of Independence in which he distinguished himself and is regarded as a hero, in the north, along the main thoroughfare of Ribera de Curtidores and adjoining streets to Calle Embajadores in the east and the Ronda de Toledo and Plaza del Campillo del Mundo Nuevo in the south. Located around the Ribera de Curtidores, this flea market encompasses a large, almost triangular block marked by Calle de Toledo, Calle Embajadores and Ronda de Toledo, and spreads into various streets in the area, such as San Cayetano, Fray Ceferino González, Carlos Arniches, Mira el Río or Plaza de General Vara del Rey and Plaza de Campillo del Mundo Nuevo.
From Cascorro flea market it is possible to take home anything imaginable: From first and second hand clothes, jewellery, old flamenco records, even older photos of Madrid, faux designer purses, grungy T-shirts, household goods and electronics or any typical souvenir of Madrid, to old coins and antiques on display in some of the small squares and galleries.
But also with items you would never expect to see on sale: For every 10 pieces of junk, there’s a real gem (a lost masterpiece, an Underwood typewriter, the internal mechanism of an old door lock, or a part for a radio that stopped being made almost before this wonderful contraption arrived in Spain) waiting to be found. Location: Plaza de Cascorro and Ribera de Curtidores, between Calle Embajadores and the Ronda de Toledo (just south of La Latina metro station) Opening times: every Sunday and public holiday of the year, from 9 am to 3 pm Check the full list of the 20 Best Flea Markets in Spain
13. Lake Maggiore flea market, Italy (350 exhibitors)
Visitors love the flea market at Borgo D’Ale for its happy atmosphere, its surprising and varied collection of antiques and collectibles, and the wonderful selection of local food. The 350 stalls set out their wares every third Sunday of the month and it is generally hard to come away empty handed from this bustling, fun and tempting collection of Italian goodies. More information: see the regional tourist board website
14. Namur flea market, Belgium
Once a year, in July, the huge Ciney Expo centre on the outskirts of Ciney is given over to a three-day antique/brocante fair/flea market. With hundreds of stalls both inside and out, you get a terrific variety of things on sale, from the very finest quality antiques to household wares. It’s a bit of a drive – but it’s worth it. More information:see the regional tourist board website
15. Mirepoix flea market, Southern France (200-500 exhibitors)
Some of the small towns and villages in France have a wonderful reputation for staging huge flea markets, just once or twice a year, when the entire community is taken over by anything from 200 to 500 stalls. It’s like a massive car-boot sale but with all the trappings of a genuine antique and collectable market. You’d be amazed at the things that turn up. These flea markets are called “vide-greniers” – or attic sales. The village of Auriac-sur-Vendinelle hosts one over an entire weekend in May. There are professional dealers, and amateurs just there for the fun of it. Certainly worth a trip if you are in the area. More information:see vide-greniers.org