Vintage enthusiasts worldwide have strolled through flea markets for hundreds of years. The tradition of buying and selling secondhand goods goes by many names from swap meet to antique market. Terms also vary by region. For instance, find “trash and treasure markets” in Australia and “car boot sales” in the UK. But what about French terms, such as the meaning of brocante?
France is a popular destination for some of the most famous flea markets. While brocante, vide-grenier and braderie fall under the broad meaning of flea market, each event is different. Here’s a rundown of their definitions.
In general, the Brocante definition is similar to what’s widely meant by flea market. Brocantes are regular weekend events where a brocanteur (antique dealer or junkman) sells various antique and vintage goods.
The term likely came from the Dutch word brok, meaning a piece or fragment. It’s fitting because collectors can find a little of this and a little of that to repurpose or use as intended. Related, the phrase “bric-à-brac” to describe decorative trinkets comes from this concept of gathering bits and pieces. In France, Brocantes are also known as Puces (flea), which is a term that originated in Paris back in the 19th century.
Vide-grenier literally means “attic emptier.” Similar to a garage sale or car boot sale, individuals purge household items to take part in vide-greniers throughout the summer months. It’s a great opportunity for neighbors – and passersby – to browse tucked away collections for hidden gems. Although vide-greniers can pop up anywhere, they are commonly found in rural nooks and smaller villages.
Another summertime event is the braderie. Braderies raise the bar on standard flea markets, though. Typically organized town by town, braderies combine antiquing with food stands, live music, and street theatre. Like the highway sales in the US, visitors can enjoy a taste of local culture as they shop.
Bargain hunters are usually in for a treat. Many vendors set up booths outside their shops and discount prices during these annual extravaganzas. One of the most famous braderies, the Grande Braderie de Lille attracts over 10,000 sellers and millions of people.