If you approach shopping with the battle light of bargaining in your eyes, flea markets are just the place for you. You can prod around with zeal, hoping to spot the ‘find’ of your lifetime; get a coveted antique; the perfect tool that you were always hunting for or a precious handbag for a fantastic bargain that will see you singing for days in the shower.
Flea markets sell almost anything and everything from rare antiques to used shoes; fresh farm produce to pickles. It is a world far removed from the sophistication of plush malls; a vibrant, bustling place filled with the excitement of searching out items, haggling for wares and absorbing the local flavours, both culturally and gastronomically. After all, one must have a bite of something to set out with renewed vigour, and the food stalls selling local and popular delicacies make sure you are equipped with nourishment during the ‘grand forage’.
So, which are the best flea markets to look out for if you happen to be travelling in those parts of the globe? Here is our list of great flea markets around the world:
Opening days: Weekends and Mondays.
The most famous flea market of Paris, located at Porte de Clignancourt, Les Puces spreads over 7 hectares. With a whopping 120,000 to 180,000 visitors and 3000 stalls, it is the world’s largest antique flea market. A haven for antique lovers, one can find anything in the maze of alleys here – chandeliers, jewellery, vintage furniture, antique hand-made lace and much more. There are various divisions off the main street (rue des Rosiers) specialising in certain products. Marche Biron is for luxury furniture here whereas, Marche Dauphine is known for ceramics (bypass the fake goods sold near the entrance area).
Opening days: One weekend every September
Europe’s largest flea market, the Braderie de Lille attracts up to 2 million visitors who hunt for bargains along the 100 km stretch of stalls handled by 10,000 vendors. The market opens at 2 pm on Saturday and that’s the day you can find the best items; window shopping is allowed before the market actually opens. The fascinating assortment of goods for sale includes antiques, ornaments, furniture, books, junk and just about everything. Eating moules-frites (mussels and chips) is an interesting tradition (with 500 tons of mussels consumed) with contests between restaurants to see which one has the highest pile of empty mussel shells. Another ritual is the half-marathon on Saturday morning which sees 5000 participants taking part.
Opening days: Monday to Friday; Saturday is the main day.
Come Saturdays and the Portobello Road in Notting Hill bursts into action with a stretch of colourful stalls and over a thousand dealers selling a fantastic range of antiques and other items. Portobello Market is considered to be the largest antique market in the world. The two-mile stretch is really three markets in one – antiques, fruits and vegetables and flea market. Antiques, books, second-hand clothes, fur, jewellery and fresh fruits and vegetables, you can find all this here in a fascinating array. The Notting Hill Gate side has antiques, jewellery and paintings to offer; if you want CDs, cheap clothes and shoes, head towards Westway.
Opening days: Saturdays and Sundays; 10:00 am – 05:00 pm.
One of Berlin’s oldest and most famous; the flea market along the Straße des 17. Juni takes place every weekend. Straße des 17. Juni is a street in central Berlin, Germany. The specialty goods are the antiques, arts and handicrafts. A sizeable part of the market is devoted to junk, records, CDs, vintage clothing, jewellery and porcelain items. The goods are of better quality and the dealers are professionals, so finding a bargain is not quite easy, though not impossible.
Opening days: Thrice yearly – May, July, September
The Brimfield market is the largest outdoor antique show in the USA with over 5000 dealers displaying their wares across 21 fields along a mile-long stretch on Route 20. An amazing array of items are on display, ranging from vintage furniture, jewellery, clothing, paintings, pottery, crystal and chandeliers to toys, clocks, radios, military and marine memorabilia. Don’t miss trying out the food at the various stalls (the food court of the New England motel is high on popularity).
Opening days: Saturdays and Sundays.
The Brooklyn Flea is a major attraction of New York. Operating from three different locations, the market has more than 250 vendors peddling their manifold wares – antiques, vintage furniture, clothing and jewellery; handicrafts, vinyl records and books. The market is held outdoors from April through Thanksgiving (in Fort Greene on Saturdays and Williamsburg on Sundays); from Thanksgiving through March, it is held indoors at Skylight One Hanson. Brooklyn Flea’s food market, Smorgasburg, is a big hit too for its delectable offerings – cookies, pizzas, cheese, cakes, hot dogs and great coffee. It is held in Williamsburg on Saturdays and Dumbo on Sundays.
Opening days: 2nd Sunday every month; time: 9 am to 4:30 pm (admission stops at 3 pm).
The world famous Rose Flea Market is held in the Rose Bowl Stadium and attracts over 2500 vendors and 20,000 buyers. You can get just about anything here – antiques, shoes, clothes, vinyl records, glassware, architectural salvage, paintings, books and even plants. Come in early if you want to avoid crowds and search for the best items.
Opening days: 1st Thursday to Sunday in August annually.
The Highway 127 Corridor Sale originally started as a tourist ploy to draw people to the back roads of Tennessee and Kentucky. Today it has evolved into ‘The Longest Yard Sale of the World’, stretching over 600 miles and 5 states. Driving along this long and lovely stretch, you can find the most incredible bargains and items displayed by professional dealers as well as householders, selling stuff on their lawns or fields. Do not miss the delicious food on the way.
Opening days: Saturdays and Sundays, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.
This is the shopping mecca of Asia for bargain lovers. The Chatuchak Market spans 35 acres of shopping haven and draws together 15,000 stalls and 200,000 buyers. The range of goods is mind-boggling. You will find Thai silks, handicrafts, furniture, clothing, antiques, books, plants, pets, herbal medicines, Buddha statues and even live snakes here.
Opening days: Saturday and Sunday, 4:30 am to 4:00 pm
Located in the southeast side of Third Ring Road, this sprawling, 48,500 sq. m market has over 3000 stalls which offer an unbeatable variety of goods. The market is divided into various sections, each devoted to a certain type of goods. It is easy to forget all about time as you shop for pearls, amber, jade, coral, Chinese furniture, local handicrafts, porcelain, paintings, housewares or communist memorabilia here. Though some stalls are open throughout the week, the flea market is visited best on early Saturdays or Sundays.
Now that you know which the ‘drool’ haunts are for shopaholics around the world, we’ll conclude with a few general tips to help you get the most out of your shopping jaunts. Here goes:
Get set go…
Now all you have to do is grab that tote and head off to the flea market. Happy treasure hunting!