We are constantly on the look out for the best flea markets in France and the Rederie or grand flea market of Amiens in the northern French region of Picardy is a spectacular event. Just an hour and a half from Calais, this is where you’ll likely find the bargain of the year and a piece of French pre-loved, vintage and unique bric a brac to take home and love all over again…. better still it is held twice a year – on a mid or end Sunday in April for a spring flea market and the first Sunday in October for an autumn flea market.
Lucy Naughton a flea market expert, visited in April…
Strolling around on Saturday afternoon the immaculate streets of Amiens are eerily quiet. The unsuspecting would have no inkling that the Aniens Rederie in spring is imminent.
By Sunday morning this beautiful town with its magnificent old buildings, stunning flowerbeds and tree-lined avenues had experienced a downpour of antiques overnight. The place was transformed, a blanket of delights covered the streets and I couldn’t wait to make the first footsteps through them.
The spread of stalls was vast – the Amiens Rederie certainly rivals Lille’s September extravaganza in size [Ed’s note – Lille Braderie each September is the biggest flea market in Europe with 4000 exhibitors, Amiens has 2,200 exhibitors], though here it was easier to find your way around using the majestic landmarks to gauge your position. Early and mid-morning was a pleasant experience but by lunchtime the unhurried, pigeon-stepping crowds were oppressive, making it hard to get trolleys full of spiky coat hooks to one’s van.
Garden tables and chairs were naturally abundant at this time of year in a myriad of styles; traditional, retro, rust encrusted or just gently ageing. Amiens is also a great place to buy ‘bits and bobs’ such as table legs, bath feet, taps, doors etc. Components that could be used to create fabulously quirky, eclectic furniture from scratch – weird and wonderful assemblages, upcycling opportunities galore.
The saying is true: ‘The early bird catches the antique armoire’ – the best stuff was sold early – I saw ‘The Kiss of Cath Kidston’ throughout the town, her buyers had adorned anything floral with their stickers. There were plenty of avant-garde pieces that would look most at home decorating designer shops like Paul Smith and Aubin & Wills and as taxidermy continues to be de rigueur in swanky city bars, it shows no sign of falling out of favour at antique fairs like this.
The rising cost of living was evident here and clearly influencing traders’ prices. My eyebrows were in a permanently elevated state during the day as I asked the price of the most impressive pieces. One particular painting with an inset clock face (terribly chic I’m told) was €800 – I saw someone carting this off later in the day. Evidently there is still money out there to be spent and plenty of Brits had felt it worth the trip over. In good spirits they went to and fro with their plunder like worker ants amongst the tourists.
More affordable items, along with larger pieces, tended to be on the outer edges of the market. The best purchases were made at the scrappier, more casual pitches, where stall holders seemed more interested in enjoying themselves with a nice glass of rosé rather than making a vast profit.
It’s a pity this glorious event lasts just one day; it would have been good to spend another morning browsing with a more relaxed eye. Well, at least there is a sequel on the first weekend of October when the Rederie D’Automne takes place…. I’ll be back…