There is always a brocante or flea market going on at the weekend somewhere in France but there is nothing quite like the Braderie de Lille. Every year a very special and very big flea market takes place in the vibrant and beautiful city of Lille in northern France. It is the biggest and one of the best in Europe and if you want to know why, well here are a few facts:
– More than 10,000 sellers occupy a mind boggling 100km of roads lined with stalls – that is not a typo, it really is 62 miles of road given over to this amazing event
– It goes on for 33 hours non-stop
– 2.5 million visitors will visit this flea market and enjoy the festive atmosphere which includes a mussels and chips competition at which 500 tonnes of mussels will be eaten
It is held every first weekend in September.
History of the Braderie de Lille
The history of the Lille flea market remains somewhat hazy. According to historians, it goes back to the 12th century, most likely originating from the ancient days of the Lille Fair, mention of which appears in 1127.
Several centuries later around the start of the 16th Century, servants obtained permission to sell their masters’ old clothes and goods, such as crockery and kitchen utensils. During the 19th century, the bourgeoisie and then street peddlers came from outside of Lille to take part in the flea market, and the event got bigger and bigger.
During the weekend of the Braderie the city of Lille is turned into a huge pedestrian zone where thousands of traders, second-hand sellers and especially “Bradeux” (non-professional sellers) continue a tradition which is both commercial and festive.
In 1446, two butchers living on the current Rue de la Grande Chaussée, obtained permission to sell meat and roasted herrings to for the duration of the Fair. They were soon copied by other residents and by professional restaurateurs. In Flemish, the verb “to roast” is “braden”. It is assumed that it is from this that the Braderie takes its name, which means that the origins of the fare are synonymous with “roasting”.
Mussels and Chips at the Lille Braderie
From the 15th century onwards, the traditional meal during the flea market was roasted poultry; however mussels became the most popular dish due to an illness which temporarily caused the disappearance of poultry. They are the perfect food to fit in with the good-value, laid back atmosphere of this event, and nowadays, all of the city’s restaurants sell mussels during the flea market, of course accompanied by a local beer. Each restaurant participates in an unofficial competition to see which one is able to build the highest pile of empty mussel shells – it’s quite a sight!
Lille Braderie Map – what can be found where?
As you’d imagine, with 10,000 sellers there needs to be an element of organisation, and the flea market is divided into areas by seller or by type of object being sold. Collect a map from the Lille Tourist Office or download a map or handy App (details at the bottom of this feature).
The fine second-hand products (furniture, ornaments, crockery, collections etc.) are concentrated on the Façade de l’Esplanade.
Place Simon Vollant (around the old Paris Gate), will be transformed into a village of associations selling second hand objects.
The Jean-Baptiste Lebas Boulevard, along with the boulevard Louis XIV and the rues Debierre and du Réduit, is the exclusive reserve of professional antiques-sellers (300 stalls in total).
The narrow cobblestone streets in Old Lille are given over to elegant boutique stalls and stalls run by private individuals.
The main streets (rue du Molinel, rue Faidherbe, rue Nationale) and the pedestrian areas (rue Neuve, rue de Béthune, rue du Sec-Arembault) have high street shops selling their summer collections at discount prices, other areas offer the opportunity to buy second-hand products.
In the Wazemmes area of Lille, the atmosphere is fantastic on Sunday morning, when the flea market is amalgamated into the animated and colourful market on the place de la Nouvelle Aventure. Along the boulevard Victor Hugo and in Moulins (rues d’Arras, de Douai, de Cambrai and de Maubeuge) there is a large car boot sale put on by the inhabitants of these districts.
Finally, close to the Opera House, the rue Léon Trulin welcomes antiques dealers from England, Ireland and Burgundy.
Take a break – opposite the Champ de Mars you will find the Deûle canal and a large green area planted with trees, the Citadelle Park and the nearby zoo. On the Champ de Mars, the funfair and its 180 attractions go on non-stop throughout the night of Saturday-Sunday, only finishing at 5 am!
On Saturday morning before the Braderie opens, a half-marathon and races take place, with around 5,000 participants.
• The half-marathon, leaves at 9am from the entrance of the boulevard de la Liberté, followed 2 hours later by the 10,000 metres race.
• The baby marathon (1,000 metres), leaves from the Grand Place at 11:15 am
More information is available at www.semimarathon-lille.fr.
Accommodation for Lille Braderie
In order to help you profit as much as possible from the flea market experience check out the Lille Tourist Office website – they always have great offers for discounted accommodation and they offer a free reservation service for Lille and the surrounding areas: Information and reservations at Lille Tourist Office:
How do I get around for Lille Braderie
During the flea market access to the city centre is impossible by car and transport is by regional trains, metros, buses and trams. The main stations in Lille city centre are Eurostar and Lille Flanders.
The metro is non-stop throughout the flea market weekend (including the night from Saturday to Sunday).
You can purchase a cheap Pass’Braderie to use on the public transport system whenever you wish throughout the weekend (available from the end of August). For one day visits, the Pass’Journée (normal daily pass), is very economical and allows you to travel as much as you wish on the day of purchase.
If you are shopping at night – take a torch and purchase the Pass’Soirée (evening pass), valid from 7 pm until 1 in the morning, just €2!
Parking for the Braderie de Lille
You can park in one of the intermediary car parks situated at the key access points to the city. They are linked to the flea market by metro: CHR Calmette, Porte des Postes and Porte in Lille, Saint-Philibert in Lomme, and Cité Scientifique and 4 Cantons in Villeneuve d’Ascq.
Thanks to Lille Tourist Office for providing information and details of the Braderie de Lille
The Mairie de Lille (Townhall of Lille) will have lots of helpful information including a map and details for parking, rest room facilities, transport, useful phone numbers and lots more.