The first weekend of every September sees the annual Braderie de Lille take place – the biggest flea market in Europe!
History of the Braderie de Lille
The Braderie de Lille has an ancient past – historians seem to agree that it goes back to the 12th Century when employers allowed their servants to sell unwanted or damaged household goods, items such as crockery or kitchen utensils. The employers apparently let the servants keep the proceeds in celebration of the Assumption (a Holy day celebrating the death of Mary and her assumption to Heaven). The earliest recorded mention of a fair at Lille is dated 1127.
The Braderie de Lille
This lovely capital of French Flanders is filled with bargain hunters when, from 2.00 pm on the first Saturday of every September, following race events in the morning, the stalls are opened – approximately 10,000 exhibitors. It is said that if you lined all the stalls in a row – they would stretch to 100km. The word Braderie apparently originates f from Flemish and Spanish words for “bargain”.
The event is world famous and each year up to 3 million visitors descend to rummage through the goods on offer during the 33 hours that the Braderie is on generating around 500 tonnes of waste to be cleaned up when its all over.
The stall holders sell right through the night – from the opening at 14.00 on Saturday, all the stalls will be open until 23.00 on Sunday so take a torch if you go night shopping. For those working on the stalls, sleep is grabbed in situ if possible – at the stall or in a tent at the back. A festive atmosphere prevails and there is music and entertainment on the streets.
The streets of Lille are pedestrianized for the whole weekend and hotels are booked months in advance. Each area of the town has its own speciality – in one part its antiques, in another bric-a-brac. The stylish boutiques and design shops of the town set up table with bargains and at the opposite end of the spectrum there is the loft sale area. At the Braderie de Lille you can spend a few centimes for a piece of old china or splash out on a specialist piece or rare item.
During the Braderie the town also hosts an informal mussels and chips competition – moules – frites being a regional dish. Hungry visitors participate as restaurants make and serve enormous quantities of mussels and chips at tables and benches set up in the streets all over town. The empty mussel shells are tipped outside the restaurant doors to create a mound. It is estimated that 500 tonnes of mussels will be eaten at the weekend and the restaurant, bar or brasserie with the biggest pile of mussel shells is considered the winner.
Next to Citadel of Lille, on the esplanade the Champ de Mars a fair is set up, more than 180 attractions and merry-go-rounds.
A unique weekend in a beautiful town.
Click here for practical advice on the Braderie Lille – parking, useful numbers and map of area