The flea markets of France are well known, but the biggest and many say the best in Europe and one of the top flea markets in the world is the Braderie de Lille, northern France. This massive market takes place annually and lures crowds of treasure seekers and bargain hunters from around the globe. I braved the hordes to discover unique booty in the cobbled streets of Lille…
Lille is the fourth largest city in France and Vieux Lille is one of the prettiest – like a miniature Paris it is filed with ancient buildings and is a cultural hub as well as a foodie’s delight.
Lille Braderie – Enormous Flea Market
The flea market takes place during the first weekend of September, starting at 14.00 on Saturday and ending at 23.00 Sunday – non-stop! During this time the city swells with visitors – more than ten times the population and the streets are vibrant with happy, browsing bargain hunters in a carnival atmosphere.
10,000 sellers line the streets, more than 200km of stalls and 33 hours of non-stop flea market action.
The history of the Braderie has been lost over the centuries but legend has it that the fair dates back to the Middle Ages. Local servants were permitted to sell off whatever their masters threw out and pocket the extra cash.
From these humble beginnings the Lille Braderie has grown to be one of the biggest flea markets in the world.
Antiques, vintage, quirky curios, collectibles, retro, contemporary and plain old rubbish – there’s a huge range here – well with 10,000 sellers there would be wouldn’t there! Bargain away as much as you like – you’ll find there are determined sellers who won’t budge a cent, families who’ve emptied out the attic and will let their old treasures go for next to nothing just to clear it and monsieur and madame who will offer you a plastic cup of wine to ease the bargaining process.
Top Tips for visiting the Lille Braderie
The streets are pedestriansed, trains into town offer cheap tickets, huge car parks outside the city perimeter are set up for park and ride travel and the metro zips you round the city. However the best way to get around is on foot so you don’t miss something!
Pick up a map from the tourist office in the centre at Place Rihours and head off on your search of a prize or two… or more and if you’re the type to want to buy more, take a collapsible trolley with you. Not all the sellers will have bags (sacs in French) so take a few – or like me, take none and walk through the streets with a large plastic pig and make everyone smile!
If you’re into a bit of nocturnal bargaining, take a torch so you can see what you’re buying – and the best time to bag a bargain is Sunday night!
Take a break and take part in a legend
It’s de rigeur to eat the signature dish of the Braderie, steaming hot mussels and chips – moules-frites. Over the years a legend has been created – the restaurants and cafés who serve this ubiquitous dish of the north pile your empty mussel shells in the street outside. At the end of the weekend the biggest pile wins!
10 brilliant places to eat out in Lille – from a Champagne bar in a converted 17th century convent to the restaurant of a top chef finalist…
The second hand book market in Lille – absolutely beautiful and also a place to dance tango under the stars…
3 great reasons to go shopping in Lille – 4000 shops for a start!
Lille Tourist Office for more details