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Fantastic flea markets and where to find them

PUBLISHED: 10:54 24 January 2019 | UPDATED: 10:57 24 January 2019

Flea market in St Ouen. Pic: Paris Sharing/CC BY 2.0

Flea market in St Ouen. Pic: Paris Sharing/CC BY 2.0

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The flea market is a big part of French culture and here are some of the best ones to visit on your next trip to l'Hexagone

Flea market traders sell a diverse array of products. Pic: Suavemarimagno/CC BY-SA 4.0Flea market traders sell a diverse array of products. Pic: Suavemarimagno/CC BY-SA 4.0

Strolling through a flea market, seeking a bargain or a unique item to bring home, can be one of the most enjoyable things to do on a visit to France. Anyone who has been to one before will know that brocantes are a veritable treasure trove, with visitors likely to find all manner of interesting items including antiques, furniture, watches, jewellery, trainers, clothes, books, magazines – and everything in between. Flea markets offer a great way of immersing yourself in French culture for a few hours and whether you love the thrill of the hunt for a diamond in the rough, or just want a general rummage through some second-hand bargains, there’s something for everyone. Here are some you may want to try:

St-Ouen

This flea market located in northern Paris, just outside the boundary of the Boulevard Périphérique in the Seine-Saint-Denis area, is known as one of the largest in the world. Known as Les Puces, this is a great place to spend a fun-filled weekend in the capital as you seek out jewellery, furniture and classic records. The antique trade dealers will help you track down a unique gift among the miscellaneous bric-a-brac to bring home. It’s a joyful experience to peruse the various stalls full of trinkets and charms from bygone eras, as you share the space with young and old, fashionistas and hipsters alike. Open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. Metro: Porte de Clignancourt or Garibaldi.

Amiens

Another of France’s largest fleas is in the north – the Réderie d’Amiens – is thought to be the third biggest event of its kind in the country. Held twice a year in the spring and the autumn, the event lasts just one day so you have to time your visit correctly to see it in action. Beginning in the early hours of the morning, about 2,000 vendors are up with the lark to set-up their various stalls as they await the huge crowds that spill into the sprawling market during the day, making quite the spectacle. Such is the size of the event, it is easy to spend several hours wandering around the stalls and this flea market in particular is known for being one of the better spots to find quality antiques.

In 2019, the Réderie d’Amiens will take place on Sunday, April 14 and Sunday, October 6, from 5.30am-5pm on both days.

Arles

The south isn’t short of a good flea market either, with the Roman city of Arles being one of the nicer places to visit. Arles is a beautiful city to visit and has so much to see and do, so why not plan in a trip to brocante d’Arles on your next visit. The monthly market takes place on the first Wednesday of every month along the tree-lined Boulevard des Lices at the southern end of the city. Merchants flock from all over the region to sell their wares in this paradise for bargain hunters who enjoy nothing more than hunting for unique items while enjoying a stroll in the sunshine. Some of the best items to look out for are the beautiful Provençal fabrics, known as indiennes, local pottery of various ages and santons – traditional local figures handcrafted from clay. Open on the first Wednesday of every month from 7.30am – 6pm.

Chateau de Chambord holds a flea market every May. Pic: Patrick Clenet/CC BY 2.5Chateau de Chambord holds a flea market every May. Pic: Patrick Clenet/CC BY 2.5

Château de Chambord

If you are looking for a flea market with a view, then this could be the one. Once a year on May Day, the Grande Brocante de Chambord offers visitors the chance to explore the wares of over 500 exhibitors from all over France and elsewhere in Europe. The unique part of this particular market is the backdrop of the majestic Renaissance building, the Château de Chambord; the largest castle in the Loire valley. The sight of over 50,000 visitors rooting around the bric-a-brac and sometimes tattered curiosities in the grounds of the grandiose castle makes quite the pleasant contrast. As well as all the usual items, there is a focus on food here too with regional and French delicacies served up to hungry bargain hunters. Held annually on May Day, from 5am-6pm.

Bordeaux

The biannual Foire a la Brocante des Quinconces is the biggest event of its kind in the Aquitaine region and is the oldest and most-respected flea market and antiques fair in Bordeaux. It takes place in 2019 on Friday, April 19 and on Sunday, May 5 on the sprawling Place des Quinconces. More than 200 traders regularly beat a path to Bordeaux to showcase their range of items, taking the buyer on a journey through the centuries, with their antique furniture and assorted nostalgic trinkets. A lot of the items on sale here have been forgotten for long periods of time and risked being lost to the world, before being picked up and presented in fine fashion to bargain hunting residents and tourists.

Flea market on Cours Saleya in sunny Nice. Pic: Mg02/CC BY 2.0Flea market on Cours Saleya in sunny Nice. Pic: Mg02/CC BY 2.0

Nice

It’s hard to think of a better place to enjoy a leisurely stroll around a flea market than Nice’s Cours Saleya. Just behind the celebrated Promenade des Anglais and a mere stone’s throw from the beach, the Cours Saleya puces is bursting with colour, personality and of course, sunshine. Even if you’re not too interested in spending huge amounts of time perusing the stalls, sitting with a glass of something cold in front of you for a few hours, watching the sights and sounds of the market unfold is a hugely enjoyable pastime. It is known as a high-quality market and a place to score a good find but be prepared to battle for the items you desire. With 200 stalls to search through in Nice’s Vieille Ville, the market is ranked by France’s National Council for the Culinary Arts as one of the country’s special markets. Open on Sundays and Mondays.

Lyon

Les Puces du Canal sees second-hand sellers and professional antique dealers jostling for space in Lyon’s top flea market which draws in over half a million people throughout the year. Based on Villeurbanne on the outskirts of the city, the flea takes its name from its location on the Jonage Canal. A jovial atmosphere among the traders and buyers makes it a welcoming experience and you may surprise yourself with your bartering skills if you want to really immerse yourself in the Les Puces culture. With about 400 stands selling all manner of interesting items, there is something for everyone, and if you really want to take it seriously, arrive early like the seasoned bargain hunters do, to pick up the best items before the crowds descend. Open Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

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