Just an hour outside of Paris by TGV, the town of Lille is home to one of the most anticipated events in France: the annual two-day Grande Braderie de Lille flea market. As the largest flea market in all of Europe, this vibrant event dates back to medieval times and now attracts almost two million visitors each 1st weekend of September. The “Braderie” (French for “sell at a low price”) flea market features over 10,000 exhibitors hawking their wares with everything from knick-knacks to treasures.
Saturday kicks off the Grande Braderie de Lille flea market, and as with any yard sale, the first day offers the best selection. Make sure to be there early – the Braderie de Lille already starts Saturday morning and last until dawn, before it starts again on Sunday morning and ends in the evening. Because the streets will get crowded and may even come to a standstill at times, it pays to do your research to know what you want to purchase ahead of time.
There are tons of original pieces on sale at this flea market, but there are also many items that are seemingly mass-produced just for the Braderie de Lille flea market. With over 62 miles of vendors, the Braderie de Lille flea market is divided up into sections: the smaller boulevards, the friendlier non-professional vendors (where you’ll find smaller antiques, records, and books), and the larger streets where there’s a huge selection of new ethnic items for sale, including fabulous artwork and paintings.
Besides French antiques and vintage items, there are usually also a large number of professional vendors who specialize in English antiques.
The Grande Braderie de Lille fair is a great place to find a hidden gem (the “pèrle rare” as French people would say), harvest nice vintage & retro items in large quantities, and – especially – to immerse oneself in an atmosphere that reflects the city itself: warm, friendly and festive, especially through the tasting of the traditional “moules frites” (mussels with French fries).