Located at the heart of the Avesnois in northern France, only 20 miles away from the Belgian border, and an hour drive from Lille, Maroilles is a tiny rural village of a mere 1,400 souls like many others in the region.
However, this village which is amazingly quaint – and well renowned for its eponymous smelly cheese – gets filled once a year with bargain hunters who come as far as the UK, the Netherlands, and Denmark to attend its famous antique market: the annual “Brocante de Maroilles”.
The Brocante de Maroilles is the most famous of all Maroilles happenings, and the largest event of its kind in the region. For over thirty years, the Brocante de Maroilles has been an essential event for bargain hunters. Together with the Grande Braderie de Lille, it is one of the most important annual antique shows north of Paris, with over 600 exhibitors who take up to 4 miles of sidewalk space, and some 200 locals helping make the big day. Attracting up to 80,000 flea market enthusiasts and second-hand shoppers, this antique show is a must for genuine finds among the ornaments, earthenware, trinkets, vintage toys, old books, crockery, and antique furniture.
What makes the Brocante de Maroilles an appointment very popular among bargain hunters, is that it is in no way some cheap “garage sale” or average flea market. One of the rules set by the organizers of this event is that only antique dealers and second-hand dealers are allowed to sell at the Brocante de Maroilles. In fact, at all times during this event, more than 30 commissioners make sure that only antiques and vintage merchandise are sold by the exhibitors. This almost guarantees that visitors don’t go home empty-handed or disappointed!
As usual with flea markets, the early bird gets the worm. And the Brocante de Maroilles is no exception to the rule! On Sunday, shoppers start to flock to the village at dawn, and by 09:00 most of the best deals are gone. While the Brocante de Maroilles officially starts on Sunday morning at around 06:00, it is possible to scout the flea market the day before, when the exhibitors are setting up their booth around 20:00-21:00. And while selling merchandise is “officially” prohibited on Saturday, this rule is not strictly enforced.
After a day spent strolling the streets of Maroilles, shoppers and vendors usually gather in nearby restaurants and bakeries, to indulge with a delicious Tarte au Maroilles, a traditional Flemish cheese tart typically served with salad and fries and washed down with a cool local beer. This is only when you call it a day!