Located in the heart of northeast San Jose, California, the San Jose Flea Market is one of the largest open-air flea markets in the United States. It was founded by George Bumb Sr. in 1960, after a visit to Paris where he was inspired by the French capital’s flea market (particularly the Puces de Clignancourt flea market), as well as some swap meets in Los Angeles.
Sixty years later, the San Jose Flea Market has become a California landmark, with over four million visitors each year. The eight miles of aisles allow more than 2,000 vendors – making it nearly as large as the iconic Rose Bowl Flea Market and its 2,500 stalls – to sell an array of goods ranging from jewelry, furniture, collectibles and clothing to fruits, vegetables, toys, books, cars, car stereos, toiletries, artwork, tools, kitchenware, and cosmetics, among others.
Not surprisingly, with a population and land area larger than some small cities (120 acres), the San Jose Flea Market is a major income contributor for many Silicon Valley families!
However, while it is an important California landmark, the San Jose Flea Market has lost its luster in recent years. It is no longer the community flea market it once was, where local merchants and artisans showcased their wares and second-hand treasures to passing shoppers, but has slowly drifted into what most seasoned flea market shoppers consider a cheap swap. Forget war memorabilia, antique paintings, glassware, antiques, home decor, jewelry and vintage clothing: you’ll hardly see any of that at the San Jose flea market.
However, the redemptive element of the San Jose Flea Market is found in another part of the flea market: the Farmers Market Avenue, which stretches a quarter-mile through the market and features aisles filled with local vendors selling fruits and vegetables from California farmers.
As you get deeper into the heart of the market, things get more interesting: you will discover huge stalls where vendors prepare “on demand” fresh fruit juices (mango, horchata, watermelon, orange) and even offer fresh fruit samples to passersby. Do not forget to ask for a taste of the cayenne pepper covered pineapple!
Some people say the farmers market is more like an outdoor market because the majority of the fruits/vegetables sold there are not locally grown or organic. But overall, this market is a great place to come and kill time or do some basic shopping. So don’t forget to bring a big bag to carry all the items you buy. One of those rolling carts would be best if you plan on buying a lot.