Located in the heart of the north-east San Jose in California, the San Jose Flea Market is one of the largest open-air flea market in the U.S. It was originally created by George Bumb Sr. back in 1960, after he visited Paris and got inspired by France’s capital city’s flea market (and particularly the Saint Ouen Flea Market), as well as a few swap meets in Los Angeles.
60 years later, the San Jose Flea Market has become a true California landmark with over four million visitors flocking there each year. The 8 miles (13 km) worth of aisles allows for over 2,000 vendors – which makes it almost as big 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 fruit, vegetables, toys, books, cars, car stereo equipment, toiletries, artwork, tools, cookware, and cosmetics, among other things.
This is no wonder why with a population and land mass larger than some small towns (120 acres), the San Jose Flea Market is a major contributor to the income of many Silicon Valley families!
However, despite being a strong landmark in California, the San Jose Flea Market has lost some of its shine over the past few years: It is not anymore the community flea market it used to be, where local merchants and artisans showcased their wares and second hand treasures to visiting customers, but instead, it has slowly drifted to what most seasoned flea market shoppers consider a cheap swap meet. Forget about things like war memorabilia, old paintings, glassware, antiques, home decor, vintage jewelry and vintage clothing: you will hardly see any of it at the San Jose Flea Market.
However, the redeeming factor of the San Jose Flea Market is to be found in another part of the flea market: down the Farmers Market’s avenue, which stretches a quarter of a mile through the market and features aisles filled with local vendors selling fruits (mangoes, pineapples, apples, oranges, watermelon, bananas) and vegetables from California’s farmers.
As you go deeper into the heart of the market, things are getting more interesting: you will discover huge stalls where merchants prepare “on-demand” fresh fruit juice (mango, horchata, watermelon, orange…) and even toss samples of fresh fruit to passersby – don’t forget to ask to try the pineapple covered in cayenne pepper!
Some people say that the farmers market at the San Jose Flea Market is more like an outdoor market, since the majority of the fruits/vegetables sold there, are not locally grown nor organic. But all in all this market is a great place to come and kill time or shop for necessities. So don’t forget to bring a big hefty bag to carry all the items you purchase. One of those rolling carts would be preferable if you are planning to purchase a lot.