La Braderie – welcome to Europe’s biggest flea market!

MyFrenchLife™ - La braderie flea marketAs Francophiles, our love for one of France’s most traditional and popular pastimes, flea markets, comes rather naturally. 

Paris is home to many well-known, international flea markets such as Le Marché aux Puces; however the northern town of Lille is home to one of the biggest flea market events in all of France. We are, of course, talking about La Braderie!

For only two days in September, this beautiful city transforms into one of Europe’s biggest flea markets, where you can spend hours rummaging through fantastic vintage finds and landing brilliant bargains.

La Braderie attracted 2.5 million visitors this year, and I was amongst those who came to see what exactly was on offer and to experience first-hand the celebratory atmosphere of the city!

Discover French vintage treasures

MyFrenchLife™ - la braderie flea market - finding treasureLa Braderie is all about shopping and searching for treasure amongst the sea of products on offer. It is easy to become overwhelmed, so make sure to grab yourself an official plan de La Braderie, which can be found at the tourism office, in order to make sure no street or stall is left unvisited.

The different areas of Lille represent different types of products during La Braderie. If you stroll over to Vieux Lille, it’s all about vintage clothing. I rummaged through stand upon stand of vintage clothing, from fur hats to trench coats to gorgeous gold brooches.

I managed to land myself a faux fur hat at the price of 10 euros after some serious negotiating with Léa, the stall owner. Most sellers are likely to knock off a couple of euros for you, tant que you negotiate with a sourire. Politeness is the key to finding yourself a great deal!

Hunting for French antiques

For vintage furniture, home wares and knick-knacks galore, head west. The area surrounding La Citadelle is inundated with stands selling anything and everything. Grandfather clocks, vintage globes, baroque chairs, and stacks upon stacks of leather-bound, classic French literature books.

I found a delightful stand selling antique kitchenware, from wooden signs to 1960’s Coca-Cola collectibles. I spoke to Hénri, an independent seller from Toulouse, who has been coming to La Braderie for over twenty years now. “The buzz of the city during La Braderie is the reason why I keep coming back, besides the fact I make a bit of money of course!”

La Braderie – much more than just a French market

Although the main attraction of La Braderie is buying and selling, it is a weekend of celebrations with a marathon, concerts, performances, and moules frites, évidemment.

MyFrenchLife™ - la braderie flea market - moules frites

This traditional northern French dish is an obligatory meal for anyone passing through for the market. Restaurants proudly pile high all the mussel shells out on the streets as a sort of friendly competition. Aux Moules on rue de Béthune is perhaps the most well-known restaurant for its tower of shells every year.

Impromptu street performances can be found on every rue, as well as organised concerts, starting from Friday evening and finishing in the early hours of Monday morning. Bars at rue Royale and rue de la Monnaie host live concerts, ranging from a live salsa band to slow, serenading jazz piano performances. There really is something for all types of music lovers!

Next year La Braderie will take place on 5 – 6 September 2015, so mark it down in your diaries and be sure not to miss out on a wonderful, non-stop, action-filled weekend!

Have you ever visited La Braderie de Lille? Which are your favourite flea markets in France? Share your comments in the box below!

Image Credits:
1. La Braderie, by Kat, via Flickr.
2. La jeunesse by Tredok, via Flickr
3. La Braderie de Bordeaux by Lesley via Flickr.
4. Moules Frites by Frédérique Voisin-Demery, via Flickr.

About the Contributor

Clare Povey

My love of France started during my first French lesson, and has led me to study French at university, work in Lille, and ultimately be a contributor for MyFrenchLife™. What could be better than sharing all things French with other equally passionate Francophiles? Follow me on Twitter and Google+.

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