It was for the second year that I headed with uncontainable excitement to Lille Braderie, one of the largest flea markets in Europe stretching over 100 km and with a reported 10,000 sellers.
According to Wiki its origins date back to the twelfth century and it used to be a five day affair. Now it is always held on the first weekend of September from Saturday to Sunday, although those in the know say the selling starts a lot earlier. Some vendors camp for over two weeks to secure their spot – certain areas (we loved the area around Boulevard Jean-Baptiste Lebas) are known for selling genuine antiques with a larger price or the more serious dealers and vintage, to other streets that have general household sellers clearing out their cupboards.
I had been hearing about it for many years and for my first visit I was lucky enough to go with my friend Michele to stay with her wonderful artist friend Edith, right in the centre of Lille. I understand that if you are not fortunate enough to be staying with friends then it is wise to book accommodation many months in advance. We certainly booked our Eurostar tickets as soon as they were released (about 5 months before.)
If you’re not into crowds then it may not be for you, with over 2 million visitors some parts become jam packed and quite difficult to negotiate. But saying that, certainly by our second visit this year, we soon learned what were our favourite areas to shop and they were not crowded at all.
We walked 9 hours each day, shopping, admiring, oohing and aahing and wishing we could take some of the bigger pieces back home. However, having only brought a wheelie shopper it was impossible and one had to be quite selective on what we purchased.
One thing I had on my shopping list but didn’t find in the numerous streets we shopped were vintage textiles and haberdashery. There was one stall but the quality wasn’t great if you were thinking of selling on – I think it is much harder now to find quality vintage/antique haberdashery – however, maybe I already have a lot of it downstairs!! If you are after French linen and monogrammed sheets then there are certainly plenty of choices.
I would suggest getting up and heading out early, to avoid the later afternoon crowds and party goers, if you want to do a bit of serious shopping. Food choices – well you’re spoilt for choice. The weekend offers the traditional moules frites and evidently there’s a competition amongst restaurants to see who can create the biggest mound of empty mussel shells. Also what I loved is the fact that some families come out of their apartments, set up their little food stalls and offered home baked goodies and fresh coffee and tea. There is certainly no shortage of lovely things to eat. Toilets on the other hand are a bit more problematic and will necessitate a much needed cafe stop.
Four of us went this year and we stayed with lovely Edith again, who kindly and patiently takes us around on the first day showing us the different areas. Some of the following photos are the girls snaps which they have kindly let me use – thanks girls!
As they say a picture speaks a thousand words – so scroll on…..
If you can’t face all the walking to the different areas the underground is very easy to use and you can buy a weekend pass. On arrival also pick up the Braderie map which is printed specially for the event. Lille Tourism Office is a good website to check out and also offers a few good packages including a shopping tour, cooking course or the ‘unusual Lille’ where you are driven around in a 2cv French car by your tour guide whilst being entertained by wonderful anecdotes and historical stories! Sadly you won’t be able to do this on the weekend as it all becomes a no car zone.
Make sure you visit the old town – one of the most popular but also one of the most crowded places, so do go early. You’ll find lovely restaurants and cafe’s here.
I loved this photo in one of the cafes we stopped in!
You can also follow the official Braderie twitter @BraderieLille59.
So, start writing out your shopping list and I’ll see you there next year.