An experience unlike any other – save the date for 2018
You will probably never have heard of it and once you have experienced it you wonder how you could have missed it all these years.
It is not like Camden, it is not like a souk or a bazaar, it is a Braderie.
Yes, it’s French, so bring out your best French accent and say it with me: Braderie de Lille!
Every year on the first weekend of September the city of Lille in the north of France puts on the largest Braderie. It is a flea market of sorts, but with antiques, vintage and retro bargains and collectors items.
It first took place in 1127, so you have a few hundred years to catch up on!
Over two days – and yes, the hardcore “Bradeurs” keep going all through the night- you can walk the streets of the city centre and go from stall to stall, finding things you didn’t even know you were looking for.
The city centre is completely pedestrianised for the weekend, with around 100 km of roads (don’t worry, it’s only 62.5 miles) to walk. You will never get all around, which is why the local paper prints maps coming up to the event, so you know where you may want to go.
The streets are full of residents doing a “vide-grenier” (emptying the attic), but also brocanteurs, thousands of antique lovers, collectors of everything from beer glasses to Kinder surprise eggs.
Braderie de Lille – a guide
Everyone looks for something different when they come to Lille, but there are a few items you need to check off your list, whether you are coming for the first time or the tenth time:
You will eat moules frites: It is tradition and it is all that is served all weekend. September marks the beginning of mussel season, so the meal to have is mussels with chips. You can eat it at your hotel, on the day, before or after, in a restaurant or in a cafe, but you will taste it.
You will spot a crazy dressed person: Some hardcore collectors “dress appropriately” for the Braderie so you can see what they are interested in buying. It can be a brand or a fictional character, they walk around in fancy dress and look for rare items to add to their collection. If you are selling one, make sure you let them know.
You will wear good shoes: It would take 40 hours (or more with the queues) to walk every street of the Braderie. There is room to sit, of course, but overall, you will still walk a lot, so make sure you have appropriate footwear.
You will visit the Vieille Bourse: You may not be interested in books (I heard those people exist) but you still need to take a peek inside this building right off the main square. It not only a large book sale, but also vintage magazines, some paintings and adverts. If you are looking for a newspaper announcing the end of the First World War, this is where you will find it. And if you want to see what Elle or Marie Claire looked like in the 1930s, then this is the place for you.
You will go to the fun fair: No Braderie is complete without the fun fair. If for nothing else, go for the ferris wheel and see the city from above, with all its two to three million visitors.
You will see some street entertainment: It will remind you of Las Ramblas in Barcelona. There is entertainment and street artists everywhere. People dance to the music, you can hear small concerts left and right, even through the masses of people.
You will shop: It is not all vintage. In the “old city”, the shops are allowed to open, and also set up stalls outside their businesses with bargain prices. Most shops offer a 50 to 75 per cent discount, so it is worth taking a look!
You will look at antiques: It may not be your thing, or you may not be able to take them home with you, but it is a big part of the Braderie. The real antiquing happens on the Thursday night before the Braderie. This is when people are allowed to set up their stalls and it is when the real business happens. The best pieces are sold long before the crowds arrive.