Every first weekend of September, Lille is the capital of bargain-hunting!
The Braderie de Lille is Europe’s largest flea market, and certainly one of the most well-known events in France and abroad. Between one and two million visitors stroll up and down the city streets, entertained by music and the numerous performances that take place from 2 pm on Saturday to 11 pm on Sunday.
Enjoying a dish of “Moules - Frites” (mussels served with chips) has become a deeply-rooted tradition and is the subject of a contest between the town’s restaurants to see who can build the highest mountain of empty mussel shells!
The Lille flea market in figures:
33 continuous hours of treasure hunting, bargaining and fun
100 km of stalls
1 to 2 million visitors
500 tons of mussels consumed
5,000 participants in the semi-marathon race, on average
The history of the flea market
The flea market’s origins remain a bit of a mystery. In the Middle Ages, servants obtained the right to sell their masters’ old possessions once a year. This custom soon combined with Lille’s fair, where the town’s inhabitants, as well as foreigners, could freely sell their goods.
Moreover, in the 15th century, two poultry merchants had the great idea to “provide meat” for the fair-goers. They obtained the right to sell their products to the passers-by and the buyers who were already numerous at that time. Braden, Flemish for roast, may be the term that gave the flea market its name.
Of course, in French, “brader” also means “to sell at a low price” and it is well known that you can sell and buy anything at the Lille flea market: antiques, clothes, jewellery, decorative objects etc!
Transformed into one gigantic pedestrian zone, the city offers treasure hunters and visitors alike a vast number of stalls and buying opportunities in a friendly atmosphere governed by the rhythm of the swarming crowd. Ever since the Middle Ages, the tradition has lived on, and today, the Lille flea market remains the most awaited event of the fall season.
The flea market by district
Whereas the local shops on the pedestrian streets (rue Neuve, rue de Béthune, rue Sec-Arembault) offer bargain prices on their summer collections, other districts are entirely dedicated to second-hand goods.
Antiques (furniture, bibelots, crockery, collections, etc.) can be found on the Esplanade (alongside the Deûle canal, in front of the Champ de Mars). To take a break between bargaining sessions and escape the crowd, there is nothing better than a walk in the Parc de la Citadelle or in the zoo (open from 9 am to 7 pm on Saturday and Sunday, free entry). On the Champ de Mars, the fun fair and its 200 attractions run non-stop on Saturday night, until 5 am Sunday morning!
In addition to Boulevard Louis XIV, rue Debierre and rue du Réduit, Boulevard Jean-Baptiste Lebas is exclusively reserved for antiquarians.
Nothing compares to the Sunday morning atmosphere in Wazemmes when the flea market blends with the lively, colourful market of the Place de la Nouvelle Aventure.
Along Boulevard Victor Hugo and in the Moulins district (rue d’Arras, rue de Douai, rue de Cambrai et rue de Maubeuge), the inhabitants hold a true garage sale.
The narrow streets of Old Lille are divided between the stalls of designer shops and those of private residents.
Finally, between the Porte de Roubaix and the Opera, the Arts district welcomes about thirty professional antique dealers from England and Burgundy. You will recognize them by their flags flying on rue Léon Trulin, rue Anatole France, rue des Arts and rue de Roubaix.
The flea market is held from 2 pm on Saturday 6 September, to 11 pm on Sunday 7 September.
Getting around Lille
During the flea market, the pedestrian is king! Access to the heart of the town is impossible by car. Therefore, it is best to take the train and use public transportation. Regional trains, the subway, buses, and trams will get you where you want to go.