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National Geographic  -  Flea and Antique Markets

Antiques for sale at the San Telmo Flea Market, Argentina. Photograph by Gunner Knechtel, laif/Redux. From the National Geographic book The 10 Best of Everything

National Geographic - Flea and Antique Markets

Top 10 Flea and Antique Markets

1. Bermondsey (New Caledonian) Market, Long Lane and Bermondsey Street, London

There is a saying in London that anything stolen and sold before sunrise is legal. With this tradition, Bermondsey Market, one of London’s main antiques markets, attracts early-rising dealers from all over and is a mecca for serious collectors. Each Friday the dealers set up their stalls before dawn. Be there early, for by 9 a.m. most of the best bargains have long gone. The area also has several antique shops that remain open all week. A row of old warehouses on Tower Bridge Road houses the best of these.

2. San Telmo Antiques Fair, Buenos Aires, Argentina

The frenetic San Telmo Antiques Fair centers on Calle Defensa between Avenue Independecia and Avenue San Juan, with most of the action on Plaza Dorrego. You’ll join throngs of people searching for a deal among the many stalls overflowing with antiques, trinkets, costume jewelry, vintage movie posters, and artwork.

One of the delights of this market is the fact that the neighborhood of San Telmo is world-famous for its tango music, so you’ll come across street bands and dancers performing impromptu numbers. The market, open on Sundays only, begins at 10 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m.

3. Rose Bowl Flea Market, Pasadena, California

The Rose Bowl Flea Market, featuring more than 2,500 vendors, is hands down Los Angeles’s largest secondhand marketplace. This is the place to find pop culture artifacts—a Monkees lunch box, Barbie camper, or Wheel of Fortune pillow, perhaps, along with surfboards, record collections, lawn art, and who knows what else. This huge market opens its doors to VIPs at 5 a.m.; early birds pay $20 admission as opposed to the usual $8 (under 12 free). Layabouts can get in for $15 at 7 a.m. The rest of the crowd can enter at 9 a.m., and the fun continues until 4 p.m. or so. The flea market takes place the second Sunday of every month.

4. Brimfield Antique Show, Brimfield, Massachusetts

More than 5,000 antiques and collectibles dealers sprawl across 23 former farm fields at Brimfield’s popular flea market, making it the largest in New England. You name it, this place has it: furniture, pictures, new and secondhand clothes—all at rock-bottom prices (especially if you’re adept at haggling). There’s a jovial atmosphere, with the aroma of food wafting through the air and people crowding around the stalls in the hopes of picking up a 1970s leather jacket or a rare Louis XV chest of drawers. Make sure to bring cash, as stallholders seldom accept credit cards, and the nearest available ATM always has a line. The six-day show takes place three times a year, in May, July, and September.

5. The Silver Vaults, Chancery Lane, London, England

Underground and housed in vaulted walls, there is nothing quite like the amazing collections of fine antique silver in the Silver Vaults, with every period and style represented. While all the dealers have authentic collections, the most distinguished and notable is Argenteus at Vault 2 under the leadership of hallmark expert Michael Feldman. We also like I. Franks. Every silver piece is authenticated by specialists. This is a treasure trove of classic English silver craftsmanship.

6. The All Night Flea Market, Wheaton, Illinois

One night a year, after the sun sets, thousands of flashlight-toting bargain hunters descend upon Wheaton to search hundreds of stalls purveying old and new merchandise. They have only until morning to find their bargains, when they go home bleary-eyed and shopped out. Some say it’s the most fun they’ve ever had at a flea market. It always takes place the third weekend of August.

7. Shipshewana Flea Market, Shipshewana, Indian

In the heart of Indiana’s Amish country, hundreds of vendors sell everything from fresh fruit to locally handcrafted furniture. The market began in 1922 when farmers participating in the town’s livestock auction sold miscellaneous items out in the parking lot on auction days. The flea market takes place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays between May and October. In addition, antique shows are held in June and August.

8. Marché aux Puces de Clignancourt, Saint-Ouen, Paris

Paris is flea market heaven, and the mother of all flea markets is Marché aux Puces de Clignancourt, open weekends and Monday. Dating back to 1920 and boasting up to 3,000 stalls, this flea market purveys everything from jewelry, chandeliers, fabric, and paintings to musical instruments, vintage postcards, and eclectic French collections. For antique aficionados, this is pure bliss.

9. Las Ramblas & the Mercat de la Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

Las Ramblas is a picture-perfect pedestrian street that stretches into Barcelona from the port. Dozens of shops offer books, apparel, and antiques, and a wonderful flea market is open most mornings on the port end of the street. Located roughly halfway along the street, the Mercat de la Boqueria is an impressive, colorful market with fruit and vegetable stands, tapas bars, and Catalan cuisine.

10. 127 Corridor, Hudson, Michigan to Gadsden, Alabama

Deemed the world’s longest yard sale, the 127 Corridor flea market stretches hundreds of miles on the highway between Hudson, Michigan, and Gadsden, Alabama. Countless vendors—ranging from families selling goods on their lawns to professional vendors who rent an empty lot, park, or field—sell antiques and oddities. Folks come from near and far, many in a Winnebago or pulling a trailer behind their truck. The flea market takes place over four days every August.

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