Due to host nation regulations to prevent the spread of COVID-19, some flea markets may be cancelled or postponed, and travel to neighboring countries may not be allowed. Please verify the status before making plans to attend.
We live in an area where lots of attention is given to the reselling of old goods. If flea markets are your thing, there is a wide selection of places to visit from weekend to weekend.
Some markets happen in giant outdoor spaces – which are especially fun during spring and summer – while others take place inside buildings. In Europe, you will also see lots of markets in which vendors line the sides of long streets.
Local flea markets
In the Kaiserslautern Military Community, during ordinary times, there is a flohmarkt (flea market) staged each weekend in the parking lot of the REAL mall complex in west Kaiserslautern, across the street from Kleber and Daenner Kasernes on Mannheimer Strasse.
Another flea market, in an enclosed hall in Ramstein village, typically takes place every Saturday. In the Saar region, a popular market happens on the first Saturday of each month in Homburg. Another good one takes place in Saarbruecken: however, dates vary.
While these flea markets are nice, they pale in comparison to what you can find if you’re willing (and able, during the COVID era) to travel a little. Many people routinely enjoy driving into France and Belgium on weekends. Before you go, make sure you check command and host nation regulations with regard to travel.
French flea markets
Called “brocantes” or “braderies” in French, flea markets attract people who seek to find bargains on antiques, post-modern home furnishings, household goods, and other bric-brac. These events have something for just about anyone who truly enjoys flea markets.
At these types of markets, sellers must obtain permits with local authorities and are generally asked to pay a small fee in order to do business on the day of the market. Brocante and braderie dates are good for local economies and the fee for the seller is usually not too high for this reason.
A medium-sized but super market happens once a month 30 kilometers south of Zweibruecken, in the French town of Eguelshardt, where you can also enjoy historic castle ruins and beautiful hiking trails in the Moselle region.
A huge brocante is held once a month in Metz and other ones much further away happen in towns along the east (i.e. Atlantic) coast. These might seem too far with regard to driving distance but they afford chances, too, to find inexpensive lodging along the way and explore some of Europe’s historic areas. Check out https://brocabrac.fr/ as you plan your trip.
Belgian flea markets
One of the best area markets happens at Silenrieux, Belgium. Typically open every Sunday, it features lots of antiques and collectibles in a large, indoor market hall. The market has grown immensely from the days in the 1970s and 80s when cars would just pull up, throw open the trunk, and sell whatever they had. Today, there are often close to 150 vendors offering their treasures.
In Rochefort, Belgium, visiting the brocante is worth it if only for the time spent in the quaint little village and surrounding area. Red marble quarries in the area offer tours, and scattered small breweries offer locally brewed beers. Rochefort has an annual outdoors flea market that typically has up to 80 vendors. Household goods, collectibles and antiques are for sale. Take note: there is no electricity to test appliances, so there is no guarantee they will work when you get home.
In Tongeren, Belgium, it was previously possible to buy an entire solid wood office set, including a swivel chair and beautiful desk, plus shelving for less than 300 dollars. Though prices have inched up over the years, Tongeren is still a great place to go. Vans containing all types of office furniture arrive early in the morning on market days to set up their displays. Tongeren also has a lot of newish-looking clothing that sells cheap and there are booths with lots of household furnishings.
When researching French and Belgian brocante listings, be sure to use a browser that allows translation to English. Planning ahead and doing research is important when trying to get the best experience from your brocante quest.
And, of course, always make sure you have plenty of euro with you and don’t forget to bargain for that gorgeous piece! Happy haggling!
For U.S. government employees, including service members, remember to always follow command regulations, which may be different than host nation policies.
Story by Thomas Warner