Shopping

World's Best Flea Markets: Hustle, Bargain and Shop 'Til You Drop

Filed Under: Austin, France, San Jose

If the words rummage, swap, bargain, bric-a-brac or collectable excite you, then you might have an itch for a flea market. Nothing quite beats the thrill of coming home with a one-of-a-kind, rare or unusual souvenir retrieved from a bin and bought for a bargain. The allure of junk and valuable antiques thrown together and in need of sorting is aphrodisiac enough to some treasure hunters, but the added appeal of this happening only once a week, month or even a year makes some flea markets more coveted than others. The sheer mega-size of these events can send a shopper to heaven. Luckily, there are enough of these mammoth monster markets to keep you "scratching for fleas" virtually all year.

Brimfield Outdoor Antiques Show
Brimfield is the Mecca of New England outdoor flea markets. This week-long flea market extravaganza is revered by shoppers and dealers alike for its size and content. Three times a year, 4,000 dealers peddle wares that range from paperbacks to fine European antiques.

Rose Bowl Flea Market
Imagine the UCLA Bruins football stadium filled to capacity with people and things -- used surf boards, record collections, lawn statuaries and every kind of dish ever made. Officially called the "Rose Bowl Swap Meet," this huge market unofficially pre-opens its doors early to savvy hunters.

The Maxwell Street Market
Billed as "one of the greatest outdoor urban bazaars ever," the historical Maxwell Street Market is the best way to get a true sense of the Windy City. Once a bustling 19th-century Jewish market, Maxwell Street has morphed into a cultural meeting place where all races and nationalities gather for the music, merchandise and cheap eats. Widely famous for impromptu jam sessions, this flea "turns the beat around" with a mix of jazz, blues and Latino sounds filtering through the stalls. Today's flavor is distinctly Mexican, especially with the many roaming food carts. There's also plenty to sift through, from tires, autoparts, and old televisions to art and some antiques.

127 Corridor
Technically the world's largest yard sale, the flea market known as the 127 Corridor is certainly the LONGEST outdoor market. Beginning on a highway in Jamestown, TN, this flea stretches hundreds of miles through North Covington, Kentucky, and continues all the way to Gadsden, Alabama. There are more than 2,000 vendors along this tour who clear their schedules for 3 weeks every August. One can imagine the caravan of Winnabagos that make this annual pilgrimage. Countless treasures and and billions of collectibles hide among bric-a-brac and junk, but the people-watching and Southern hospitality alone are worth the trip.

The All-Night Flea Market
Once a year as the sun sets and shadows stretch across the plains, thousands of bargain hunters descend upon Wheaton, IL, to scour the stalls of hundreds of dealers throughout the night.

On the third Sunday of August, shoppers only have until the morning, so the music has to be good and the coffee must be strong! Some say this is the most fun you'll ever have at any flea market in the world. Shoppers arrive like giddy kids to a slumber party, and the air remains electrified all through the wee hours.

Since this happens only once a year, you mustn't hesitate in making your deals.

Daytona Flea Market
Once a year as the sun sets and shadows stretch across the plains, thousands of bargain hunters descend upon Wheaton, Illinois, to scour the stalls of hundreds of dealers throughout the night.

On the third Sunday of August, shoppers only have until the morning, so the music has to be good and the coffee must be strong! Some say this is the most fun you'll ever have at any flea market in the world. Shoppers arrive like giddy kids to a slumber party, and the air remains electrified all through the wee hours.

Since this happens only once a year, you mustn't hesitate in making your deals.

San Jose Flea Market
The San Jose Flea Market is one of the world's largest. More than 2,000 booths fill 40 acres with everything one's heart could desire. Eight miles of colorful, treasure-laden alleys and corridors display arts and crafts, comic books, jewelry, shoes, tools, furniture and antiques. Expect lots of food carts and snack bars. There are also rides for the kids, live music (Mariachi bands and crooners) and other entertainment.

Austin County Flea Market
The largest flea market in the state of Texas, the Austin County Flea Market includes a stage show, display and entertainment areas. In this market's 130 acres of 550 covered spaces, one can peruse fresh produce, antiques, electronics, herbs and spices, new and used clothes and even pets (giving new meaning to "flea" market). Expect to see and hear live music.

New Caladonian Market
It's cooler than Camden and has better prices than Portobello Road. Early on Fridays, the New Caladonian Antiques and Flea Market (also known as the Bermondsey Market) is the hottest spot in London. In fact, the deals are so good and the market so busy, one needs to arrive early, equipped with a flashlight (torch) and a good sweater (jumper), to get ahead of other bargain hunters. Many dealers set up stalls here and the antiques are outstanding, but all the good stuff is gone early.

Marche Aux Puces De Clignancourt
What flea market list would be complete without the mother of all flea markets in Paris, France? Marche aux Puces means "Market of the Fleas," from which we Americans derive the term. This one at the north fringe of Paris is very old and large, actually incorporating 12 separate markets that grew together over time. Each day, there are between 2,500 and 3,000 stalls and shops selling finds that range from antiques to cool French junk. There's stuff like old buttons, wonderful new and used French pots and pans, vintage and new clothes, as well as housewares and furniture. Of course, the better your French, the better your deals.

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