Every year crowds of devotees and onlookers gather to search for a bargain, a rare item, a decorating idea or a souvenir in France. Antiquing in France, where flea markets and antiques are as plentiful as the stars in the sky, it is not difficult to be a collector. One can collect an array of antiques, big and small, furniture, porcelain, rustic art, books, fabric, and silver. If you like antiques do not come to France because you will go crazy the moment your foot touches the flea market ground.
At the French flea markets where history lays out before you, it is not a question of what will you find? The real question is: What do you want to find? In this article we’ve rounded up some insider tricks of the trade to help you navigate any fair with ease.
When is the best time to go antiquing in France?
Anytime. Antique markets are year round. When in France ask at the local Tourist Office for the nearest: Brocante (antique market), Marche aux Puces (Flea Market), or Vides des Grenier (garage sale like market). Though May and September are considered to be very good months for antiquing.
What should you bring?
Cash, since credit cards and foreign checks are not accepted. A large backpack or push cart to carry your purchases. A small notebook to write down what you bought, newspaper or bubble wrap to protect the items that you find and hand sanitizer because your hands will get dirty.
Leave the big items at the end of your shopping journey
If you see something along the way that you want a second look at – or know you want, but it’s too big to carry – mark the spot on the map. Also, don’t be afraid to snap pictures; there’s a lot to see and remember!
Speak with the vendors
Vendors are an invaluable source of knowledge and are likely able to provide the history and answer questions about a piece. Where did it come from? Does it have a story attached? Do you have any tips for restoration or conservation? Most of the vendors are passionate and love to offer up any information they have.
Don’t be afraid to haggle
Vendors often have a little wiggle room on the price of an item. Some are firm on their pricing, but it never hurts to ask. Some fairs offer resident antiquing specialists, and if you’re hesitating about a certain piece, they’re wonderful objective, experienced consultants that are happy to give their professional opinion and tips. They can most often be found at the reception at the entrance.
Take time to refuel
There will usually be a few food stalls, or in the least an area where people are gathering to eat. Here, you’ll even see vendors sitting together, enjoying lunch or a glass of wine. Take the time to stop for a coffee, drink or bite while people-watching. The blend of relaxing and bustling atmospheres side-by-side is all part of the fun.
Make sure to wear comfortable shoes
Perhaps it goes without saying, but comfortable footwear is crucial. Nothing ruins an antique mission like new or unsuitable shoes!
We hope these antiquing tips help you with your next vintage adventure...bonne chance !