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World's Greatest Flea Markets

Brimfield flea market

piluhin / Alamy

Brimfield, MA

Where: Spread over 23 different fields/locations in town

2009 Dates: May 12–17; July 14–19; Sept. 8–13; dawn until dusk.

Thrice yearly, the 18th-century hamlet of Brimfield is overwhelmed by a series of antiques shows set up in humongous open fields (and some covered sites) for a six-day stretch. Dealers have flocked here for decades, and virtually anything you collect, no matter how obscure (from taxidermy to taxi dancers’ outfits), will likely show up among the offerings of the 6,000-odd stalls. A word of warning: book your accommodations as far ahead as possible (vendors have been snagging the same hotel rooms for years); bring a flashlight (shows start before dawn); prepare for inclement weather—you’ll be out in the elements a long time; and perhaps most important, write down the location of booths you may want to return to. It’s very easy to get lost. (www.brimfieldshow.com)



World's Greatest Flea Markets

Porte de Clignancourt

Office de tourisme de Saint-Ouen

Paris

Where: Porte de Clignancourt

Hours: Saturdays and Sundays; some dealers open Mondays.

More like a city unto itself than a mere flea market, this vast expanse—really a series of many markets accommodating a whopping 2,500 dealers—could easily take up an entire day. The antique furniture is superb, the chandeliers are splendid, but there are also many, many seductive objects far easier to transport home—everything from enamel kitchen canisters to wonderful vintage postcards of an earlier Paris. In winter, the hot chocolate vendors offer cocoa that is like nothing you’ve ever tasted, plus the landscape is dotted with excellent bistros.



World's Greatest Flea Markets

Plaza Dorego, San Telmo

Javier Diaz

Buenos Aires

Where: Plaza Dorego, San Telmo

Hours: Sundays only.

On Sundays it seems like the entire population of Buenos Aires flocks to San Telmo, a newly chic boho district. Start at Plaza Dorego then fan out to the various antiques centers, which seem to stretch for miles. Though the market is renowned for its Deco furniture and accessories, there’s also, as at all the best fleas, a multitude of “smalls” to choose from as well. Don’t miss the superb vintage clothes at Gil Antigüedades, 412 Humberto I, where ensembles designed by Eva Peron’s favorite dressmakers are sometimes in stock.



World's Greatest Flea Markets

Porte de Vanves, Rive Gauche

Bernard Blanché

Paris

Where: Porte de Vanves, Rive Gauche

Hours: Saturdays and Sundays, before 1 p.m.

Leave the hotel early on weekend mornings and take the metro to the far left bank outpost of Vanves, then walk a few blocks to Avenue Marc Sangnier and Avenue Georges Lafenestre for this small, excellent market, also an open secret among dealers. (Rumor has it that after dealers shop here, they bring their treasures to the far larger Porte de Clignancourt later in the day.) The tables brim with vintage boxes, glassware, old Parisian periodicals, posters, and other souvenir-ready material. Prices are congenial, but remember to bring cash—the ATM machine is a bit of a hike.



World's Greatest Flea Markets

Togo Shrine; Meiji Dori; near Harajuku

J Marshall - Tribaleye Images / Alamy

Tokyo

Where: Togo Shrine; Meiji Dori; near Harajuku

Hours: First and fourth Sunday of every month.

A lack of Japanese language skills is no barrier to enjoying this terrific market on the grounds of the Togo Shrine—just bring pad and pen, and negotiate the price on paper. Here is the place to find beautiful early-20th-century kimonos and other textiles; winsome antique Japanese dolls; miniature multidrawer cabinets; scrolls emblazoned with stunning calligraphy; and other items you just will not see at the flea markets back home. Bonus: the market is not far from the Harajuku district, so after you shop you can watch the neighborhood’s trendy dolled-up girls strut in all their glory.



World's Greatest Flea Markets

Casabarata, on the road to Rabat

Hemis / Alamy

Tangier, Morocco

Where: Casabarata, on the road to Rabat

Hours: Open every day.

A Parisian friend who has a house in Tangier swears that he finds incredible items at this sprawling market, and that another expat he knows recently found a valuable gold cigarette lighter hidden in the rubble. A maze of broken concrete sidewalks brandishes everything from new mattresses to secondhand sinks, wonderful tin lanterns, all manner of fabrics, and the occasional truly rare treasure. Bring plenty of patience and a trained eye, and be quick—development is threatening to overwhelm this labyrinth.



World's Greatest Flea Markets

The Rose Bowl

Courtesy of Pasadena Convention & Visitors Bureau

Pasadena, CA

Where: The Rose Bowl

Hours: Second Sunday of every month.

For nearly 40 years, Angelinos have adored this massive flea. More than 2,500 vendors set up before dawn, and it’s a good idea to come super early (before sunrise), if only to allow enough time to peruse the estimated five miles of booths. Look up occasionally from the tables of mid-century collectibles and the racks of vintage clothes, and you just might see Ashley Olson or Clint Eastwood shopping along with you—both have been known to enjoy treasure hunting here.



World's Greatest Flea Markets

Plaza de la Seu, in front of the Catedral de Barcelona, Barri Gotic

Rough Guides / Alamy

Barcelona

Where: Plaça de la Seu, in front of the Catedral de Barcelona, Barri Gòtic

Hours: Thursdays only.

Every Thursday, the Plaça de la Seu at the base of the massive 15th-century cathedral—the most famous edifice in Barcelona (not counting the Gaudís)—hosts an outdoor flea market. The offerings are surprisingly upscale and usually include seductive antique jewelry, lovely old dolls, and printed advertising items. Though the market itself is not enormous and can be covered in one leisurely morning, the quality of the goods makes up for the small number of dealers.



World's Greatest Flea Markets

Hell's Kitchen flea market, New York City

Courtesy of Hell's kitchen Flea Market

New York City

Where: Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market

Hours: Weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Manhattan’s Antiques Garage, adored by legions of New York collectors, was slated for demolition but has been saved from the wrecking ball—at least for the foreseeable future. This bi-level concrete parking lot is a survivor from the days when the neighborhood was full of antiques venues. The 100-plus vendors in the Garage showcase everything from paintings to Puccis, spittoons to old Sears catalogs.



World's Greatest Flea Markets

Marche aux Puces de St.-Ouen, Paris

Office de Tourisme de Saint-Ouen

Paris

Where: Marché aux Puces de St.-Ouen

Hours: Saturdays to Mondays from 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

More like a city unto itself than a flea market, this vast expanse—really a series of many markets accommodating a whopping 2,500 dealers—could easily take up an entire day. The antique furniture and the chandeliers are splendid, but there are also many, many bewitching objects far easier to transport home, such as early 20th-century French fashion magazines.



World's Greatest Flea Markets

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