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One man’s trash: Eight of the best flea markets in Belgium
A lively flea market is held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings on a cobbled square behind Ghent’s Sint-Jacobskerk. Dealers set up folding tables piled with ancient electrical appliances, crates of vinyl records, dusty vases and the occasional stuffed boar. The mood is lively, with tradesmen shouting in Ghent dialect while buyers grab an early breakfast on a cafe terrace.
People have been coming to the street auction on the Vrijdagmarkt square since the 16th century. It’s where dealers sell off old office furniture, ornaments that once belonged to someone’s grandmother, and bin bags filled with miscellaneous junk. You can pick up a crystal vase worth 10 times what you paid. Or you can go home with a box that turns out to contain four old cardigans and a dead computer.
Brocante Internationale de Waterloo
One of the biggest flea markets in Europe, the brocante is held in a car park outside Waterloo on Sundays and public holidays. It’s a sprawling, chaotic place behind the Carrefour supermarket that draws serious buyers from as far away as the Netherlands and Britain. They come in search of rare finds, eclectic junk and the odd stuffed giraffe to take back home. But watch out for fakes.
Chaussée de Charleroi, Waterloo
A lively flea market fills the neighbourhood around the Saint-Pholien church in Liège every Friday. This is the perfect place to hunt for old Ella Fitzgerald records, ceramic ornaments and used Belgian army boots. You might even pick up a thriller by Georges Simenon, who grew up in the neighbourhood. Boulevard de la Constitution, Liège
Jeu de Balle
Every day, from the crack of dawn, dealers unload boxes of old books, Art Deco lamps and stacks of ancient LPs on this square in the Marolles district of the capital. The best items are quickly snapped up by professionals, so by midday there’s almost nothing left worth buying – unless you’re truly interested in a 1962 reel-to-reel tape deck that no longer works.
Place du Jeu de Balle, Brussels
The quayside fish market in Ostend is a lively, friendly place where locals and tourists go to buy fresh sole and North Sea shrimps brought to shore just a few hours earlier. Many of the stands are run by fishermen’s wives who remain cheerful even when a howling gale is blowing in off the North Sea.
The old Roman town of Tongeren hosts a lively antique market every Sunday, said to be the best for antiques in Benelux. Established more than 30 years ago, it brings together several hundred dealers who fight to find a pitch next to the old town walls. This is the perfect place to haggle over the price of a rococo table or an Art Nouveau lamp for your loft apartment.
Leopoldwal, Veemarkt and other locations, Tongeren
Brocante des Bastions
Tournai holds a flea market every Sunday morning in an empty supermarket car park. It’s a friendly, popular market where you might pick up an old carved cupboard from an Ardennes castle, or a rocking horse that’s been gathering dust for 60 years in someone’s attic. It’s fun to wander around even if you don’t buy anything more than a set of spoons.
Boulevard Walter de Marvis, Tournai
This article first appeared in The Bulletin autumn 2017