Visiting the Braderie de Lille

cultural events in France | French culture
Sep 30, 2022
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Want to visit France while taking advantage of the country’s major popular events?

The Braderie de Lille is an opportunity not to be missed!

Go to Lille for a trip to the North of France, to the largest flea market in Europe. For a weekend, Lille becomes a vast bazaar of flea markets and mussels and chips!

A unique festive event that gives travellers the opportunity to learn the basics of flea markets and negotiation, and to discover the cultural and culinary traditions shared by thousands of visitors from France and around the world.

The Braderie de Lille in a few figures:

  • 10000 slots, totally free!
  • 100 km of stalls
  • 2.5 million visitors, bargain hunters, strollers, street vendors in 2019
  • 33 hours of non-stop clearance sale
  • Every 1st weekend of September

What is the origin of the Braderie de Lille?

The history of the Braderie de Lille goes back to the Middle Ages (first mentioned in 1127), we then spoke of “frank fair” when the town council of Lille authorised merchants from outside to come and sell without paying tax.

In the 16th century, the braderie became a large garage sale when servants were authorised to sell the objects accumulated in their master’s attics, once a year between sunset and sunrise.

This popular event in Lille has been represented several times by various artists, including the romantic painter Watteau, who devoted a now cult work to it: La Braderie de Lille in 1800.

How to prepare for the Braderie de Lille?

The Braderie de Lille can be summed up in 3 components: antiquing, popular festival and mussels and chips. Travel advice: a well-prepared bargain hunter is armed with patience, good shoes, an umbrella, and a shopping cart! Because the Lille weather in September can be capricious and disrupt the party.

At the clearance sale, you can find absolutely everything, from small everyday objects at 1 euro, to rare pearls, furniture and works of art not necessarily recognized, which are the delight of professional antique dealers and collectors. So much so that the event attracts curious people and experts from all over the world.

Lille, a city where the art of negotiation reigns

Negotiating the price of objects is part of the game at the Lille sale. The price is “indicative”! So you have to arm yourself with audacity and a gift of the gab, and engage in haggling in order to conclude the best transaction. As the people of Lille say: We speak the language of the banknote here!

The culture of commerce is anchored in the history of Lille, which has developed thanks to its function as a market place and trade since the Middle Ages.

Find the right way to buy well at the Braderie de Lille

The Braderie takes up the whole city, the linear stands cover kilometres of streets in the centre of Lille. So you have to be a strategist when you are a buyer and know the geography of the clearance sale well. You should know that each neighbourhood has its own “style” of objects and sellers. For example, for furniture lovers, it is better to go to the boulevards Louis XIV and de la Liberté; for toys, the appointment is mainly at Saint Sauveur station; in the realm of second-hand clothing, the Lebas park and the Foch and Dutilleul squares are transformed into a vast empty dressing room!

You inevitably find your favourite neighbourhood at the Braderie de Lille, and you always find something to bring back! Better to anticipate the space in the suitcase!

Traditions and attractions of the Braderie de Lille

One-upmanship on mussels and chips.

This is the essential dish for any participant in the Braderie de Lille. Traditional and fast, the favourite dish of bargain hunters and vendors is prepared by all the restaurants in the city, and is served on banquet tables. Sharing, feasting together at the same table: this is the soul of this popular festival.

The marinière mussels are number 1 in sales, but the Maroilles sauce holds its own, and delights the most seasoned palates. On average, 500 tons of mussels are cooked during the sale.

So what to do with the leftovers?

The people of Lille definitely like to outbid everyone else! Instead of being thrown away, the shells are carefully piled up to form the highest mound possible, setting new records every year. Head to Place Rihour to see the most spectacular piles of mussels.

And after ?

The mussel shells are finally collected and processed to be transformed into slabs of tiling… Nothing is thrown away, everything is recycled!

An extraordinary banquet at the Natural History Museum

La Braderie is synonymous with convivial banquets for bargain hunters and vendors… as well as for animals! Visitors can come for free to visit the toucan, bear cub, emu and other gorillas, positioned around a table in the main room of the Natural History Museum, an original way to discover animals in an unusual environment, seated to honour the tradition of the Braderie de Lille banquet.

Meet at La Vieille Bourse, for the book sale

Welcome to booksellers’ paradise! What an impression of grandeur on entering the Vieille Bourse de Lille, a remarkable building made up of 24 merchant houses. Its majestic and colourful facades, its lion heads and garlands, its Flemish mannerist architecture, combining Renaissance and Baroque, reveal all the wealth of 17th century merchants.

During this weekend of clearance sale, bulk paperbacks and beautiful books of all kinds cover the stalls arranged in this prestigious place. Our travellers and learners of French will be able to make great finds and slip a souvenir book into their luggage, perfect for continuing to work on the language of Molière…

Ready to take a trip to the country of the flea market?

The Vacances Actives agency offers the best welcome (and the best tables to devour local mussels and chips!) to travellers learning French. In Lille, we speak French, ch’ti, and the language of the nego! But travellers will not be the only ones to decipher the dialogues of Lille, as the Braderie attracts visitors from all over the world!

Write to contact@vacancesactiveslinguistiques  to prepare a colourful stay in Hauts de France!

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