Bag a bargain or two at Europe’s largest flea market – Lille Braderie!

Why not combine your love of shopping with a short break away from the UK? Break out of the usual autopilot of the supermarket shop or the familiar-yet-uninspiring high street trudge and travel to historic and beautiful Lille in France, where you could pick up a bargain of the unique, beautiful or just plain cheap variety!braderie_1

This is exactly what our resident bargain-hunter Steve did when he took his family to Lille for a dip into the mammoth and marathon world of Lille’s famous “Braderie” where a typical 2 million buyers jostle for the best bargains as displayed by the 10, 1000 stall holders.

There’s an eclectic mix of wares on offer, including antiques, clothes, bric a brac, household items, books, textiles and food.  To aid the buyer in their navigation of this massive market-place stretching over 62 miles of the city, sellers are sorted into areas to allow you to focus the search for the objects of your heart’s desire.

Good stamina and comfy shoes are advisable as there is the opportunity to shop around the clock as the stalls run from 2pm on Saturday afternoon till 11pm on Sunday night – a whopping 30 hour stint.  So bring snacks, a torch and plenty of spends – not only for all the treasures you plan to snap up – but also for the children to enjoy the fairground rides on offer.

As if the shopping opportunities alone aren’t enough to tempt you to make the 1hr 20 minute trip via Eurostar from London, or the 1hour trip from Paris, then the local food speciality might!

The iconic dish of the event is mussels and chips – restaurants around the city serve them to customers in need of a tasty refuel, and there is a fun competition that goes on, where restaurants compete to have the largest pile of empty mussel shells outside their restaurant at the end of the event – in testament to their popularity with both locals and visitors alike.

Some top tips for happy shopping and how to make the most of your experience

Our resident gastronome and bargain-hunter Steve took his family to the Braderie this year with the aim of snapping up a clock for his new kitchen extension, which has plenty of bare walls to fill.  He achieved his mission by snapping up this beautiful vintage clock, which will add some colour and character to the room.  The kids had great fun on the fairground rides, and he would recommend the event– if you can put up with the hustle and bustle and throngs of people.

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Tips for people taking their children along

  • The choice in restaurants is fairly limited due to the amount of visitors being catered for. In general, most restaurants offer the ubiquitous mussels and chips, as well as sausage and chips.
  • Some areas are extremely packed with people and it would be impossible to navigate your way through with a pushchair, or even small children who may become separated from you. If you have the option, and two of you have travelled with children, it may be wise to take turns and alternate the shopping with taking the kids somewhere more child-friendly.
  • There is a large funfair, which the kids will love – rides are fairly expensive though.

Lille is the 4th largest city in France, and home to the Gare de Lille – Europe (Eurostar’s through station, close to Belgium).  It may not be such an obvious choice of destination for families as say Eurodisney or Paris itself, but there are attractions that kids will enjoy:

Parc Zoologique

Surprisingly, this zoo park is free to all, and is one of France’s best.  As well as being situated in the picturesque Citadelle Park with a children’s play park nearby, there are 350 animals to enjoy, set in 6 thematic areas.  There is a sealion show, a flying display of owls, parrots and hawks and animals from all over the world.

Musee d’Histoire Naturelle

Sticking with the animal theme (albeit, non-living ones!), this is also worth a visit. There are impressive displays of enormous whale skeletons, plus a creepy-crawly insectarium.  The Museum is shut on a Tuesday, but open every other day of the week.

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