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The Ultimate Treasure Hunt - Seek and You Shall Find

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Brocantes, Flea Markets and Vide-Greniers are more commonly known in the UK as car boot sales. In Belgium these are something of a national sport usually taking place in spring and autumn. They range from the professional brocanteur and antique dealer to the amateur man on the street doing a house clearance. They share an element of community spirit but also an air of excitement and anticipation. Some objects sell for a song and some a small fortune.

What might you stumble upon that you never knew you needed until now? A glittering Val St Lambert Crystal Chandelier from an old Liege manor house? WW2 military items from the Battle of the Bulge? A set of first series Tintin books by Belgian comic creator Hergé or a fifty piece Royal Boch porcelain tea set from Namur? One person’s rubbish is another man’s gold! An ancient masterpiece or a priceless vase. Travel to these ‘brocantes’ in Southern Belgium and find out. With French speaking Wallonia less than 1.5 hours’ drive from Calais you can jump in a car and make a Walloon weekend of it.

Antique fairs

When it comes to antique fairs the town of Ciney in the province of Namur is a must. It’s here you will find the ‘Ciney Puces’ & Salon des Antiquaires’. The Walloon town hosts one of the largest flea market and antiques fairs in Belgium with over 500 exhibitors from Belgium, France, Germany, Holland or even Italy and has over 15,000 visitors. The Ciney expo takes place twice a year over three days, usually around March and October. Its unique concept of high-end antiques and bargain hunt ‘brocante’ has earned it an international reputation.

Flea Markets

It is set in the famous town of Spa renowned for its Springs, the mother of all the Spas and the world famous Spa Francorchamps race track. The flea market sets up every Sunday of the year (between 8 am and 1 pm) in the ‘Sept Heures’ Park, sheltered by the ‘Galerie Léopold II’. It offers a beautiful selection of second hand items, documents and collectors' favourites. Visitors who appreciate vintage lifestyle and events and even toy car collectors should also take the opportunity to visit the various classic car events taking place their every year. And if all that treasure hunting and racing around makes you weary then don’t forget you can indulge in the famous restorative waters of Spa for a little chill out time in one of the many luxury spa hotels or the Thermes de Spa itself.

Also well worth a detour is the Temploux International Flea Market and Comic Book Festival which takes place in August. This Wallonian flea market is the most famous in Belgium. Over 1,500 exhibitors will set up their stalls throughout the village of Temploux. Visitors can hunt for fantastic finds... all day and night. A comic book festival and a rock festival (the Rockante) also take place parallel to the flea market, as well as a host of entertainment: orchestra, fun fair, fireworks. An event which the whole family can enjoy.

The Saint Pholien flea market is also rather special. Located just a few steps away from the city centre of Liege, has become over time, in the opinion of connoisseurs, a true “Champs Elysee flea market”. Every Friday from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. you’ll find around 200 (mainly professional) sellers congregating on the Boulevard de la Constitution and the square Jehan-le-Bel to sell high end and random antique items. The objects sold usually come straight from attics and house clearances and their prices are often very affordable. Could a long lost Magritte masterpiece unearth itself from an old attic? You never know.

Still in Liege, a market maybe less antique orientated is La Batte which takes place every Sunday in Liège. Not only is it a real institution in the region, it also is the largest and oldest market in Belgium with over 3.6km of stands along the length of the quay. You'll find pretty much everything here from fruits, vegetables, cheese, clothes, books, plants to trinkets, antiques, exotic birds  and vintage gems in a picturesque, friendly atmosphere. A great place to sample local fayre and stop for some delicious double cooked Belgian frites (the Walloons invented them you know) and a nice long refreshing Belgian white beer like the Blanche de Namur, Jupiler the local lager or for the connoisseurs a proper Trappist from Chimay or Orval.

Tournai flea market sitting behind the UNESCO listed 5 Tower Notre Dame cathedral is known as one of the best flea markets in the country, bringing together  a large batch of sellers from all over the country and even beyond the border every Sunday morning.

The stunning Aclot Brocante, set in the grounds of Nivelles' Sainte-Gertrude collegiate church, is sure to enchant you too. The stalls stretch along the beautiful Grand Place, recently renovated and in the nearby pedestrian streets, offering all manner of objects and curiosities to delight treasure hunters and history buffs alike. The event is a bit of a hot ticket in the region and takes place six times between April and September. It’s a pure delight for lovers of vintage items. And don’t forget the local yummies. Try a hearty slice of the local Târte al Djote to boost your energy after a hard day’s rummaging.  

Military flea markets

Ciney is also home for a more niche ‘market’ The "Militaria" Stock Exchange is - as its name suggests – an exhibition/ market place of military objects taking place in April and October. There are more than 550 exhibitors from all over Europe (Germany, France, Czech Republic, Poland, Italy, United Kingdom, Switzerland...). Exhibitors sell uniforms, helmets, spare parts, weapons (legally authorized over the counter), medals, flags, prints, cards, books and other utensils. History buffs and Militaria collectors will be in their element in Ciney over that weekend with the opportunity to find treasures and trinkets from as early as the Waterloo era to WW2.

Themed markets

If you like themed markets, do check out also the colourful flower markets in Tournai and Mons, but also the ‘1900 Marche-en Famenne’ which is an artisanal market demonstrating old skills and craftsmanship. If you are into books, try the book market in Nivelles.  For those interested in locally sourced products such as dairy, breads, cheeses and liquors try the farmers' markets in Andenne,  Orgeo, Andenne,  Florennes, Wavre, Auvelais, Soignies - an exhaustive but exciting list for all manner of market lovers.