Braderie de Lille
We went to Lille to see this event held on the first Saturday and Sunday in September every year. The Braderie de Lille is known as the biggest flea market in Europe, and it also has a long history, dating as far back as 1127. And it shows, it was huge! We went there on Saturday afternoon and Sunday, but there were so many sellers that we could not see all the exhibitor stalls.
Among other events happening at the periphery of the Braderie was a fun fair, so we could enjoy some rides for a little break.
Where is Lille?
It’s in the North of France and typically takes about an hour by car from Calais. Both are very close to Belgium.
How to get there from the UK
We went by car via the Euro tunnel from Folkestone. The Eurostar is also available from St.Pancras to Lille Europe station, which we might take next time since we didn’t buy large items like furniture.
We also only got there on Saturday, so we avoided the Lille centre, stayed on the outskirts of Lille to park our car safely, and took the public transport (tram and underground) to the Braderie.
What to eat
There are many food stands and restaurants throughout the Braderie. It goes without saying that we couldn’t try everything, but we will list the food our friend from Lille recommended.
Moules Frites (mussels and chips)
There were lots of people eating mussels at the outside seating in front of each restaurant. During the Braderie about a ton of mussels are consumed during the weekend. A mountain of mussel shells is placed in the city centre and in front of some restaurants, and they compete for how much they serve. The mussel shells will be used to make (art) tiles and other things.
We managed to try both sweet and savoury! We tried a simple, sweet, buttery waffle with some icing sugar. For the savoury one, we had the one from a beer bar in the town centre of Lille with cooked chicken breast and Maroilles cheese sauce on top.
Another sweet waffle is very thin, soft and filled with butter-based cream. We had them when my friend brought them back from Lille.
I didn’t know, but there are five “Aux Merveilleux de Fred” branches in London. So if you want to try, you don’t need to go to Lille. There is also in Paris, Tokyo, New York, and more!
It’s a meringue-based sweet with whipped cream and covered with shredded chocolate. It looked sweet and heavy but was light and great with coffee or tea. We tried the small ones from “Aux Merveilleux de Fred " in the Lille Flandres station.
This was the first time I had seen this. It’s a deep-fried minced meat sausage. My husband told me it’s a very northern French/Belgian thing. I had this for three times during our stay. One is from a chip shop in Belgium, one from the food stand in Braderie, and the last is from the chip shop in the centre of Lille. I liked the last one because it was called “Mexicano” and was slightly spicy. That went very well with the beer they were serving.
Given our location, we had some local beers and Belgian beers. When I went to a supermarket near our hotel, they had a map showing where the beers came from – in this case, mainly from the north of France and Belgium.
The beers that we tried during this stay:
- Pelforth (from the stand in the event)
- Vieux Lille Cerise Rouge (at the beer bar. Lots of beer from the UK available too)
- La Meunier (a beer from the chip shop)
- Chimay bleu (at a seafood restaurant)
The beers we brought back to the UK:
- La Raoul (white beer)
- Chimay bleu
- Lindemans Kriek (cherry beer)
This cheese is my friend's favourite, but some people hate it because of its smell. We didn’t have the opportunity to try the actual cheese, but we had a waffle with chicken and Maroilles sauce in Lille, which was delicious and didn’t have much smell.
However, we brought back a jar of prepared chicken in Maroilles sauce (Poulet au Maroilles), but when we opened the jar, I thought it was already rotten! I had to add white wine and herbs to reduce the smell. We still don’t know how the local restaurants serve it, so we’ll try that next time.
What I bought from the Braderie de Lille
I want to show you what I bought from the market! I could get some French vintage/antique that I was dreaming of!
A dessert plate (“Geranium” from Sarreguemines)
This plate is the first I bought. I fell in love with the pattern and bought it straight away! There are few chips, so I could get it reasonably priced.
Tea, flour and sugar storage containers (“Pommes” from Ceranord Saint Amand)
Isn't this pretty? I love the burgundy colour so much! It’s a simple design, with all the lines on the container and the beautiful lid.
Anisette Pernod water carafe
I saw the same one a few years ago but didn’t get it. So, when I saw them this time, I remembered how I felt when I saw this shape with the blue and yellow lines. Super cool! I bought one for me and another one for my mother-in-law. It’s a perfect gift for her since she loves Pastis!
Compotier (“Acacia” from Saint Amand et Hamage)
This piece is the last one I bought. I was looking for this design because it's very French and different from what we have in the UK.
Things to be aware of
During the Braderie, most of the restaurants close their toilets. We also tried going to a department store, but it was closed. There were some public toilets for the event, but there was a long queue whenever we saw them. Luckily, one of the restaurants we went to opened their bathroom for us. But I don't know how people are managing this situation. There are lots of food and drink stands selling local beers, but I couldn’t enjoy it much for that reason.
The weather was hot, so bring your insulated bottle with cold water. It helped us a lot because there are some places to refill water throughout the city.
Thankfully, we did not have any problem with this, but our friends (local people) warned us, and I saw quite a lot on the internet while I was researching. Most of the stands accept only cash (except most food stalls), so people carry more money than usual.
It was hectic and fun to visit Braderie de Lille! Next time, we will go there on Friday and hit the market at the earliest possible time on Saturday to find more treasure.