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How to Buy Antiques in France

If you’re a French antiques lover and are about to start planning your trip to France, then this guide may well be for you! France is a fantastic destination for antiques shopping, with all kinds of markets taking place all over the country. But where are the best markets and how do you bring your French finds back to the U.K.? We’ll answer all these questions within this blog and hopefully leave you feeling confident about embarking on your very own French antiques adventure!

foire internationale brocantes, antiquités (L'ISLE-SUR-LA-… | Flickr

Where are the Best Places to Find Antiques in France?

In addition to the traditional antiques shops, France offers many ways to find those unique pieces. Here are just a few options:

  • Flea Markets. Also known as brocante. These tend to be fairly large-scale and attract vendors from all over the country. They’re typically the most cost-effective way of sourcing French finds but can require a bit of haggling! Think bric-a-brac and furniture. They can be great fun and allow for a good rummage!
  • Antiques Stores. These shops are usually more high-end and offer a more carefully curated selection of antiques than you’ll find at the flea markets. Expect to pay a heavy mark-up, though!
  • Vide-Grenier. These are pop-up style markets, like car boot or garage sales. They’re typically held in residential areas and are only held occasionally. They’re usually advertised locally or on vide-grenier community sites. Items sold here are typically sellers’ unwanted household items and clothing, but sometimes hidden gems can be uncovered!
  • These are usually found in Northern France and happen several times a year. They’re held outside established shops and are a mix of a street market and a traditional shopping experience. Sometimes there’s live music, too!

Where are the Best Antiques Markets in France?

Here is a list of some of the most popular antiques markets in France:

  • Puces du Touquet. Le Touquet’s flea market is in Northern France and takes place on one or two Sundays each month. This market sees the town transform into an Aladdin’s Cave of antiques, collectables and retro items.
  • Puces-a-Bidasse. This market is held in Arras annually in August. It’s an enormous market and sprawls over the cobbles of three Arras squares. Great place for bargain-hunting and sight-seeing!
  • Puces de St Ouen. With around 1,700 vendors, this Parisian flea market is one of the largest in the world and mostly sells bric-a-brac.
  • Les Puces du Canal. Located on the outskirts of Lyon, and next to the canal, this is one of the largest permanent markets in France. Sundays are apparently the best day to visit.
  • L’Isle sur Sorque. If you like sunshine and antique shopping, then this Provencal market may well be for you! With over 300 vendors, this Sunday market is spread across street stalls and warehouses. Two international markets are also held here each year: one at Easter and one around 15th August.
  • La Grande Braderie. This is a two-day market in Lille that is held annually in the first week of September. It has a lively, carnival vibe.
  • La Grande Rederie. This popular market is held in Amiens in April and October. It typically has over 700 vendors selling their wares and is usually great for furniture.
  • Chatou Foire au Jambon. This market is held in western Paris and dates back to the Middle Ages Not only is it a fabulous antiques market, but it also offers great food!
  • Braderie de Houilles. This market is just outside Paris and is held on the first Sunday of October. It attracts over 2,000 vendors and offers a wide range of goods.

Foire internationale de la brocante (ISLE-sur-la-SORGUE,FR… | Flickr

Where are the Best Antiques Shops, Galleries and Auctions in France?

Here is a list of some of the best-known antiques shops and auctions in France:

  • Hotel Drouot in Paris
  • Carre Rive Gauche in Paris
  • Barjols Antiques in Barjols
  • Antiquites Alric in Villecroze
  • Sweet Cabana in Cherbourg

Tips for Antiques Shopping in France

If you’re new to antiques shopping in France, you may appreciate a few hints and tips with regards to shopping etiquette, and ways in which to shop smart. Here are a few helpful pointers:

  • Haggling is expected, especially when shopping at a flea market. However, always ask the vendor to offer their best price first, before you embark on any negotiation. Around 25% is a decent discount to expect.
  • Carry cash but keep it safe. Some vendors don’t accept cards so save yourself the pain of losing out on an item and have your cash to-hand. However, be careful as markets can be very busy places and can attract pickpockets. So, portion your money, avoid putting any in your back pocket and wear your backpack on your front.
  • If unsure on the authenticity of an item, you can always ask to see evidence of provenance. Make sure you check the quality of an item before committing to a purchase.

How do you Bring your French Antiques Back to the U.K.?

This is the area that most people worry about. Once you’ve found those perfect pieces, how do you bring them back to the U.K.?  Importing larger items of antique furniture from France can be complicated. There are customs regulations to consider, along with duties and taxes, and completing the required paperwork can be a little complex. If you get it wrong, it can be costly. Consider using a third-party importer or shipping company, who can help you to safely bring your items back to the U.K. The antiques dealers with whom you liaise may be able to recommend some reputable companies to you.