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Hunting for a bargain? These are Europe’s best cities for flea markets and antique shops

Visiting a flea market also gives an insight into local life and culture.
Visiting a flea market also gives an insight into local life and culture. Copyright  Clem Onojeghuo
Copyright  Clem Onojeghuo
By Rebecca Ann Hughes
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Visiting a flea market also gives an insight into local life and culture.

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Stumbling across a jumbled flea market or a vintage sale when you’re on holiday is often a highlight of a trip abroad.

There’s a unique pleasure to delving into the disarray; perhaps you’ll find a hidden gem or maybe it’s just for the joy of discovering bizarre curiosities amongst the clutter.

Like people watching from an outdoor cafè or visiting a food market, it also gives an insight into local life and culture.

From the objects on sale - antique pasta-making machines in Italy or iconic Finnish fabrics - to chatting with the vendors, antique markets are like museums en plein air.

Here are six European cities where second-hand bargain hunters will be in their element.

Cheap designer clothes and kitchenware in Copenhagen, Denmark

Last year, Copenhagen was named the best city in Europe for bargain hunters, according to insurance price comparer Confused.com.

The website found that the Danish capital had quality antique shops and the highest-rated street markets.

Nikola Đuza
From the objects on sale - antique pasta-making machines in Italy or iconic Finnish fabrics - to chatting with the vendors, antique markets are like museums en plein air.Nikola Đuza

The city’s most popular flea market for residents is behind the Frederiksberg City Hall. You’ll find all kinds of international fashion brands for a bargain price and as well as weird and wonderful kitchen gadgets.

If ornate silver cutlery and crystalware are more your passion, try the Old Strand Antique Market, now also called the Thorvaldsens Plads antique market.

Rare books and bargain war memorabilia in Berlin, Germany

Germany’s youthful and bohemian capital is a hub of second-hand treasure troves.

Berlin’s buzzing flea markets often feature curiosities from the GDR period (1945-1990), including military uniforms, toys and retro shop signs.

Under the shade of trees in Arkonaplatz, you can also find fancy furniture.The Antikbuchmarkt by the River Spree sells rare books and antiques.

Although now quite touristy, Mauerpark is a riotous experience of cheerful outdoor cafès and karaoke on Sunday afternoons.

Finnish fabrics and iconic tableware in Helsinki, Finland

As a country of impassioned environmentalists, it’s no wonder second-hand shopping is sacred in Finland.

The capital Helsinki is full of markets selling uniquely Finnish items. At the Hietalahti flea market expect limited edition Moomin memorabilia, Makia clothing and accessories or bright Marimekko fabric.

Head to Hakaniemi market for Scandi-style wooden toys and Littala and Arabia tableware- two iconic Finnish brands.

Chic charity shops and special events in Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh’s stylish Stockbridge is the perfect area for dipping into second-hand boutiques and chic charity shops.

The neighbourhood has the feel of a village, despite being just on the edge of the city's elegant, central New Town.

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In its myriad charity shops, bargain hunters can find cashmere jumpers, rare vinyl records, vintage furniture and a British Red Cross outlet has a section dedicated entirely to wedding dresses.

Although many of the city’s jumble sales were axed after the pandemic, a vintage clothes sale will take place on 24 April in the Potterrow Venue of Edinburgh’s university and there will be a craft and flea market in the Assembly Rooms on 14 May.

Just an hour away by train, Glasgow is hosting the Secondhand Wonderland at Webster’s Theatre this weekend, on Sunday 2 April, with 30 vintage sellers.

Collectors coins and vintage vinyl in Bilbao, Spain

Bilbao’s flea markets cater for both the casual visitor and the bargain-hunting professional.

Collectors flock to the city’s Plaza Nueva on Sunday for the hobbyist market which is rich with rare finds.

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Music aficionados leaf through stacks of vinyl records, book collectors page through historic tomes and stamp connoisseurs find limited editions.

Clem Onojeghuo
Music aficionados leaf through stacks of vinyl records, book collectors page through historic tomes and stamp connoisseurs find limited editions.Clem Onojeghuo

If you need a break from bargain-hunting, there are also some great tapas bars around the square.

With a quirkier and more affordable vibe is the San Francisco barrio with flea markets stocked with curious bric-a-brac and recycled crafts.

French designer fashion and food in Paris, France

Paris isn’t generally very wallet-friendly, but it is home to several flea markets full of bargains.

For nearly 150 years, the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen on the outskirts of the capital has delighted vintage enthusiasts.

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The vast labyrinth of covered and open stalls sells everything from knick-knacks to vintage designer accessories. Granted, a Chanel bag won’t come cheap, but if you are prepared for serious rummaging there are still treasures to unearth.

Bargains are easier to come by in the smaller Vanyes market where you can find fun bric-a-brac or Marché d’Aligre, a souk-like crush of food stalls and antiques.

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