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The Best Flea Markets In The World

18/10/2010 10:39 | Updated 22 May 2015

best Flea markets Claudia Strasser Flea Market

Photos: Claudia Strasser

Seasoned collector Claudia Strasser shares her picks for the best flea markets in the world.

The thrill of a flea market is all about the moment of acquisition - finding an unbelievable deal or that perfectly restorable piece. But which are the best?

We approached blogger and author Claudia Strasser, whose blog, The Paris Apartment, recently became an iPhone app on navigating the best flea markets in Paris, and asked her to share her favourites in Europe and Asia. Not only do these four markets up the ante for even the most seasoned collectors, they offer a close-up of the culture where they're based, and, of course, scores of secondhand wares that you won't find hopping on and off of a tour bus.

Rome, Italy

Why it's one of the best flea markets:

It's a bustling flea market held in a four-storey car park. Everyone gets into the spirit and enjoys the festive atmosphere. It's a great place for one-stop shopping; decorators and collectors alike can find something special here. If you're visiting Rome, it's a great diversion from the usual tourist sites. Like all of Rome's markets, this is a great way to see the character of the locals and enjoy a very important part of life with true Roman spirit.

What you'll find:

Everything under the sun, including antiques and collectibles, vintage clothing and ephemera, and some new clay and glassware, but "mainly good old Italian vintage furniture and trinkets," Claudia says.

Claudia's best score to date:

A small porcelain antique pillbox from the 1800s, signed by the artist. She's used it for pills, but it's also doubled as a catchall for tiny trinkets, rings and a lock of hair.

The Underground, Via Crispi, 96, Rome, between Piazza del Popolo, Via Sistina and Via Veneto; 2nd Saturday and Sunday of the month, Saturday, 3pm to 8pm; Sunday, 10:30am to 7:30pm; closed in the summer

best flea markets Rome and Singapore Flea MarkestWho knows when a pair of dice or an initial stamp will come in handy, but they do look lovely en masse. Claudia spotted these on trips to Singapore's Thieves Market (left) and The Underground in Rome (right). Photos: Claudia Strasser

Singapore, Malaysia

Why it's one of the best flea markets:

It's the oldest market in Singapore and a striking contrast to the slick feel of most of the shopping in the city. It acquired its name because years ago it was the place to buy stolen goods, everything from cars to gold. The chaotic atmosphere has no pretense, and everyone lets it all hang out. The sellers are loud, crass and want to move merchandise, not discuss it. It also attracts young designers who set up stalls with their own designs. It's the atmosphere of a true bazaar. It's definitely a place to linger and enjoy the spectacle, but when you hone in, you're sure to find a diamond between what looks like junk.

What you'll find:

Old ads, postcards, records, vintage clothing, housewares, cameras, old war memorabilia, small furniture, electronics, some new goods, crafts and jewellery.

Claudia's best score to date:

Old movie posters and a few hotel ashtrays.

Sungei Road Thieves Market, Jalan Basar near Bugis MRT station; 1pm to 7pm daily

best flea markets: London and Paris FleaI see London, I see France - and plenty of treasures, too. London's Portobello Road (left) and Paris' Clignancourt market (right). Photos: Claudia Strasser

Marché aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt

Paris, France

Why it's one of the best flea markets:

This is the queen of all markets and pure heaven for flea market lovers. It's truly a city within the city, and with 12 sub-markets and over 3,000 vendors, one of the greatest attractions in Paris. It's a special place that's treasured by the French and considered a historic landmark, dating back more than a century. Dealers take their trade very seriously and work hard to curate their stalls and maintain impeccable collections.

What you'll find:

Furniture, including mirrored vanities, nightstands, chaise lounges, slipper chairs and antique clothing. French posters, maps, chandeliers, lampshades, dresser accessories, original art, mirrors, frames, old letters, books, ephemera, trunks, jewelry, clothing, silver, beds and decorative objects for tables and walls.

Claudia's best score to date:

This is the ultimate sweet shop to a flea market fanatic. "Each time I visit there's something more incomprehensibly beautiful than the last," Claudia says. Her latest score just arrived at her home in New York - a chandelier she plans to restore to its original glory.

Insider tip:

Veer off the beaten path of rue des Rosiers and head down rue Paul Bert to the back alleys for bargains in Jules Vallès and le Passage. The deeper back you go, the better the prices. You can find everything from high-end authentic antiques from the 1600s in perfect condition to little trinkets for 1 euro. The grungy sections are a far cry from the high end stuff, but that's where the dealers are shopping.

Metro: PT. de Clignancourt, Friday and Monday, 9 to 1pm; weekends from 9am to 6pm

best flea marketsThere's a world of flea markets out there. Above, London's Portobello Road flea market. Photo: suvodeb, Flickr

West London

Why it's one of the best flea markets:

Portobello is full of history, pomp and circumstance, and it has been going since 1870. Along with the antique stalls there are also arcades, restaurants and small shops. And it's impossible not to find something incredible because it's one of the world's largest antiques markets with over 1,000 dealers selling every kind of antique and collectible imaginable.

What you'll find:

There are six arcades and markets along Portobello Road with hundreds of dealers selling everything from antique fabrics and quilts to furniture, lamps, clocks, vintage clothing, cameras, miniatures, coins, lace, linens, period costumes, ceramic tiles, door knobs and locks, vintage fashion and accessories, lingerie bags and dresser sets.

Claudia's best score to date:

A pair of tiny vintage pink silk, pleated lampshades with a green velvet ribbon trim that were perfect on boudoir lamps, though she's since sold them.

Insider tip:

Dealers start selling to each other first so get there early to shop with the pros and get trade prices. Otherwise, most stalls are open by 8am and close at around 4pm.

Portobello Road and Wesbourne Grove in Notting Hill, every Saturday; shops and flea market open throughout the week and on Fridays.

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