Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays turn into the good kind of chaotic at St Jacobs Square, where shouting vendors vigorously prize their 70s dinner plates, vinyl collections and precious old cameras still in the original leather bags. This market is as old as the streets, and its steady popularity with brocanteurs from far and wide has caused countless little bric-a-brac shops to pop up around it (including number four and number six on this list). During the city-wide Ghent Festivities during the summer, the vendors are at their posts for 10 days straight, invigorated by the over one million visitors that stream into town for the occasion.
Fridays to Sundays from 8 AM to 1 PM
The largest flea market in Ghent is reserved for a community of princely origins. Once a walled-off court and birthplace to Emperor Charles V, the Prinsenhof is now one of the city’s most peaceful and pretty neighbourhoods, a true forgotten treasure that hides behind the 12th-century Castle of the Counts. In late summer, as part of its annual festivities, things liven up considerably thanks to live music, food, drinks and a flea market that stretches all over its web of cobbled alleys and underneath its hanging willow trees.
2017 edition: Sunday, September 3rd, from 9 AM to 4 PM
Modelled after Paris’ Bouquinistes, the book market on the Ajuinlei consists of dozens of tables loaded with second-hand books that line the River Leie. On Sundays, it forms the perfect transition stroll from the Kouter flower market to the St Jacobs flea market described above. Expect lots of locals browsing between heaps of used novels for the best bargains. When in need of English books, the brick-and-mortar English-language bookshop known as The English Book Shop offers just that, with the same bibliophile mood in the middle of the Ajuinlei.
Sundays, from 9 AM to 1 PM
Marijke Nys has stuffed her store near the Dampoort train station chockablock with glass cabinets to display as much of her decorative glasses, animal statuettes and general knick-knacks as possible. Burkelbloem usually lures you in with a quaint display of flower buckets and garden gnomes sitting on its pavement. And during the holidays, Christmas aficionados reliably flock to Marijke’s cabinets, which will be brimming with colourful baubles, twinkle lights in the form of different types of food and other kitschy ornaments that make the season all the merrier.
Burkelbloem, Dampoortstraat 92, Ghent, Belgium, +32 9 223 47 37
Walking into The Fallen Angels is like walking into an exceptionally well-organised hoarder’s house. What looks like an overwhelming deluge of china dolls, toy soldiers, tin boxes and old-school furniture at first glance turns out to belong to an ultimately efficient system put together by Isabelle Steel and her daughter Ganesha. This mother hen of curiosity cabinets, established in 1980, is the result of decades of scouring markets and dusty antique businesses, all the while becoming a staple of the brocanteur and even the occasional set producer in need of a hard-to-find prop. While Isabelle mainly stocks antiques and genuinely old items in her part of the store, Ganesha specialises in replicas of old movie posters, quirky postcards and charming knick-knacks both old and new next door.
The Fallen Angels, Jan Breydelstraat 29–31, Ghent, Belgium, +32 9 223 94 15
Genuine antique furniture in dark wood mixed in with old vinyl records and used comic books is the recipe of Meneertje Antiek, the intimate shop of Stijn Brouns and Peter Antheunis. Besides coming up with a charmer of a name – ‘Meneertje Antiek’ translates to ‘Little Mister Antiques’ – the two fellows have brought their passion to life in a store among the cluster of tiny bric-a-brac temples that have gathered around St Jacobs.
Meneertje Antiek, Baudelostraat 5, Ghent, Belgium, +32 489 69 48 29
Operating according to what they call the ‘people 2 people’ principle, Think Twice has grown into a nine shop-strong second-hand brand. Two of those nine branches sit in Ghent, including one attached to the aforementioned used bookstore The English Book Shop. Per the business’ MO, Think Twice, or ‘T2’, hauls in an entirely new collection every five weeks. As all vintage-loving Gentenaars well know, a couple of days before the swap is when to look for extreme bargains of three, two or even one euro deals on the shop’s reliably daring and colourful stock.
Think Twice, Ajuinlei 15A, Ghent, Belgium, +32 495 25 34 35
Think Twice, Nederkouter 118, Ghent, Belgium, +32 495 52 32 66