The Complete Guide To The Jeu De Balle Flea Market In Brussels

The Jeu de Balle Flea Market /©Stephane Mignon/Flick
The Jeu de Balle Flea Market /©Stephane Mignon/Flick
Photo of Ana Stambolic
9 February 2017

The Jeu de Balle Flea Market, also known as the Old Market, is surely the most famous flea market in Belgium’s capital city, and is is the world’s only antique and flea market that is open 365 days a year. Embark on a unique journey to the heart of time and treasure hunt among antiquities and unique pieces.

The Jeu de Balle Flea Market / | © Patrick Despoix /WikiCommons

Location and History

The Jeu de Balle Flea Market is located in the heart of the Marolles district, which has a long history when it comes to its location and its function. In the 17th century, it was intended for the sale of rags (second-hand clothes) and was located south of the city, on the left side of the river Seine. This had a negative impact on the development of the central boulevards, so, the town council decided to create the Place Anneessens in place of this market and to move the old market towards the Marolles.

The Place du Jeu de Balle was established in 1854, at the same time as the rue Blaes. It went by the name Renard (fox), because it was situated near Renard Street and it was originally intended to serve as a playing field for jeu de balle (Frisian handball). Officially in 1873, the merchants settled on Renard and they have been working there since 1919. Thus, the old market situated at Place Annessens became the forerunner of the flea market we know today.

The Jeu de Balle Flea Market / | ©Stephane Mignon/Flick

What can you find?

The Jeu de Balle Flea Market is a sociological representations of the area. It gathers antique lovers, collectors, occasional visitors and people who are simply headed out for a stroll. Here you can find almost everything and anything you’ve ever wanted in a lively and entertaining atmosphere.

The market is composed of dealers selling pieces strewn out on blankets and sheets or off the back of their trucks and cars. There are also stands crammed with objects, from antique porcelain and pictures to 19th-century crossbows and tiny tin objects made from the 20th century, parchment, fabric, vintage clothes, etc. Most of these stands offer a variety of different objects, but here and there you can find sellers dedicated to only one specific kind of treasure.

For music and book lovers, there are boxes full of old vinyl records and rare books, so dig in – you may find some good old stuff. While you are passing through the aisles of antiquarians, pay close attention, as each object could hide an interesting story.

The Jeu de Balle Flea Market / | ©sam.romilly/Flick

Tips and tricks on how to make the most of your time at the market

This is a place full of everything, from junk to some rare pieces, so be patient. If you want to find real gems, dig in — don’t just scratch the surface. When you find your treasure, don’t hesitate to bargain for a good price.

The best days to visit the market as regulars are Thursdays and Fridays, but on Saturdays and Sundays, you might discover some more specific or rare items that are usually available only on the weekends.

In the surrounding streets (Rue Haute, Rue Blaes and Place du Grand Sablon) you can also discover antique dealers and second hand shops, and if you want a break from treasure hunting, don’t hesitate to visit some of the cafes and restaurants in the area.

Jeu de Balle Flea Market/Courtesy of Ana Stambolic

Monday-Friday: 6am – 2pm

Weekends: 6am – 3pm

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