Tongeren, the oldest town of Belgium is also home to a vast and fascinating flea market. Perfect for a few hours treasure hunt.
Yesterday, Sunday morning I woke up like a kid on Christmas morning, wondering what goodies on the flea market in Tongeren were waiting for me. This is the oldest town in Belgium, just 45 minutes from my hometown, and happily also hosts the biggest weekly antiques market in the Benelux region.Walking of the parking the first thing I see is a woman in traditional Flemish costume, helping attract browsers to the vintage farmhouse paraphernalia she has spread out around her. In a nearby square, cafes offer coffee and pastries – plus morning beer (hey, this is Belgium) – to shoppers pausing from treasure hunting.What began as an impromptu flea market in the 1970s now draws up to a few hundred sellers every Sunday from across Belgium and the Netherlands, and they fill Tongeren’s old centre – from tiny cobbled alleys to the sports hall.I snapped up a distinctive neon sign board of a mexican beer (25 Euro) from one of the stalls lining the old town walls on Moerenstraat, their fusion of medieval flint and Roman brickwork a fine backdrop to the timeless bustle of trade. Further along, I can’t resist some really heavy stuff. This market sells many original German Nazi-items. In Germany it’s strictly forbidden to sell those things. In the Netherlands the sale is not prohibited but people do have a lot of criticism if you sell these items. There are many passports from German soldiers, but also bayonets, grenades, a machine-gun, SS maps, honorary medals, but also a band that once belonged to a Jewish member of the Jewish “Ghetto Polizei”. I am definitely a fierce opponent of right-wing extremism, but for me such a band has a lot of historical value. After I had checked the band in a nearby cafe under a UV lamp, I was really happy: it was not a fake band. From 7 o’clock the oldest city of Belgium transforms into one large – almost medieval – market place. Some 40 renowned antique shops and 350 (specialized) exhibitors take their old antiques, brocante, design, vintage items and rare collector’s items. Thousands of visitors from all corners of the world descend to this weekly antique hotspot. The bustling atmosphere in the historic setting is legendary. Early birds spot the most interesting valuables. If you make sure you are there at 8 am you have three hours to walk around. That’s more than enough. Beware: at 12:00h they start to break up their stuff. Park your car on this free parking space GPS 50.7786290 5.47119065 (copy this GPS-code in Google Maps and start your car !).