For some years ago, visiting a flea market somewhere in Eastern Europe could be a great adventure. Is it still the same commerce with copies of brands, street fighting weapons and historical objects?
I’m not a traditional shopping maniac who discover every new city from its shopping malls. But I like open air-markets. Not for buying stuff, I’m more of a watcher. I simply enjoy looking at the people working there, the ordinary people that buy their daily goods, the products, and the prices. And you may have a great chat with some sellers that aren’t busy.
What this markets could offer, is an opportunity to feel the soul of Eastern Europe. Now, let’s talk about some of the bigger open-air markets or flea markets in Eastern Europe. This is right from my memory, so please update yourself before planning a visit.
Many of the biggest and most interesting flea markets have been closed. One I miss is the one in Warsaw located on the Praga-side. This place was demolished to make space for a new soccer stadium for Euro 2012 and has sadly not recovered in any other place. There are still some smaller markets around Praga.
Some other flea markets in Eastern Europe
Holesovicka Trznice is the biggest market in central Prague and has been running for many years, mostly by Vietnamese. When I first visited this market for maybe 15 years ago, it was in total contrast to what it is today. These days, the feel of chaos very everywhere, the sellers where really pushy and copies of brand clothes and huge amounts of street fighting weapons (legal in the Czech Republic) were displayed at every sales table.
Today the atmosphere is calmer. Most of the products are unbranded clothes from manufactured in China. Some of them are cheap and some of them have a very bad quality. The prices are always possible to discuss.
If you are a little bit more adventurous, you can visit Sapa which is an even bigger market located in the suburb of Libušská.
Bucharest has also several markets spread out over the city. On Sundays is a flea market held at Piața Libertății. The biggest focus here is old stuff or replicas of old stuff. If you prefer more commerce in Bucharest, check Targul Vitan on the outskirts of the city. Also, Obor is another big flea market. Bucharest is some of a capital of flea markets.
Romania’s equivalent to eBay is Complex Comercial Rahova and is located at the tram stop Piata Rahova. Here are tons of cheap products imported from China, but also very much food and vegetables. It can be crowded but well worth a visit.
Another place that I have in mind is Gariūnai right outside Lithuania’s capital Vilnius. Here you can find 10.000 sellers. This market is pretty big and a contrast to the imported goods from China, are that much products from Russia could be found here.
Every major city in Eastern Europe has still big flea market, especially on Sundays. Ask a taxi driver about it. Small markets with similar products can be found everywhere trough Eastern Europe.
About brand copies on flea markets
Many people ask me about brand copies of handbags, shoes, and other visible clothes from these markets. Of course, they exist. But don’t think the walls are covered with these copies, at least not inside the European Union.
Since the last ten years, the EU has won the war on brand copies in the member countries. They are still available, but not without interest from a customer. Also, the punishment for handling brand copies are much harder today – Both for sellers and buyers. There are stories of tourists who bought copies in Italy and then been controlled at customs, and obtain a fine of thousands of Euros just for some sunglasses and a handbag.
When you go to a country that’s no member of the European Union, the situation is different.In countries more towards the east like, Moldova and Ukraine, the copies exist but isn’t the main event at the flea markets.
On the Balkan, my opinion is that they have a more prominent role. If you enter a market where regular people sell their stuff, you may see piles of Loius Vitton wallets for 5 Euros, Ray-Ban glasses for 3 Euros, Hugo Boss leather belts for 5 Euros, fake Rolex watches and so on. Everything is more or less bad quality copies of course. The design is OK, but the quality is often really poor.
One thing is quite comic. In Montenegro’s capital Podgorica, you have a shopping center with the name “Mall of Montenegro“. It’s divided into two sections. The first section has regular shops with the international brands. The second section is a kind of black market which sells the same things but of course copies for 1/10 of the price on the other side of the wall.
I don’t urge you to buy illegal copies. It’s in fact illegal.
Historical collectibles at flea markets
One subject I really like is historical collectibles and in some flea markets, they flow. Things from second world war are nowadays quite expensive, and also things from the communist era have increasing prices. If something is too cheap, it’s probably a replica made in China. China produces tons of old war medals and other things from the past.
And one last advice. Some countries have restriction about bringing historical objects outside the country. Ukraine is one example. It’s not a good thing to be stopped, searched and get a fine in the customs control just for an old decoration or something.
Good luck with your bargain hunt!