rommel, n : 1 mess, shambles: rommel maken make a mess
2 (ondeugdelijke waar) junk, rubbish, trash
rommelen, v : 1 rumble, roll: de donder rommelt in de verte – the thunder is rumbling in the distance
2 rummage: in zijn papieren rommelen – shuffle one’s papers
Rommel is a word that you come across quite often in Flanders, most commonly as rommelmarkt or second-hand, or flea market. These are markets at which Belgians get rid of the junk from their cellars and attics.
The Belgian flea markets offer a unique combination of cultural insight into the Belgian homes and a way to stock up on useful and pretty things for your own home. Clearing out your house and giving the others a chance to grab useful items at a low price is one of the favourite pastimes of locals, so come along and dive in!
Get the best bargain
- Come early – or come late
Be there early if you want to have the greatest choice. In fact, many dealers (yes, even in the second-hand world there are professionals) show up early and snatch up the best items before the crowds appear. Or, show up just before closing times for best deals. The sellers will be eager to get rid of as much stuff as possible at any price.
- Ask for a price and haggle – or not
There are no fixed rules at the markets – some sellers stick to their prices no matter what and some are happy to haggle. But be aware that this is no Oriental market – don’t offer 1 euro if the price is 10 euro! In my experience, Belgians might give you about 20 % discount, but much depends on your attitude and their mood.
Friendliness will get you further than aggressive negotiations. As a seller, I once gave a large discount to someone who offered to bring me a coffee. Remember that sellers often have to stay with their things the whole day and don’t have time to stroll around. Make their life easier and they might reward you with a discount.
It is also more common to discuss the price for more expensive items, whereas smaller purchases are commonly sold at face value. Another way of asking for a good deal is to buy more than one item and then ask for a bundle price.
- Know your terminology
A garageverkoop (garage sale or yard sale) is when people clear out their man sheds, so you can expect more tools and DIY stuff. It originally meant the sale in front of your own home, where you would showcase your second-hand goods on your drive. Nowadays, these are open to people from other neighbourhoods as well. Rommelmarkt is your usual flea market and can be organised at a large square or a parking lot (so not in front of a house), while a braderie is when shops clear out their stocks. But the terminology is getting blurred and you will see the three terms used interchangeably.
- Know what to expect
By far the largest number of goods fall into two main categories: children’s items and clothing. There will be a large choice of those and in fact, many Belgian parents go to second-hand markets to stock up on affordable wardrobe and toys for the little ones. Women also do well in the clothing range, while clothes for men are rarer. Shoes are sold as well. The next largest categories are small household items – (small) furniture, cutlery, glasses, china – and books & DVD’s. Some sellers will have English-language books, while DVD’s (Region 2) come with original language version and subtitles in several languages.
- Bring cash
Trading at the rommelmarkt is done in cash. Make sure you stock up on small change or you might lose a good bargain as the seller runs out of coins.
Regular second-hand markets in Ghent and surroundings
- Sint-Jacobs and Beverhoutplein, Ghent: every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 8am-1pm
- Korenmarkt, Ghent: antique, art and vintage, every first Saturday of the month, 10am-6pm
- Sint-Niklaas: around the train station, every Saturday, 1pm-5pm
- Aalst: Rollerland, every Sunday, 8am-1pm
- Eeklo: Kaaiken, every Sunday, 8am-1pm
Second-hand markets in Ghent, summer 2019
The flea market season runs approximately from April until October. The website Uit in Gent has an updated list of all flea markets in Gent. Keep your eyes open for local markets – the neighbourhood ones will be advertised in people’s windows or on local notice boards.
Here are some of the largest flea markets to visit this summer in Ghent:
- DOK Market: this is a summer favourite at the DOK Gent – and accordingly spots for sellers get sold out quickly! The market takes places partially under the roof of the old factory hall and partially in open air. It’s really large so expect a good selection of different items. There’s also a canteen and a food truck, so you can make a day of it. This year it will take place on 5th of May, 2nd of June, 7th July, 11th and 25th of August and 29th of September.
- Patershol market: this flea market is part of the Patersholfeesten and takes place in the area of Patershol. While originally meant foremost for the local residents, it has now grown into something bigger. The great atmosphere of the festival makes this one of the liveliest rommelmarkten in town. This year the market takes place on Sunday, 11th August.
- Boekenmarkt Ajuinlei: this is Sunday regular. Every Sunday morning (10-14h) you can sell (and buy) second-hand books on the Ajuinlei in Ghent. Register with the Dekenij Sint Michiels.
- Check out the agenda of UiT and search for “rommelmarkt” to see other upcoming second-hand markets.
How to participate
Would you like to get rid of things that are clogging up your home? Each rommelmarkt has a designated contact person that you can write to in order to book a spot (standplaats). Some of the second-hand markets are only open to residents of participating streets.
You will usually have to pay a small fee (about 5 EUR) for your ‘stand’ (basically, something like 2mx2m ground space). The fee will be collected during the day by the organisers in cash, or sometimes needs to be transferred in advance.
Bring your own ‘furniture’ to display your goods and don’t forget to pack water and sandwiches. The more popular markets get sold out very fast, so check well in advance. Additionally, the popular markets are slightly more expensive than the average.
If you would like to organise something in your neighbourhood, contact the City Hall to obtain a permit first. Life in Belgium moves slower than elsewhere, so plan a few months in advance.
Are there other tips about rommelmarkten you would like to share with us? Or perhaps you know of a second-hand market with a great atmosphere that we forgot to mention? Let us know in the comments!