How to Spend a Weekend in Europe

It’s true that weekends here can be tricky – for the local and visitor alike.  At least in Continental Europe, pretty much everything is closed on Sunday and many small shops close early on Saturday.  (In our neighborhood in Hamburg, everything except the grocery store is closed by 2pm on Saturday –  including all THREE pharmacies!!).

Having lived in both France and now Germany, we’ve learned to adapt my schedule.  Trips to the grocery store (which I try to avoid altogether in favor of the market) and drugstore are carefully planned for Friday or early Saturday.

So, question:  what is one to do on a weekend in Europe??

Answer:  Shop for antiques and vintage goods!!

My husband and I both enjoy admiring (and sometimes purchasing) antiques and vintage pieces, so we have very full weekends here in Europe.  And, of course, as a lover and collector of all types of jewelry – from European couture vintage jewelry to contemporary fashion jewelry to ethnic and tribal jewelry – the antique markets and flea markets of Europe are ‘MUST DOs’.

Every weekend brings at least one flea/vintage/antique market in Hamburg.  Some are better than others, and we’ve learned which draw the best collectibles vendors.

There are several things that I look for at the markets:  

* VINTAGE JEWELRY – I am always on the lookout for unique pieces to add to my collection.  I look for interesting materials, shapes, colors and pieces with design features that are particularly innovative.  Last weekend I purchased the gold bracelet pictured below (for 2€) because I like its ‘series of spokes’ design, which give it a cage-y look.

There’s often plenty of fine jewelry for sale at the markets, but I’m more interested in costume jewelry – it’s generally bigger, more colorful – and more affordable!  It’s also difficult to distinguish whether the stones are real or fake or are what the vendor claims they are.  The same goes for designer jewelry.  There’s often Chanel jewelry on offer, but I would rarely buy any designer pieces unless I know the vendor.  Finally, although I love American designer vintage jewelry (Weiss, Trifari, Miriam Haskell, etc.), the prices for these brands is generally much higher in Europe, so I wait until I’m back in the U.S. to purchase them.  Unless I see an absolutely amazing piece that I have to have!

* JEWELRY COMPONENTS – I always look for crystals, bells, pendants and other weird/cool objects that could be incorporated into a necklace or bracelet.

* GILDED MIRRORS – I collect (rather, I am OBSESSED with) gilded mirrors.  I have quite a large collection of them at this point, but I will still make a purchase if a mirror is particularly beautiful or has a unique size or shape or if it’s a great price.

* VINTAGE TRAYS – I especially adore the ‘Florentine’ trays that were produced in Italy in the 1960s-70s.  But any tray that has a mirror (of course!) or other interesting handles or pattern on its face is a piece that I will consider purchasing.

Next time you’re in Europe, I would recommend hitting an antique market or vintage market on Sunday morning.  It’s loads of fun, full of interesting characters, coffee trucks (a must-have for us!) and tons of things to look at.  Don’t worry if you don’t speak the local language, many vendors speak English and even if they don’t, you can use your hands to communicate prices.  And don’t forget to negotiate prices – it’s part of the fun!

Happy Shopping!!!


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