Your Ultimate Guide To The Best Flea Markets In The Bay!

Whomever coined the phrase, "One man's trash is another man's treasure," must have known a thing or two about the joys of the flea market. And while the thought of a garden-variety flea might conjure visions of half-used shampoo bottles and three packs of T-shirts, it need not! In fact, the Bay Area boasts some of the best markets in the country. Just imagine discovering a blouse from the ‘20s for a mere $20, an entire rack of super-cute $5 dresses, or the perfect vintage dresser for a fraction of the Pottery Barn price. Deals like this are just a short drive away. To streamline your bargain-hunting adventure, we’re giving you the lowdown on the top three flea markets around San Francisco—plus a list of our recent scores. So, slather on the sunscreen, bring a big, empty tote, and put on a convincing bargaining face, and we’ll see you at the flea!
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Alemany Flea Market
When: Every Sunday.
Located in San Francisco, this is the quintessential flea market with the long-held distinction of being the ultimate garage sale. Just don't let the haphazard piles of clothes and boxes spilling over with random junk fool you into thinking there aren't treasures to be found! You may have to dig a little bit deeper at Alemany than the better-known Alameda market, but there are plenty of amazing things lying around waiting to be rescued. The prices here are also the best around, with many of the sellers willing to offer a bargain if you come prepared with dollar bills and a smile.
Recent Alemany Scores: ‘60s wicker-basket purse ($5), ‘60s lace maxi-dress ($25), a pair of ‘40s perfume bottles ($3).

Photos: Ashley Ording
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Alameda Point Antiques Faire
When: Every first Sunday of the month.
The Alameda Faire is the holy grail of local—and perhaps national—flea markets, boasting more than 800 vendors and thousands of treasure-hunting shoppers that line up as early as 6 a.m. just to get inside. Vendors can only sell merchandise that is at least 20 years or older, which means shoppers won't find the same piles of new-ish wares that are common at Alemany. Just remember to pack your walking shoes (the journey from the parking lot to the market can take 30 minutes!) and your endurance; The market is so big (and sometimes overwhelming), that visitors can easily make an entire day out of poking around without ever discovering half of the vendors. Also, be prepared to find a mix of bargains and antique-store prices. And if you’re looking to buy something big (i.e., furniture), make sure you have a roomy vehicle to bring it home with that very same day.
Recent Alameda Scores: ‘20s velvet blouse ($20), ‘40s floral parasol ($15), ‘50s valentines ($1 for 3).

Photos: Ashley Ording
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Candlestick Park Antiques & Collectibles Faire
When: Every third Sunday of the month.
The smaller cousin of the Alameda Faire, the Candlestick Faire features many of the same dealers but on a smaller (and less overwhelming!) scale. It started only a year ago, but Candlestick already has the distinction of being one of the best flea markets in the Bay. If you can avoid the intense pull of the kettle corn and gourmet donut stands (which is a challenge in and of itself), you will find a little bit of everything at decent prices. Racks of clothes stand next to amazing furniture from every decade, and there are plenty of tables piled high with amazing jewelry if you feel like getting a bit of vintage dust on your hands. Oh, and if you can't resist those mini-gourmet donuts, keep in mind that one order is a dozen and you will eat them all. That alone might be worth the price of the $5-$10 admission, however.
Recent Alameda Scores: A '50s poodle cardigan ($15), '80s Ferragamo shoes ($20), and two '40s chalkware wall hangings ($40).

Photos: Candlestick Antiques