The good news for anyone who suffers from wanderlust and an antiques addiction in equal measure is that antiquing is a wonderful way to see the world. Like traveling, antiquing is all about the experience, the people you meet, and the thrill of the hunt. “One of the few things you can know about antiques is that they were owned by somebody else, or by many people,” says Mo Wajselfish, owner of Leatherwood Antiques in Sandwich, Massachusetts, part of the state’s Cape Cod area. “This is all part of history, and of a social network.”
A few standards do apply: Most experts advise novice antiques-hunters to buy what they fall in love with, but that doesn’t mean you should get boondoggled. If you’re searching for a specific, high-ticket item—a rug in Marrakech, say—a little research ahead of time is key. “You should follow your heart,” says Wajselfish, “but be aware where prices are inflated.” And wherever you travel, be polite, kind, and fair—especially when bargaining. Remember, you’re negotiating—not arguing—and a lot of dealers aren’t just selling stuff, they’re trading in objects close to their own hearts.
While serious collectors will always land in destinations predetermined by the location of preferred antiques shows, for the rest of us who think that serendipity and seeing the world are part of the fun, here are four markets not to be missed.
Dubbed America’s Antiques Capital, this quaint town 30 minutes outside of Boston offers more than 25 shops to explore. Visitors will find a pickers’ paradise and old-timey vibes at establishments like The White Elephant Shop, while serious collectors can find early Americana, heirloom furnishings, and more at the more formal Andrew Spindler Antiques & Design and beyond. Time it right, and you could also hit the massive Brimfield Antique Show, which is held in May, July, and September just 90 minutes away.
The Souk El Khemis, on the northeast edge of Marrakech’s Medina, offers antique rugs, jewelry, pottery, and more. (Buyer beware, though: Not all items are as old as claimed.) For many, wandering cluelessly through the alleys here is part of the experience, but if your time is limited, consider hiring a local expert. Greet shop owners with a few friendly words in Arabic then begin haggling. Start low, stick to your final price, and be prepared to walk away—if the shop owner comes after you, you’ve got bargaining power. Ask up front about shipping on larger items like rugs; many shops can arrange it for you.
Round Top, Texas
Less than 90 minutes from Austin, Round Top, Texas (population 90) has become famous over the past 50 years for its massive, eponymous antiques show held every year in late September. (It returns in January and April, too.) More than 30,000 square feet of vendors display a range of wares, including early Americana and Texas primitive furnishings. The more recent European wing of the show delivers goods from England, France, Italy, Spain, and beyond.
Antiques-addicted travelers will be happy they chose sunny Provence over Paris when they stop in the small town of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, just east of Avignon. Among its narrow streets and charming town square are some 300 antiques and second-hand shops. Visit in August, when the town’s International Fair for Art and Antiques draws some 450 vendors. Then take a road trip to Arles, Pézenas, and Villeneuve-lès-Avignons, where you’ll find regional textiles, wrought iron, and faience, furnishings at various exquisite flea markets. Say hello—in French, si vous plait—when you enter shops and stalls; even if your accent is terrible, it’ll go a long way.