As much as we love our stateside antique marts and fleas, Across the Pond, it’s a whole different ball game. Dotted with pilgrimage-worthy antique fairs like London’s Portobello Road and Provence’s L’Isle-Sur-la-Sourge, Europe is an antique hunter’s paradise. If you’ve been thinking about finally booking that dream European antiques excursion, you’re in luck. We’ve tapped Karen Bogh and Jennifer Aaronsen, the second and third-generation dealers behind Chairish seller Rose Victoria, to give us the lowdown on their favorite European antiques destinations. From where to shop, where to nosh, and where to drop your bags, your dream European shopping itinerary has arrived. First stop: London!
“What isn’t there to love about London? “ asks Jenn. “The history, the architecture, the hidden gardens, the food! You could spend a lifetime exploring the city and still not see everything.”
If you’ve come to London for antiques, your beeline will more than likely be to Portabello Road, the world’s largest antiques fair. “We shop Portobello Road first thing Saturday morning,” says Jenn, who recommends shooting for an 8am arrival time. Once you’re off, Jenn suggests hitting up General Store No. 2 in the Admiral Vernon Antiques Market. The store offers an eclectic mix, but specializes in folk art, garden items, pottery, and paintings. Afterwards, be sure to stop by Henry Gregory for its quintessentially British finds like antique sporting equipment and Victorian era luggage (hello, Louis Vuitton steamer trunks!).
For convenient lodgings that don’t sacrifice style, Jenn suggests the Hilton London Paddington. Housed in an impressive 19th century building that’s equipped with both a restaurant and a trendy bar, 146 Paddington, the hotel has the added benefit of being attached to the Paddington train and underground station. “Take the Heathrow Express directly from the Heathrow airport to Paddington Station. When you de-board the hotel is just steps away.” Jenn says.
For the best dim sum in town, Jenn swears by Dumplings’ Legend Chinatown. Save room for the siu long bao, which are tender dumplings filled with chicken, pork, shrimp or vegetables. Eat them piping hot, with a splash of vinegar. If you’re in the mood for European fare, make your way to Cotè French Brasserie, which Jenn likens to “sitting in a cafè in Paris.” Come expecting rich, decadent French food, like Jenn’s personal favorite, the Poulet Grillé. For brunch, head over to Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings. Order the lobster royale, Jenn advises; a grilled lobster tail topped in spinach and doused in creamy hollandaise; or the Huevos Benedictos. “Both go great with their bottomless mimosas and bloody Marys!”
Since all of the museums in London offer free admission (a polite donation is all that’s requested), Jenn encourages checking out the Victoria & Albert Museum—“the pottery room alone is worth the trip!” Come evening, grab dinner and a show. “There is a TKTS discount ticket booth in Leicester Square with killer deals on tickets,” she says. “Since it’s owned by the Theatre association, you can be assured it’s legit.” If authentic British culture is your aim, Jenn loves passing a hour or two in an authentic British pub, too. “The British love socializing, even more so when there is a pint involved!” she says. Arrive around 5 to soak in the true essence of happy hour and crowd-sourced local tips.
“Lincoln is such a great town!” says Jenn. “Starting in the city center, you have the University of Lincoln, with a direct the path to the massively shop-able High Street. From there, you can make your way up steep hill towards the Lincoln Cathedral. The cathedral area is one of our favorite parts of the city. It features all the best restaurants, pubs, boutique and novelty shops.”
Lincolnshire is known for its massive antiques fairs like the Lincoln Antiques and Home Show and Newark Antiques & Collectors Fair. While these shows are the obvious draws, Jenn recommends shopping the independent fairs that crop up the Sunday before, too. “Some of our favorite finds come from dealers that do not do the large shows,” she says. Be sure to scout out venues like the Newark Antiques & Interiors, Albert Street Antiques Centre, Pilgrim Antiques Centre, and Swinderby Village Hall.
Hotel pickings can be scarce in the Lincolnshire area, so Jenn recommends booking an Airbnb if you can, or considering the offerings in Brayford Pool, which is located on Lincoln’s waterfront. “Brayford has several large hotels, a multi-screen movie theatre and many good restaurants,” says Jenn. “It’s only a 5 minute walk to the High Street and about 20 minute walk to the top of the hill.”
If you’re craving hearty Italian, head to Gino’s Ristorante Pizzeria Italiano. “Gino’s is like having a little piece of Italy in Lincolnshire,” says Jenn, who suggests starting with the bruschetta and then sliding into home with an Americano Diavalo pie. For comfort food served up in historical digs, check out Browns Pie Shop. “Although a pie shop, our favorite dish is the chicken Wellington, or their steak and ale pie,” says Jenn. Even though it’s a bit outside of town, the ladies love The Pyewipe Inn. Situated right on the river, this intimate pub, and sometimes-wedding-venue, offers up a robust menu. For a British classic, you can’t go wrong with the beer-battered haddock and chips.
While in town you won’t be able to miss the Lincoln Cathedral and Castle, so it’s worth making the hike up to see it. History buffs take note: an original copy of the 1215 Magna Carta is on display inside. To satisfy your frolicking-in-the-English-countryside fantasies, head to Doddington Hall & Gardens. Tour the historic houses or just meander the lush estate grounds which come alive with wild crocus, snow drops, and daffodils every spring.
Known for its antique shops and their weekend markets, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is what South of France daydreams are made of. Jenn and Karen swing by every year for the two titan-sized antiques markets which happen in the spring and summer.
In L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, life revolves around the two yearly antique markets, the Easter Market and August Market. During both, a city-wide hiatus ensues and the streets flood with hundreds antiques vendors who hawk everything from vintage chocolate molds to Baroque furniture. “You could spend literally days shopping the market” says Jenn. If your visit doesn’t coincide with one of the two fairs, be sure to check out the shops in nearby Barjols in Provence or the weekly Sunday market in Carpentras. Trade members should also swing by the Montpellier International Antiques and Flea.
When you’ve worked up an appetite from all that antiquing, head to Lou Burger, a no-frills burger shack that serves up hulking ciabatta-bun burgers accompanied by a pile of crisp, baton-style fries. Another grab-and-go option, perfect for capping off a day at the fairs is Pizza and Co Le Thor. A far cry from your typical dive, Pizza and Co tops their pies with everything from potato rounds to fresh-picked asparagus. And since no French vacation is complete without a killer croque Monsieur, head to Cafè de France for one of the best you’ll ever have.
If you have a few off-hours while in town, heed Jenn’s advice and seek out a vineyard. “You are in one of the best wine regions in the world,” she says. “Go on a wine tour and have a tasting.” As a quick Google search will prove, there’s no shortage of fairytale-esque estates to do just that in the area. Jenn also recommends visiting the former quarries in the Alpilles mountains which have been transformed into Carrieres des Lumieres, a cavernous museum space in which artists’ work are projected onto the limestone walls. Previous shows have included Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Marc Chagall. This fall will bring Picasso and the Spanish masters.
Lead photo courtesy of Rose Victoria