Nothing can compare to the craftsmanship, detail and stories etched into glorious, one-off antiques. Our collection of historic hotels are filled with them. If you’re a second-hand stalker who loves trawling through jam-packed flea markets for bargains, you’ll find euphoria in the following places…
1. Ansbach: Germany
Welcoming you in like an old friend, antique haven Antiqitäten Eichinger is Ansbach’s golden boy when it comes to treasures. A marriage of bronze and mahogany, there’s a universe of precious items to get lost in. If you get your kicks from the thrill of the bid, head to the nearby antique auctions – Auction House Weidler in Nuremberg and Kempf in Würzburg. The latter is also the famous wine capital of Bavaria. As well as stunning white wines from the region, it’s a dream for antique shopaholics. You can get there by car or a fast regional train.
WHERE TO STAY: In an antique town, it seems only natural to stay in an antique house. Hotel Schwarzer Bock in Ansbach is just that – a time-turning property that brings Baroque style into the 21st century.
2. Arezzo: Italy
Dive straight into the mad excitement of treasure hunting at Fiera Antiquaria in Arezzo. The gigantic antique market is right in the heart of the city and was the first of its kind in Italy, dating back to 1968. Hundreds of stalls set up in Piazza Grande and its surroundings on the first Sunday and the Saturday before each month. It’s an all-day affair with so much variety, you’re bound to find something special.
WHERE TO STAY: Castello di Gargonza in Arezzo is the real deal. A 13th-century castle that perches on the Tuscan hills like a magnificent wedding cake topper. Dante Alighieri was a guest in 1303 and he’d no doubt recognise the carefully restored hideaway if he visited today.
3. Vienna: Austria
Easily one of the best in Europe, The Flohmarkt in Vienna is a smosmagord of ancient wonders. It’s set right beside the food market (full of eager weekend hunters grabbing pick-me-ups) and has a mindblowing range of wares. Half the stalls are dedicated to local sellers, but the other half could be absolutely anything: old postcards, quirky ornaments, clothes, lams, records, rugs, you name it.
WHERE TO STAY: History lovers flock to the soulful Hotel Stefanie, also the oldest hotel in Vienna. A cherished city icon with culture in riches, this 17th-century home-from-home has made guests feel well and truly pampered for thousands of years.
4. Brussels: Belgium
Enter a veritable Shangri-La of antique hustlers, surrounded by handsome mansion houses at the ever-bustling Sablon. At weekends, the square comes to life as magpie-eyed locals and tourists plunder the stalls of Europe’s oldest antique market. If you ever tire of the diverse and fascinating items for sale, dip into the chic chocolate shops and contemporary art galleries closeby.
WHERE TO STAY: Get the most out of your Belgian break by hopping a quick train to Bruges, another gem for bric-à-brac delights and antique happenings. Stay in the heart of the city at Flanders Hotel, the ideal base for exploring historic sites. Inside is a former Gothic room which was once part of a Dominican Monastery dating from the year 1304.
5. Lisbon: Portugal
Feira da Ladra is often mistakenly thought to mean ‘Thieves’ Market’, but don’t let that put you off. Lisbon’s iconic flea market dates back to the 12th century and is held every Tuesday and Saturday. Stalls range from fancy furniture displays to humble wares set on stretched-out rugs. Traders are all legal, but do inspect items closely to sift the junk from the jewels.
WHERE TO STAY: You’ll be tempted to ask your hosts at the romantic As Janelas Verdes if you can buy the furnishings here. Sadly, they’re not for sale, but the objects d’art, books and period furniture inside this 18th-century townhouse are like stepping into an old-world novel.