Shopping guide: The best Los Angeles flea markets

Angelenos head to flea markets year-round in search of rare, vintage finds.

The Rose Bowl flea market in Los Angeles California

The Rose Bowl Flea Market in Los Angeles California. (photo: Martha Rivera)

I must admit, my love of thrift stores waned around the time I was 25. As thrift stores grew in popularity, that ‘great find’ seemed to happen less and less frequently.

When I moved to New York, I had high expectations for well known flea markets like the Brooklyn Flea and Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market . I quickly discovered, however, that there are a lot of New Yorkers with an eye for the unique. Merchandise was either picked over or much more expensive than my small budget could handle.

Thanks to the Los Angeles flea markets, though, my love of vintage and the thrill of the find has been rekindled.

Read on for my favorite LA flea markets and advice on how to get the most value at the local flea.

>> UPDATE 12/15/13 – The author has expanded this list to include 3 more LA markets! Click here to read the follow-up post.

Vintage sunglasses from LA's Rose Bowl Flea Market

Vintage sunglasses from LA's Rose Bowl Flea Market. (photo: Martha Rivera)

Shopping tips

Flea market culture reigns in LA. Sunday may be the day of the rest, but it’s also the day of the flea. From vintage clothes to sunglasses, artwork and mid-century modern furniture, there is something for everyone at area flea markets.

The most important shopping advice: prioritize. If you don’t have an agenda, deciding on clothes vs furniture vs housewares will be overwhelming.

Also, you’ll get the best deals at the end of the day. Most vendors don’t want to pack up all their wares, especially furniture, so they will be willing to make a great deal.

So bring patience, a bottle of water, a tote bag and cash, and get ready to shop!

Melrose Trading Post - Buying Vintage Frames

Buying vintage frames at the Melrose Trading Post. (photo: Martha Rivera)

Top Flea Markets

Los Angeles has a flea market to suit every energy level, from the small market at the local high school to the world renowned Rose Bowl. These are my favorites:

“Lite”

The Melrose Trading Post
7850 Melrose Avenue
Every Sunday
9am – 5pm
$2.00

The Melrose flea market takes place every Sunday in the Fairfax High School parking lot. This is the type of flea market you go to after brunch in Hollywood, and you feel like shopping but can’t bear to go inside a mall. It’s also a great place to find unique birthday presents. Smaller than most flea markets, it only has about 200 vendors. The stalls sell an eclectic blend of local art, jewelry, some furniture but mainly vintage clothes and shoes. One vendor sells prints of famed street artist Banksy’s famous work. It has a small food court so don’t go hungry. But if you get a snack, catch the jazz band playing in the food court area. Set in the heart of LA, this flea market makes for some fun people watching too. So be sure to wear your Sunday (hipster) best.

vintage offerings at the PCC Flea

The PCC Flea Market. (photo: abimaxim/Flickr)

“Medium”

PCC Flea Market
1570 E. Colorado Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91106-2003
(626)-585-7906
1st Sunday of every month
8am – 3pm
Free

Partially set inside a parking garage on the Pasadena Community College campus, this is one of my favorite flea markets. It’s big but not too big. There is a wide variety of merchandise, from French linens to clothes, furniture, records and lots of tchockes. One vintage linen vendor revealed that Anthropologie buyers frequent her booth. Compared to other markets, prices are more reasonable and vendors are more willing to negotiate. There is a large selection of furniture, especially mid-century modern pieces. What I appreciate most about this flea market is that I don’t feel rushed or overwhelmed. I can browse and mull over a purchase without fear that it is going to be gone when I go back to get it. You can spend at least 2 hours in this flea market shopping and roaming around. Once you’re done, grab lunch at one of the restaurants along Colorado Blvd or head down the road to Old Town Pasadena for some more local eats.

Vintage furniture from the PCC Flea Market

Vintage furniture from the PCC Flea Market. (photo: Martha Rivera)

“Super Size”

Rose Bowl Flea Market
1001 Rose Bowl Dr, Pasadena, CA 91103
2nd Sunday of every month
5am – 4:30pm
$8.00

This is a world famous shopping destination. The flea market to end all flea markets, it boasts over 2,500 vendors. The market is divided into 3 major sections: furniture, clothes and comics, with everything else in between. Plan to spend several hours perusing the plethora of vendors. You could spend the whole day in one section alone! There are some great rare finds, including an awesome sunglasses and frames booth where I spent about 30 minutes trying on at least 15 pairs of glasses. Definitely get there early for the good stuff; otherwise, you’ll find out that your favorite item has a “sold” sticker on it. The Rose Bowl is slightly more expensive than other markets. Be prepared to pay a bit more, especially for the furniture. There are several food vendors around the Rose Bowl and there is a formal food court. You can get coffee, smoothies, hot dogs, burgers and even tacos. I recommend taking a lunch break to assess your morning purchases. Once you refuel you’ll be ready to go back for more!

The Rose Bowl Flea Market in Los Angeles

The Rose Bowl Flea Market in LA. (photo: Martha Rivera)

Suggestions

What are some of your favorite flea markets around the world? Share your tips with other readers by leaving a comment below!

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About Martha Rivera

Secret technophile in love with food, coffee, music, film, culture, biking, random acts of spontaneity and not getting lost in LA.