Best flea markets in San Francisco
Sellers and regulars start arriving at this market—better known as the Alameda Flea—in the predawn hours, headlamps glinting across the parking lot. By 6am, the former naval base is flooded with vintage lovers from throughout the Bay Area in search of one-of-a-kind merch. (Note: the earlier you arrive, the steeper the entrance fee; it drops after 9am.) With over 800 participating vendors, the assortment of furniture, clothing, media, art, instruments, dishware and decor is endless. But unlike some of the anything-goes swap meets in the South Bay, this is the real deal. Every item here is required to be at least 20 years old, meaning you’ll find less of the dollar-bin variety and more mid-century rarities. It’s particularly well stocked when it comes to furniture and decor, including the occasional find from icons like Eames and George Nelson.
Live music, food trucks, workshops and cocktail booths lend a party vibe to this monthly market, held on a former military base (now, the park-like Great Lawn). The scenery alone is worth the trip across the Bay, where you’ll be rewarded with palm-framed views of the San Francisco cityscape. For a particularly scenic route, take the water taxi. Around 350 vendors hawk their wares each month, many of them local artists, designers and craftspeople themselves. The stash includes jewelry, vintage clothing, upcycled housewares, herbs and spices, records, books and more. Bring your pooch: this market is dog-friendly.
Founded in October 2013 by the trio behind the Treasure Island Flea, this pet-friendly mini market is the Bay Area’s answer to the Brooklyn Flea. Though it’s not yet as large as its sister-market across the bay, the number of vendors (and shoppers) is growing by the year. A product of its own local residents, Oakland’s waterfront market is heavy on clothing and shoes, barware, bikes, jewelry and art. In addition to the merch, you’ll find craft beer, live musicians and food booths galore.
Of all the Bay Area community college-hosted flea markets—Laney and Ohlone among them—this one has the best selection and the lowest prices. The assortment of more than 500 vendors spans toys, dishware, sporting goods, records, bikes, plants, jewelry and various odds and ends, from trophies to nautical gear. Though some of the merchandise is vintage, the market’s overall vibe is closer to that of a sprawling garage sale: haggling is de rigueur and most vendors accept cash only. Though the market technically lasts until 4pm, many sellers start packing up around 2pm. Arrive early for the best selection—or late for the best deals.
This yearly flea market surrounds Alamo Square Park, a picturesque place to spend the day even if you’re not hunting for deals. Hosted by the Alamo Square Neighborhood Association, the goods are a mixture of used furniture, art, clothes and gear, as well as new wares from design-minded local brands, including perfume, jewelry, crafts and toys. (Many participants are also regulars at the Renegade Craft Fair and West Coast Craft.) Typically, food trucks are stationed along the edge of the park, though the restaurant-packed strip of Divisadero is just a block away. [Note: This flea market was temporarily cancelled in 2016 due to park renovations. Check AlamoSquare.org for next year’s date.]
Otherwise known as the Solano Swap Meet, this weekly flea market and fair takes over the sloped lot of the West Wind Drive-In. Though it takes place both Saturday and Sunday, the best time to go is on Sunday, when you’ll find the most vendors and the best wares. The goods include toys, luggage, shoes, records, cameras, bikes—even live birds. (Many vendors start packing up closer to noon or 1pm, so plan accordingly.) The vibe is garage-sale-casual, where mariachi blares from stereos and $1 deals are plentiful. In addition to booths serving up tacos, hot dogs, drinks and assorted snacks, several vendors sell fresh fruit and produce.
This flea market in the shadow of the I-280 overpass isn't fancy, but what it lacks in ambiance, it makes up for in affordability and eccentricity. The specialty here is antiques and artisan works, though that designation is relatively loose. (The first Sunday of each month is “Garage Sale” day, when anything goes.) Dozens of dealers back their trucks into the lot and unload wares onto rows of folding tables. The prices here are decidedly cheaper than the Alameda Flea, and both the shoppers and vendors are seasoned hagglers. You'll find a wealth of furniture, art, picture frames, sports gear, chinoiserie and costume jewelry among the piles. But it's the weird, one-of-a-kind finds that seal this SF market's oddball appeal.
San Jose has been hosting this four-day-a-week market for more than 55 years, which encompasses a swap meet, mini-fair and farmers’ market. The SJFM is a particular hit with kids: The grounds contain a vintage carousel, a playground, an arcade, pony rides and a mini Ferris wheel. The wares include comics, toys, tools, jewelry, clothes, housewares, flowers and more—including a sizeable selection of Mexican and Peruvian imports. The busiest day to go is on Saturday, when the most vendors turn out and bands play live in the afternoon. The year-round market is often combined with annual events, like a popular chili cook-off. For serious deals (and the weirdest finds), check out sell-for-free Saturdays, a semi-monthly occurrence when anyone who shows up between 5:30am and 9am can try to unload their stuff.
This multicultural, multi-generational market is a mashup of jewelry, toys, handicrafts, books, clothing, incense and soul food. The weekend market usually hosts around 30 vendors and is held in the parking lot of the Ashby BART. The focus here is less on vintage rarities and more on housewares, clothes and beauty products, including beads, body oil, colorful fabrics and African imports. Many of the vendors and shoppers are market regulars, lending a congenial neighborhood feel. Depending on the day, you might find food vendors serving West African or Caribbean specialties alongside the usual taco trucks.
This niche market attracts lovers of vintage and outdated technology, from radios and computers to gaming systems and obsolete electronics. The assortment is particularly rife with radio gear and related accessories, as it’s hosted by ASVARO to benefit non-profit amateur radio stations across Silicon Valley. Though the number of vendors and the quality of the merch varies week to week, the surprising variety of old and new electronics—from audio equipment to appliances—draws a certain type of bargain hunter. Anyone can sell their goods with a vendor fee of $25.