In her search for the ideal coffee table, Susan Wilander visits the Sunday antique market at Tongeren.
I’d been looking all over Brussels for an old trunk to do as a coffee table, but couldn’t find anything to my liking. Brussels is full of antique shops, but I longed for something different. Then I remembered Tongeren. Every Sunday morning from 6am till noon the small town of Tongeren comes to life. The Sunday antique market follows the streets around the old town wall, fills squares and two huge halls with dealers’ stalls. Tongeren is a place where people come from all corners of Belgium, even from neighbouring countries. Be it rain or sunshine, it will be crowded with antique lovers.
Antique market in Tongeren
Antiques and other items from the last hundred years or so fill the dealers’ stalls in the market. There was everything from dining room sets to china and old paintings on display. I was pleasantly surprised while inspecting the different items on offer — the quality was very good and the selection truly enormous. Prices were also reasonable — a marked difference compared with Brussels. Tongeren is Belgium’s oldest town. It is an hour’s drive from Brussels, between Leuven and Liège. The town was established on the site where Julius Caesar had his military camp during the conquest of Gallia. Ceasar faced courageous opposition from area’s own son, chief Ambiorix, who is still today prominently represented by a tall statue on the central square in Tongeren.
If really ancient antique interests you, then you should pay a visit to Tongeren’s excellent Gallo-Roman museum. The town itself is a typical small Belgian town. Some narrow streets, a central square and lots of shops, bars and restaurants make up the town. Due to the weekly market, no doubt, there is also plenty of antique shops. These cater for antique hungry visitors even on other days than Sunday. Selection seems to be a bit more up-market than at the outdoor market.
Well, how about that trunk I was looking for? Wandering around the market I discovered a vast selection of trunks and chests. All kinds of materials were represented there and also all conditions from unused to nearly falling apart. But then my eye caught the perfect specimen! A dark brown square trunk with wooden reinforcements. I asked for the price as nonchalantly as I could and heard that the trunk was about hundred years old and in good condition. In order not to seem too keen I wandered off to see other stalls. When I walked the street I saw people happily carrying off drawers and chairs and began to feel a bit anxious. What if someone buys my trunk before I get back? Negotiation tactics blown to the wind I turned back. Now which stall was it? There is such a vast number of stalls in the market that finding back to a particular one is not necessarily an easy task. After checking several stalls and not seeing the trunk I was sure someone had bought it. But then there it was. A deal was made and the trunk is now in our library – just the coffee table I wanted!
Tourist office Tongeren
B – 3700 Tongeren
tel : 012-39.02.55
fax : 012/39.11.43
The market is located mainly in Leopoldwal and Middeleeuwsewallen on the east side of the town near the railway station. Driving directions: to get to Tongeren from Brussels take E40 to the direction of Liège and take exit 29 at Waremme, turning towards Tongeren to N69.