Longtime residents of the East Bay might have fond memories of going to the Berkeley Flea Market in the Ashby BART parking lot. Most of those memories probably include the discovery of a lot of cool stuff. Things have changed a lot since then. Most of the flea markets in the East Bay don’t cater to treasure hunters, but rather to those who want bootleg DVDs, assorted household goods, cheap makeup, and other such items. While most of these flea markets fall into that category, one—the Alameda Point Antiques Faire—is a welcome exception.
If you have driven on the Nimitz Freeway through Oakland during the day, there’s a good chance you’ve already seen this flea market from the road. The good news about this swap meet and flea market is that it’s open daily (except Monday), so you don’t need to plan your schedule around a flea market that is only open certain days. The bad news is that it’s the kind of flea market where you are likely to find knock-off designer purses and clothes, toys made in China, and bottom-of-the-line makeup instead of fun, quirky, vintage or antique pieces. Some visitors report stolen or burgled cars while shopping at this flea market, so be careful. The entrance fee varies by day (it’s higher on weekends) but is always cheap.
Laney College Flea Market has the dubious honor of being the go-to place to search for your stolen bike. If you have had one stolen recently, it’s worth getting here fairly early in the day for the next couple weeks to see if you can find it. Other than that, it’s a lot like the WestWind Coliseum Swap Meet and the Berkeley Flea Market in terms of the selection of items for sale. Of course, you could always get lucky, so there’s no reason not to stop by if you’re free and close during the times it’s open.
If you’re an antiques-hunter or vintage-lover, this monthly event in Alameda is the place to go. Alameda Point was named one of the top 12 flea markets for summer shopping in the U.S. by Architectural Digest in 2015. Most sellers know their stuff, so it’s not common to have an "Antiques Roadshow"-style experience, but the prices tend to be fair and reasonable. All of the items sold here must be at least 20 years old. As you walk around, you’ll see a few items that violate the letter of this rule, but everything tends to adhere to its spirit. In other words, the new items you see tend to be the hand-crafted type rather than mass-produced junk. There are up to 800 vendors here, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to walk around and explore. Parking is free, but admission varies by time.
Berkeley Flea Market
This once-great market is now more about incense and cheap jewelry than cool, quirky treasures. If you haven’t been there in a while, you might be glad to know that the drum circle—a longtime tradition—still takes place. One of the best features of this market is its location in the Ashby BART parking lot. Instead of circling around in search of parking, you can just hop off BART and immediately be at the flea market.
This place is not actually a flea market—it’s a thrift store. It's included on the list only to help avoid confusion since its name is misleading. That isn’t to say that it’s not an interesting store. It’s certainly fun to browse around, and you can find some great deals here. However, don’t come expecting a real flea market with various dealers.