Tourists often confuse these two outdoor sales events but basically a Brocante is run by professionals and a Vide Grenier by either a local municipality and/or an association.
At a Brocante one can typically find lots of antiques in the form of cutlery, decoration, furniture, and jewelry. You’ll also find art in the form of sculptures, framed paintings, old posters, and textiles. The people behind the stands are professional buyer-sellers who spend much of their time collecting and then selling their treasured items at regular brocante markets around the region. Some travel from as far away as the North of France. My personal experience in shopping at Brocantes is that they often over-price items but if you tell the seller you are local and that you’d like to negotiate the price, they are mostly open to this. It helps if your French is very good, of course.
At a Vide Grenier you’ll find just about anything that is sellable as long as it isnt edible. A direct translation of Vide Grenier is “empty attic.” Which makes sense of course; afterall every seller is basically trying to get rid of their stored junk. But some of the items could be worth well over the asking prices so serious bargains can and will be found right here. I have purchased old tables, chairs, garden furniture, table cloths, book shelves, vases and kids’ toys at a small fraction of the cost of what they are worth. A little cash goes a long ways and bargaining is part of the fun if you’re up to it. But most of the time the prices are so good you wont even have to bother 🙂