Everyone loves a French street market - from the visitors who flock to France to experience the good life to the locals who shop at their favourite each week. In France, markets are so popular there’s even an annual TV competition for the best market in each region.
There are markets in almost every town and village or at least there will be one nearby. From the grand street markets, to covered markets, usually called Les Halles, to the markets of Paris and those in tiny villages where there may be only a few stalls.
Here are just a few of our favourite markets in France…
Sanary-sur-mer, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
The colour, scents, sounds and flavours of this vibrant market on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea make it really stand out. The town is located in the heart of Provence, between Marseille and Toulon and its wiggly streets are filled with old houses, boutiques and gourmet food shops. At the market you’ll find around 300 stalls – enough to keep even the fussiest market shopper delighted. Honey, olive oil, wine, cheese, spices, fruit and veg plus of course the freshest sea food are on offer. And you’ll find colourful baskets, flowers, pottery and tablecloths. Wander under the shady plane trees along the Allees Estienne d'Orves and soak up the ambiance. It gets busy in the summer months so get there early to avoid the crowds and get a parking space.
Sanary-sur-Mer market day: Wednesday mornings
Versailles Market, Ile-de-France
More than 350 years of trading have taken place at the city’s Notre Dame Market. A short walk from the famous Chateau de Versailles, it was created by Louis XIII and is the second largest market in France. Open daily from Tuesday to Sunday, the best days for food are Tuesday, Friday and Sunday when the whole market heaves with stalls selling the most superb quality produce.
This has to be not just one of the best markets in France, but one of the oldest, mentioned in a Papal document of 1155. Visit Carpentras on a Friday morning and you’ll get to witness the vibrant market day. Some 350 stalls snake their way along a warren of streets and plane tree shaded squares. You’ll find everything from clothes to baskets, shoes to cakes, fruit, veg, truffles, olives marinated a dozen different ways, pungent herbs, tangy cheese, aromatic lavender and mouth-watering street food….
Cours Saleya, Nice
Cours Saleya market in Nice is at the heart of the Old Town and it’s always pulsating with life. Striped awnings cover its centre and shelter the products on offer in the daily market. Crowds of locals and tourists come here to do their shopping or sometimes just to look and snap photos of the colourful displays. The scents of fresh produce and flowers seem to put everyone in a good mood and the atmosphere is friendly.
Cours Saleya hosts several markets. The most well-known is the Marché aux Fleurs, or Flower Market, held Tuesday through Sunday. The largest part of the market is made up of colourful fruit and vegetables, often quite artistically displayed. The only day you won’t find flowers and food in Cours Saleya is Monday. That’s the day for the marché à la brocante, the antiques/flea market. Here you can find all manner of items, such as furniture, jewellery, books, vintage clothing, bric-a-brac, etc.
Saturday mornings in Sarlat mean only one thing – market day. Stall after stall covered with brightly striped awnings, laden with huge cheeses, locally produced saucisson, gleaming vegetables, huge sacks of walnuts, pastries and nougat. This place is a gastronomic delight and the market is the perfect way to while away a morning in a beautiful and historic town filled with friendly people, bars where you can sit outside and watch the world go by over a pastis, or inside if it’s cold, with a chocolat chaud. The food here is of the best quality, the sellers are truly involved with the sourcing and production and can tell you what they are selling and where it is from.
On market days (Tuesday and Saturday), the queue for fresh cooked bread at La Maison Du Pain in Place de la Trémoille where the market is based, just keeps growing. The locals know that it’s worth the wait. Great steaming vats of paella, roasted chickens and huge bowls of buttery new potatoes stop you in your tracks. Jet black shiny mussels are bagged up by vendors at a rate of knots, shaded from the sun under blue and white striped awning, the salty scent of the sea fills the air. Plump Oysters from Cancale are fast emptied from baskets on stalls as savvy locals buy weekend delicacies fresh from the sea. Locals will tell you, go to L’Escargotiere for all things snail. Don’t miss the artisan made cider stall where you’ll also find the most delicious beer jam to drizzle over a slither of Camembert on a thin slice of baguette – it makes for a mouth-watering starter or canapé. This is the perfect market for anyone who loves good food. (Tuesday and Saturday)