Exploring the Outdoor Markets of Provence
Purple fields of lavender, sunny weather that inspired Vincent van Gogh, the natural beauty of cliffsides and beaches, simple and fresh cuisine. Provence is defined by so many things, but one of the most iconic symbols of this region in southern France is a focus on consuming locally. Markets featuring local food and products are everywhere in this chic and sumptuous region. In fact, there are more than 500 markets held regularly across the many cities and small Provençal towns.
Some of these markets feature a full variety of vendors selling local produce, herbs, meat, and seafood. Other markets cater to antique and crafts seekers, and many others are hyper-specialized, like the Marche Aux Fleurs, or flower market, in Nice. Visiting these outdoor markets will surely make you feel like one of the locals as you wander through stalls with families doing their weekly shopping. These are the perfect places to test your French, taste some locally-produced cheeses and wines, and pick up some luxurious gifts, like handmade linens or lavender soaps. The following are, in our opinion, some of the very best Provençal markets so you can get a feel for the vitality of Provence.
Uzés market in the Place aux Herbes
One of the loveliest markets in Provence (we think) is found in Uzes. This small town dates back to Roman times and still retains its Medieval city structure, including towers once used for protection. The market is held in the Place aux Herbes, a cobblestone square dotted with delicate trees and surrounded by shops and eateries. This year-round market is open for two days each week. On Wednesdays, you’ll come across vendors offering regional products or produits du terroirs. Local olives and wine, freshly harvested fruit, regional breads, and cheeses like fresh goat cheese will definitely tempt you. The Saturday market is larger and livelier and features a wide variety of items for sale. In addition to the produits du terroirs, you’ll find clothes and linens, handmade pottery, fresh flowers, and more. While the market is centered in the Place aux Herbes, on Saturdays it can become so large that it spreads into the connecting streets — so bursting with life and flavor that it can’t be contained.
Aix-en-Provence’s many markets
On every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, the city of Aix-en-Provence becomes a wildly colorful market. Well, not the whole city, though it can seem like it. There are actually many markets in Aix-en-Provence, and all are active on these three days every week, making them the perfect days for city-wide market touring. In the Place Richelme square, you’ll find what many consider to be the main farmers’ market. But there’s also a flower market in Place de l’Hotel de Ville, a produce market at Place des Precheurs, an antiques market at the Place Verdun, and a textile market on the main street of Cours Mirabeau. One final tip: If you happen to be in Aix-en-Provence on a Sunday, head over to the Place de l’Hotel de Ville for a used and rare book market.
Twin markets of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is a small town just 40 minutes east of the larger Avignon. Branches of the Sorgue River run through it, and because of these canals, it’s been given the nickname the Venice of Comtat. Another nickname for L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is the Capital of Antiques because there are so many antique shops and dealers who show their treasures at the Sunday antiques market. This market typically has between 300 to 500 stalls — enough to tide you over for an entire day if you’re in the mood for some retail therapy. But we’d also recommend taking a break from the antiques, at least for an hour, and venture across the Sorgue River to the town’s food market. There you’ll find all the local ingredients you’d need to put together a picnic lunch: fresh baguettes, cheeses, vegetables, and juicy fruits. It’s no wonder these two markets in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue are some of the most visited in all of Provence.
Marché Aux Fleurs in Nice
The symbols of lavender and sunflowers have so defined Provence that we think visiting a local flower market is the perfect way to see the colorful bounty of the region. Marche Aux Fleurs in Nice is a standout flower market that is so bright, it’s hard to miss as the stalls are striped with bright colors. Here you can find the sunflowers and lavender, and many-colored geraniums, impatiens, and dahlias. It’s a great place for locals (or yourself) to ask horticultural questions of the local growers and take photos of floral finds. Although it’s still called the flower market, Marche Aux Fleurs on the Cours Saleya street also sells local produce and goods like many of the other markets of the region. You’ll truly be experiencing a local tradition here as it’s been a public market since the late 1800s, when wholesalers would purchase the flowers to then be exported by train and sold throughout Europe.
Saint-Remy-de-Provence’s Wednesday morning market
Saint-Remy-de-Provence is the epitome of Provencal charm with its narrow streets, gurgling fountains, plane trees, and friendly locals. On top of that, its weekly market has become a destination in and of itself. While the town is small and home to just under 10,000, its offerings every Wednesday morning at the market bring in crowds. Vendors set up their stalls around nine in the morning, starting in the city center and then spreading along other streets like the Boulevard Marceau. You’ll find seafood like oysters, shrimp, and sea urchins; textiles like needlepoint napkins and clothes; ceramics and other kitchenware; and handmade crafts, along with olives, fresh breads, and fragrant fruits and vegetables. There are also many prepared foods for sale, such as grilled sausages and duck rillettes, making it a great stop for brunch or lunch. Many travelers make the morning market in Saint-Remy-de-Provence into an easy day trip while staying in Avignon, which is only a 20 minute drive away. Fun fact: Vincent van Gogh painted The Starry Night while in Saint-Remy-de-Provence.
Want more stories like this delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for Experi’s Food & Wine Travel newsletter to stay informed on the latest food and wine travel news and information, upcoming departures with Experi, and more. Sign up here.