Markets of Provence are a national heritage
They are the soul of Provence. Under the morning sun, the stalls compete in colours. Crates overflow with locally grown fruit and vegetables. Parasols shelter tables where you can smell, taste, and touch. Nothing beats strolling along the aisles absorbing the smells, the bursts of voices, and the solid Provençal accent. You haven't experienced Provence until you've spent a morning at the market.
From the plains of the Durance or the Drôme, vegetables, fruit, flowers, spices, and local produce make up a mosaic on the stalls. Markets in Provence are a celebration of both local producers and local identity.
Some markets date back to the Middle Ages! Which shows how deeply rooted the tradition is in this area. People have always come here to eat, of course, but also to socialise. The market is where people keep up to date with the latest events in the village or neighbourhood.
The Provençal markets are a place of diversity. The locals rub shoulders with the tourists. You might come across a movie celebrity who has wandered out of their secluded holiday home for a quick trip to the market. But one should always pretend not to recognise them. At the market, the actors are the sellers, who embody with great panache scenes of Provençal life for an audience that appreciates the show.
In short, the markets of Provence are an integral part of the historical, cultural and gastronomic heritage of Provence. From the Alpilles to the Luberon, from the Ventoux to the old port of Marseille, the tradition carries on, and local markets stand up to the powerful supermarkets.
6 best town markets in Provence
It would be impossible to draw up an exhaustive list of the most beautiful markets in Provence. From the most significant gathering to the smallest village market, each one cultivates a unique identity and charm, linked as much to the stalls as to the Provencal décor.
However, some are unmissable due to their size and fame. Here are 6 of the best town markets in Provence :
* The Flower market of Aix-en-Provence
* The Grand Marché Provençal in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
* The Truffle market in Carpentras
* The historical market of Apt
* The antique market of L’Isle-sur-la Sorgue
* The Farmers market in Coustellet
The Flower market in Aix-en-Provence
Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, the flower market in Aix-en-Provence takes place on the Place de l'Hôtel-de-Ville. People flock there to buy a bouquet of roses, sunflowers or a pot plant as a gift or simply to decorate their homes. Take advantage of the colourful event and stop for coffee on one of the square’s terraces: a strategic place to watch the ballet of passers-by: old ladies who live in the neighbourhood, students from all over the world and effortlessly chic Aixoises.
Le Grand Marché provençal in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
On Wednesday, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, guardian of the Alpilles, comes alive around its emblematic market. In the morning light filtered by the plane trees, people flock to the Place de la République and historic centre streets. They fill their baskets with fruit, vegetables, honey, flowers, olives, oils, spices... and even tarraieto, these miniature Provençal potteries for children to play tea party. Looking for skincare? Lavender or rosemary soaps are displayed alongside essential oils extracted from the region's plants.
The Truffle market in Carpentras
Every Friday morning, the truffle market sets up its stalls in the heart of Carpentras. Between November and March, the point of interest is the black truffle, nicknamed "black gold": it is the subject of solemn negotiations in an atmosphere as silent as it is mysterious. The famous underground mushroom attracts food lovers, brokers, traders and restaurateurs from different regions. In summer, the white truffle is less prized but increasingly popular with local and tourist customers.
You will need to get up early to catch a glimpse of this regional treasure: there are many amateurs, and the products go very quickly!
The historical market of Apt
The weekly market of Apt is classified among the "100 most beautiful markets of France". It is also one of the oldest: its history goes back to the 12th century. Every Saturday, the stallholders (nearly 300 at the height of the season) set up their stalls and wait for the crowds that come down from the villages of the Luberon.
The market occupies the whole town and beautifully showcases Provençal tradition. You can buy cheeses, local wines, olives, fruit and vegetables, lavender, dried flowers, Provençal fabrics - boutis, indiennes -, coloured pottery, straw hats... The Provençal Art de Vivre shines on the stalls of the historical market of Apt. The Apt’s market is more and more famous in the world, thanks to Jamie Beck, and her stunning book, An American in Provence, the New York Time best Seller.
The Antiques market of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
On Sunday, head for the Little Venice of Provence, L’isle-Sur-la-Sorgue, paradise for bargain hunters. Crowds flock to the Provençal market as much as to the open-air flea market which invades the Avenue des Quatre-Otages. Locals and tourists browse the stalls in search of the rare piece, among the treasures exposed by the antique dealers on the quays of the river Sorgue. This weekly flea market has contributed to the reputation of L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, beyond our borders.
On the first Sunday of August, the Provençal market moves partly onto the water: the goods are displayed on the typical flat-bottomed boats (Nègo Chin), and the merchants put on the traditional costume.
The Farmers market in Coustellet
Less known than the previous ones, the farmers' market of Coustellet is nevertheless worth a visit. A meeting place for producers and consumers, it is the place to buy fruit and vegetables from local farms (some of which are organic), and to sample a selection of Luberon products: fruit juices, wines, honey, flowers.... It takes place on Wednesday evenings (in Summer) and on Sunday mornings from March to December. Musicians often play on the side. People come down from the villages of the Luberon to do their shopping, meet up for a coffee. They cross paths with tourists and gourmet chefs seeking good products combining freshness, quality and fair prices.
The best village markets of provence
Open-air markets play a central part in everyday life in the villages of Provence: They are a meeting point for the villagers and an attraction for tourists. Farmers and craftsmen come to sell their produce.
If you are up for it, it is possible to stroll the aisles of a village market every day of the week! And save the weekend for the larger town markets (see above).
Here is a non-exhaustive list of village markets in the Luberon and the Alpilles.
Note : some of these markets only take place in high season. Some are held in the morning, others in the late afternoon. It is always a good idea to check dates and times with a tourist office.
Village markets in the Luberon
Monday : Cadenet
Tuesday : Gordes, Cucuron, Saint-Saturnin-lès-Apt, Lacoste
Wednesday : Rustrel
Thursday : Ménerbes, Goult, Roussillon
Friday : Lourmarin, Bonnieux
Village markets in the Alpilles
Monday : Fontvieille
Tuesday : Paradou, Eyguières.
Wednesday : Mouriès
Thursday : Aureille, Maussane-les-Alpilles, Mas-Blanc-des-Alpilles
Friday : Fontvieille, Eygalières
What should you buy on Provence markets?
The Provençal market is where you can stock up on locally grown seasonal produce: tomatoes, peppers, green and black olives, lettuce, garlic, onions, apricots, peaches, cherries, grapes, figs, etc.
It is also an excellent place to buy local specialities, such as the Cavaillon melon, the candied fruits of Apt, the nougat of Sault, the calisson of Aix-en-Provence, the strawberries of Carpentras...
A Provençal market will sell meat, fish, bread, tapenade (olive spread), honey (lavender honey in particular), preserves, herbs and spices, goat's cheese, fresh or dried flowers, olive oil extracted in the region's mills, wines from the surrounding vineyards, roast chickens ready to eat... Everything you need for a picnic in the meadows or a banquet around the pool!
On a different note, essential oils, Marseilles soaps, traditional pottery, Provençal fabrics (tablecloths, placemats), straw hats and woven baskets make great gifts to bring home.
Markets of Provence, a feast for the senses
In the shady squares or the cobbled streets, the stalls of a Provençal market are a magnificent ode to the Provençal terroir.
Stroll through the alleys, smell, touch, watch, listen, and you will leave with a heart and a basket full of beautiful memories.
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