Market day is not just a time to buy what you need, it is also a time to observe this most French of rituals, when some of the stereotypes come alive.
Whether you’re shopping for real or simply strolling through, the markets of Provence are a fantastic outing. They’re as popular with locals as with tourists, and most of them are year-round – Christmas markets are ideal for picking up gifts and decorations.
People come from all over the world for the Lourmarin market, which takes place along the plane tree-lined avenue into the centre of the village and in the square above it. This is quite a large market for the size of the village, and it’s unlikely you’ll come away without buying something, although the prices are rather inflated.
You’ll find the best local, seasonal fruit and vegetables; meat, fish, ready-to-eat rotisserie chickens, bread, cheese, olives, tapenade, honey and conserves; herbs and spices; flowers, oils and wines; Provençal fabrics, housewares, clothes and the perfect straw hat or basket to shop at other markets with, and much more.
Make a point of going to Isles sur la Sorgues – one of the biggest antique markets in the world takes place here every Sunday. Take your time to find some gems among a lot of second-hand goodies.
There is also a lovely market in Cucuron, around the now-famous and very pretty pond which featured in the Hollywood movie A Good Year, based on the book by local celebrity author Peter Mayle, of A Year in Provence fame.
The Saturday market in Apt is one of the oldest and largest markets in the Lubéron and is unique in that it weaves in and out of the narrow streets of the old town. Be sure to get there early as it can be tricky to find parking anywhere nearby.
It’s also definitely worth going to the St-Remy-de-Provence market on Wednesday mornings.
Aix-en-Provence’s daily market on Place Richelme offers up a wealth of vegetables and local specialities. The town’s biggest market on Saturdays features local products and clothes and on the first Sunday of each month there’s also a book fair.
If you want to get serious about markets – they range from farmers’ markets, specialty and night markets, to antiques, crafts and second-hand bric-a-brac (brocante and vide grenier) – there’s a lovely guide book to 30 of the best, by Marjorie R. Williams called Markets of Provence.
- MON: Cadenet • Cavaillon • Lauris • Goult • Fontvieille • Senas
- TUES: Cucuron • Gordes • Lacoste • La Tour d’Aigues • St Saturnin les Apt • Lourmarin (evening farmer’s market) • Fontaine de Vaucluse
- WED: Aix-en-Provence • Pertuis • St Martin de Castillon • Sault • St-Remy-de-Provence • Merindol
- THURS: Caumont • Cereste • Goult • Menerbes • Robion • Roussillon • La Motte d’Aigues • Lauris
- FRI: Lourmarin • Bonnieux • Cucuron (night market in Summer)
- SAT: Cheval Blanc • Pertuis • Manosque • Oppede-le-Vieux • Apt • Mirabeau • Villelaure
- SUN: Isle sur la Sorgue • St Martin de la Brasque • Ansouis • Coustellet