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Wherever you’re staying in the South of France, you’ll not be far from a local market. And whether they’re daily or weekly, in Nice or Antibes or a small hilltop village, they’re brimming with wonderfully fresh, seasonal produce and are the hub of local life.
Due to the climate, Provence has some of the best markets in France and no visit is complete without wandering around one. Most are farmers markets with the growers selling their own produce, whilst the larger Marchés Provençals also sell clothing, shoes, linen and many other items – some more useful than others! Locals shop here rather than in the supermarkets and even if you’re not stocking up, they’re great places to browse, and savour the displays of fresh fruit and vegetables, cheeses, bread, truffles and olive oil, or the artists, antiques and jewelry stalls. If you’ve driven down to the South of France, it’s really worth making sure you have a bit of space left in your boot!
You can browse a market any day of the week when you visit Nice (except public holidays). The most impressive, with an extraordinary array of produce and wares, is the one held along the Cours Saleya in Vieux Nice. Shopping, people watching and just soaking up the atmosphere here just go hand in hand. Mondays bring a colourful flea market with around 200 stalls, selling vintage clothing, silverware, ceramics, wooden furniture etc. It’s a high quality market, but bargain hunters are usually not disappointed. On summer evenings there’s also an arts and crafts market. Every other day (Sundays until lunchtime) the flower market is held, where the displays and colours and incredible range are totally overwhelming. The fruit and vegetable and fish markets run at the same time, where you’ll see olives the size of golf balls, rows and rows of spices and fish that you’d never encounter back home. Nice is also home to an antiques postcard and poster market.
If you get to the covered market in Antibes early enough, you could well be rubbing shoulders with some of the region’s most famous chefs. Located in the Cours Massena in the heart of the old town, it’s an inspiring site, with stall upon stall loaded with fruit, vegetables, cheese, olives, hams and sausages. The smells and colours are amazing, and you won’t leave empty handed. From June to September, the market is held daily from 6am to 1pm and at all other times of the year, it’s closed on Mondays. In the afternoons, the craft market takes its place, where you’ll find painters, ceramicists, sculptors and wood turners (of varying degrees of ability!). Thursdays (Boulevard d’Aguillon) and Saturdays (Place Nationale in the old town) see an antiques market, for those who hope to find something more unusual to take home.
The Place des Lices (meaning jousting ground) in the centre of St Tropez is where the twice weekly market is held – every Tuesday and Saturday. The locals do their fruit and vegetable shopping here, although they get there early during the summer months to avoid the crowds! Set amongst the majestic plane trees, this isn’t a traditional farmers market, but the quality is still exceptionally high. There’s also a good antiques market here, and whilst you won’t find any bargains here, you can pick up smart luggage, fabrics and furniture as well as all sort of little trinkets and household items.
If you want to wander round the market in St Paul de Vence, it’s advisable to head there early, before the crowds arrive. On Tuesdays, Wednesday, Saturdays and Sundays, you’ll find Yvette’s market stall at the lavoir (wash house), where she sells fruit, vegetables and flowers from St Paul de Vence. On Wednesday mornings from 9am to 1pm, the farmers market is a vibrant and busy affair. Along with fruit and vegetables, it’s packed with all things Mediterranean – honey, nougat, breads, jams, cheeses, olive oil and charcuterie.
Vence has been a market town for centuries, and the core of the food market is along the very narrow Rue du Marché inside the walls every Tuesday and Friday morning. Flowers, fish, honey, bakeries, endless variety of fresh vegetables, herbs and spices all add their colours and fragrances to the feeling of the markets. A foire (type of market) is held on the Place Clémenceau inside the old village, as well as at the Place du Grand Jardin, selling flowers and second hand books.
This is a lovely traditional farmers market held every Wednesday morning in the Place de la Libération. It’s a great place just to go for a coffee whilst you watch the world go by, or to browse the fabulous local meats, cheeses, olives and tapenades.
The Saturday morning market in Arles is probably the largest in the South of France, with over 450 stalls selling everything from spices to brightly coloured Provençal fabrics, whilst the market in Apt which dates from the Middle Ages, is renowned for its vibrant atmosphere. The beautiful and historical village of Valbonne holds its large outdoor market on Friday mornings, where together with a range of local produce, you’ll find typical French table cloths, pottery and jewellery. In Seillans, there’s a Provençal market on Wednesday mornings with a number of good quality arts and crafts stalls. Market days are always advertised, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye out if you want to visit one close to where you’re staying or to make sure your visit coincides with one when you’re out exploring.
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