The French antique capital of L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in Provence

Antique shops and fairs make L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue famous

Antiques in L'Isle-sur-la Sorgue
••• Antiques everywhere in L'Isle-sur-la Sorgue. Getty/M. Gebicki

An Attractive South of France Town

L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, a delightful town in the Vaucluse in Provence, is best known for its antique shops, markets and fairs. Located on the banks of the river Sorgue, it's a historic town where antiques fill the small shops located in former industrial buildings. It makes a wonderful day out or a weekend break from the nearby south of France cities of Avignon, Orange, Marseille and Aix-en-Provence.

General Information

  • In the Vaucluse Department
  • In Provence
  • Population 18,100

Tourist Office
Place de la Liberté
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 90 38 04 78
Website

Antiques

This is the main reason why most people visit L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. The tourist office has a list of antique shops. But unless you have a special shop or dealer in mind, the best thing is just to wander through the streets, visiting those that take your fancy.

There’s also a whole range of antique villages along the main road in the old mills and factories. Le Village des Antiquaires de la Gare (2 bis av. De l’Egalite, tel.: 00 33 (0)4 90 38 04 57) is one of the largest. It houses around 110 dealers in an old weaving factory and is open Saturday to Monday.

Antique Fairs

The two major antiques fairs a year, one over the Easter weekend, and the second in mid August, are famous both in France and in much of the rest of Europe. There’s also a regular Sunday antiques market and two brocante markets on Saturday and Sundays.

History of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue

L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue was developed in the 12th century as a fisherman’s town. Built on stilts above a marsh, water played a major part in what has inevitably been called the ‘Venice of Provence’. By the 18th century, 70 huge waterwheels lined the canals, powering the major industries of paper and silk making.

Attractions

It’s a town for strolling, people-watching, and, of course, for antique shopping. There are some small museums, like the Museum of the Santon (santons are clay Christmas figures, made in Provence), and old tools (Saint-Antoine, tel.: 00 33 (0)6 63 00 87 27), and the Museum of Puppets and Toys, a collection of dolls from 1880 to 1920 (26 rue Carnot, tel.: 00 33 (0)4 90 20 97 31).

The church of Notre-Dames-des-Anges was rebuilt in the 17th century; don’t miss the clock showing the time, date and phases of the moon and its ornate interior. The 18th-century Hôpital (pl des Freres Brun, tel.: 00 33 (0)4 90 21 34 00), has a grand staircase, chapel and pharmacy plus a delightful garden with an old fountain. Ask to view at the reception.

Where to Stay

Where to Eat

  • La Prévôté
    41 rue J-J Rousseau
    Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 90 38 57 29
    Website
    With stone walls, an outside terrace and good food, this is the best place for a leisurely meal. Using seasonal and regional local ingredients, dishes such as herb-crusted lamb, or fish dishes such as grilled scallops in cinnamon butter. There’s a good wine list and menus running from 26 to 44 euros. The wine bar has some serious wines and a good light menu of snacks.
  • Jardin du Quai
    91 av Julien-Guigue
    Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 90 20 14 98
    Eat either in a pretty room full of antique furniture and aretefacts, or in the delightful garden. Try red mullet with baby spinach, roast lamb and chocolate tart. The cooking is excellent and the cellar has good local wines. Menus run from 35 to 43 euros.

  • Le Vivier
    800 cours Fernande-Peyre
    Tel.: 00 (0)4 90 38 52 80
    Website
    If contemporary is your taste, book here. A modern décor is the setting for classics with a new light touch. Foie gras comes in a terrine with smoked eel and a sherry sauce; veal steak with marrow bone, parsley and garlic. The wine list is serious; the service charming.

  • Le Carré d’Herbes
    13 ave Quatre Outages
    Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 90 38 23 97
    Website
    Eat on the patio in this restaurant located among the antique villages. Local produce and Provencale cooking produce dishes such as magret of duck and irresistible desserts. There’s an excellent daily three-course lunch menu at under 20 euros.

  • How to get there

    L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is about 800 kilometers (498 miles) from Paris, 250 kilometers (155 miles) from Lyon, 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Marseille, 61 kilometers (38 miles) from Aix-en-Provence, and 23 kilometers (14 miles) from Avignon.

    By road
    From Lyon or Marseille: Take the A7motorway (the Autoroute du soleil) then exit 23. Follow the D6 south then take the N100 to L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
    From Avignon: Take the N100 signposted to L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
    From Aix-en-Provence: Take the D7 north signposted to Avignon, then join the A7 at exit 26 to exit 23. Follow the D6 south then take the N100 to L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue

    By train: The high speed TGV runs to Avignon TGV rail station, 19 kilometers (13 miles) away.
    From Avignon station there are around 10 buses a day on Ligne 6 to the town. the journey takes about an hour and costs 2 euros. There’s an infrequent service on Sundays.

    For transfers from Avignon or Marseille Provence airport go to Sun Transfers.

    By air: The nearest airport is Avignon. Marseille Provence Airport is 70 kilometers (43 miles) away.
    CityJet flies from London City Airport directly to Avignon. Other scheduled airlines go from major UK airports.