Shopping in the Open-Air Markets in Provence and the French Riviera
Open-air markets in France are nearly always held in the mornings, starting from 7am or 8am and going on until noon or 1pm when the traders pack away their stalls and retire to the nearest restaurant for lunch. It’s always fun and part of the French experience to follow their example and find a good local bistro.
- If you don’t know where the market is, ask anybody for le marché (le mar-shay).
- The law in France is that price tags must state the origin of all produce. Look out for du pays which means local.
Shopping for Regional Specialities
Arts & Crafts
Traditional crafts are alive and well which is partly due to the visitors who rightly flock to the markets to buy genuine locally produced items.
Vallauris is well known for its pottery, revived when Pablo Picasso visited the town and was impressed by the standards of the local industry. He helped revive what was at the time a dying craft as many of the ceramicists in the town were employed to reproduce his designs. Today, the shops offer a wide range and in summer, spill out onto the pavements.
Many towns have their own specialities. Look out for pottery tiles in Salernes in the Var; little pottery santons (Christmas crèche figures) in Aix-en-Provence, glass in Biot, and flutes and tambourines in Barjols.
Marseille is known for its soaps so look out for those. But also keep an eye out for small artisan companies that produce beautifully packaged soaps that make great gifts.
Provence is known for its glorious lavender fields that stretch into the distance in the summer. Lavender often seems to turn the landscape into an Impressionist painting, so vibrantly purple are the colours. You'll find lavender used in soaps, honey, sweets, sachets to freshen your linen, fragrances or just tied with straw to put into a vase or decoration.
Fresh fruit, vegetables and more
This is the main reason for most of the markets: fresh fruit and vegetables, breads, cheeses of every variety, herbs, olive oils, wine and dried flowers that fill the market places with sights and scents. If you’re renting an apartment, this is one of the great pleasures of your vacation – shopping for the freshest produce in the farmers market then turning it into a wonderful meal. Otherwise, make a picnic from the produce and sit on the beach, beside the river, in a park and enjoy the local French ingredients
Top Markets in Provence and the Cote d'Azur
The main markets are in the old town and are surrounded by pavement cafés where you can sit after an exhausting trawl of the markets and enjoy a well-earned coffee.
Traditional fruit and vegetable markets take place on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings on Place de la Madeleine, Place des Prêcheurs.
A local farmers market is held daily in the mornings on Place Richelme.
The flower market is on Tuesday, Thurs and Saturday on Place de l'hôtel de ville and Place des Prêcheurs.
An old books market takes over the Place de l'hôtel de ville on the first Sunday of each month.
Textiles on Tuesday and Thursday fill the Cours Mirabeau, and on Saturdays around the Palais de Justice.
For antiques and bric-a-brac, try the market on Place de Verdun on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings from 8am to 1pm.
The residents of Saint Tropez get their fruit and veg from the market on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 8am to 1pm on the place des Lices.
There’s also a good antiques market on Tuesdays and Saturdays here. You can pick up posh luggage, fabrics and furniture or lovely odd items like old tins, wine glasses and plate.
At the heart of the old town, the famous historic covered food market in Cours Massena offers a wonderful mix of fresh food and vegetables, cheeses, olives and olive oil products, charcuterie and more. The outer stalls are for professional growers and traders; running down the middle are people with large gardens or smallholdings. It’s daily June 1st to September 1st; in the other months it’s daily except for Mondays, 6am-1pm.
This former important Roman town has a huge Provencal market every Tuesday morning that combines local farmers’ produce alongside furniture and Provence items such as linen, oils, soaps, fabrics and more. It runs from 8am to 1pm.
There are three main covered food markets in Cannes, at Forville (rue Gazagnaire near the bus station), Gambetta (place Gambetta) and La Bocca (take bus line 1 or 20). Small stalls fill the spaces, offering flowers, fish, fruit, vegetables plus dairy products, chicken, ducks, herbs and spices. The shops in the market offer everything else a household needs, plus cafés and bars. Open daily except Mondays in the winter, from 7am to 1pm.
A daily flower market takes place at les Allées de la Liberté and there’s an antiques market here on Saturdays from 8am to 6pm.
Antiques and brocante markets are held at Forville, Mondays 8am to 6pm and La Bocca on Thursdays from 8am to 12.30pm.
The Roman town of Arles buzzes on a Wednesday morning with a farmers market on Blvd. Emile Combes where the locals shop.
On Saturdays people come in from surrounding towns for the Provencal market on Blvd. des Lices and Blvd. Clémenceau.
The first Wednesday of every month sees an antiques fair on Blvd des Lices.
The chief city of the Vaucluse and the gateway to Provence has a covered farmers market with around 40 stall holders. This is the place for genuine local products, from herbs and spices to fruit and vegetables. There’s a cooking demonstration, free, every Saturday at 11am by local chefs (except August). It’s at place Pie, Tuesday to Sunday 6am to 1pm.
There’s a fragrant flower market on place des Carmes on Saturdays and a brocante and flea market here on Sunday, 6am to 1pm.
The delightful market town in the center of the Cotes-du-Ventoux wine region has a very well known farmers market. It’s one of the largest in France and has been going since 1155, due to its position right in the middle of a rich agricultural region. The daily market (except Mondays) at the Marché gare and the Friday market in rue de Carpentras (8am to 12.30pm) are full to bursting with around 350 stalls offering every kind of fruit and vegetable, olive oil and cheese that you could want. It’s particularly well known for strawberries in the spring, and for its fabulous winter market in truffles.
The famous truffle market is on Place Aristide Briand, 8am to noon, but get there before 9.30am for the best truffles, including the much sought-after tuber melanosporum. The market runs from November to February.
There's a great regional produce market on Thursday mornings from 9am to 12.30pm around the church and also a Provencal market on Sunday mornings 8am to 2pm throughout the city and along the river banks. But this is France’s most glamorous antiques town, with boutiques and shops filling the center with the relics of the past so it’s best known for its Saturday and Sunday regular brocante market and a regular antiques markets each Sunday from 8am to 5pm.
There are also two famous annual weekend antiques markets, over the Easter weekend, and in mid-August.
As befits the Queen of the Mediterranean, there are markets galore in Nice. The Cours Saleya fruit and vegetable marketis one of the great French events; in fact the National Council for the Culinary Arts has ranked it as a ‘Special Market’, so you know you'll get the best here. It’s daily except Mondays, from 6am to 1.30pm.
Running right next to the fruit and vegetables is the flower market held every day except Mondays, and on Sunday afternoons from 6am to 5.30pm.
The fish market is small but has a great variety of fish. It’s in Place Saint-Francois everyday except Monday from 6am to 1pm.
The brocante market takes over the Cours Saleya when the produce market is closed. Find those second hand bargains every Monday from 7.30am to 6pm. If you miss that, try the place Garibaldi on the third Saturday of every month from 7am to 6pm.
In the summer, from June to September there’s a craft and art market in the Cours Saleya every evening from 6pm to midnight. There’s also a similar market in the place du Palais de Justice on the second Saturday of every month from 7am to 5pm in winter and from 7am to 7pm in summer.
Old postcards fill the place du Palais de Justice on the fourth Saturday of each month, with the same opening times as the market above.
Finally, antique books, original works and rare editions are on sale in the place du Palais de Justice on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month (same times as above).