It’s such a pleasure to stroll along and enjoy the flavours and colours of the open-air markets of France. To pick up some food for the apéro and lunch, it’s best if you will get up early in the morning!
I'll be your guide today and let’s discover the hidden gems of the most beautiful open markets in France. So grab your wicker basket and a baguette, we have some wandering to do!
1) The “Grande Braderie” – Lille, Nord Pas-de-Calais
This huge (and hugely popular) flea market dates back from a tradition in the Middles Ages and welcomes between two or three million visitors each year. Biggest flea market in Europe, and the biggest market in France! It has greats things for everyone : antiques (along the Boulevard Jean-Baptiste Lebas), old vinyls, books (along the Deule river), great arcades where you'll find artisanal and ethnic items from local artists…
On the tasty side, it's the obligatory mussels and French fries, and you have to leave the shells on the floor : tradition again !
My “ch'tis” friends from the North all come back home for the Braderie each year and have a friendly contest to see who is going to shop the kitschiest item ever… Maybe you'll be the one to win this year !
Important info: On the first weekend of September, and it lasts (officially) from saturday at 2 o'clock to Sunday at midnight but you can come in early and start shopping for great deals from Friday Night.
2) The Flower Market – Ile de la Cité, Paris
Right next to Notre-Dame cathedral, facing the Seine river, you have a small patch of paradise just at the heart of the Cité island : a fresh smell of lilacs, roses and jasmin welcomes you… And the colors ! Aromatic plants, orange trees, bonsai trees and willows, cacti and even exotic plants and carnivorous ones.
At the Orchid House, and if you're really nice, the shop-owner will teach you how to make them bloom for three months a year. On Sunday, it's a different mood, still colourful but a louder one since it's a Bird Market (but don't worry, you'll still find flowers if you want to).
Important info: Open every day Place Louis-Lépine from 8AM to 19h30. Bird market on Sundays from 8AM to 19h. Watch out, only some shops are open on Mondays.
3) The Christmas Market – Colmar, Alsace
The Alsace Christmas market is a true legend in France. The oldest is the one in Strasbourg (its “Christkindelsmärik” or Christmas market has been a tradition since 1570), but the one in Colmar is the more romantic one.
People come from the first Sunday before the Advent in December to drink the famous mulled wine and stroll along the wooden chalets… In Colmar, you can shop for the Alsace white wine, Christmas decorations and toys for the kids, gingerbread figurines, and of course sugary and savory delights from local producers.
In Colmar it's more than a market : it's a true show, an orange and cinnamon-smelling show…
Important info: check the opening times at https://www.noel-colmar.com/en/ , Alsace evening markets close quite early on some days. Open from the 25th of November to the 31st of December.
4) The Fish Market of The Old Harbour (Vieux Port) – Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône
The Fish auction Market in Marseille is a true institution in Marseille, where you buy fish “à la criée” (literally, at the open outcry!). Over there, you'll get used to the local sort of fish, the bass, mullet, the holy stone, the sea bream, sea urchins and seafood every day on the Old Port of Marseille, Quai des Belges.
They are all used to make your very own bouillabaisse, but if you don't feel comfortable making your own, you can taste a great one at the Chez Michel restaurant (www.restaurant-michel-13.fr)...
Important info: every day on Quai des Belges from 7h30 to 12h30
5) The “Marché des Lices”, Rennes (Ille-et-Vilaine)
This Brittanny market on Saturday mornings is the second biggest market in France . It's one of the most beautiful markets in France, with its 300 stalls and 10,000 visitors.
You can stroll around the wooden panel houses, through the fish, vegetables and meat sellers of the market, until you arrive at the Place Saint Michel, where you'll see the flower market. Have a sausage crepe with cider, or go through the book market on place Saint-Anne, next to the gorgeous Jules Verne style merry-go-round…
Important info: Open on Saturdays from 8AM to 13h30, rue Saint-Yves.
6) Beef auction market, Saint-Christophe-en-Brionnais (Saône-et-Loire)
Every Wednesday, this village has one of the biggest livestock markets in France. They sell it thanks to an auction clock (“au cadran”) in the beginning of the afternoon. If you want to get in the mood for this market, have a little “bouilli” (beef stew), a rib steak or a calf's head, I promise you it's not that bad for breakfast...This is a very unique atmosphere, that you'll not find anywhere else in France !
Important info: guided visits every Wednesday, in French, English and German from 9 AM to 4 PM. More info at cadran-brionnais.fr
7) Carpentras market (Vaucluse)
The tastiest thing in this market are colours, smells… and southern accents ! All of Provence is meeting every Friday morning in the city center of Carpentras. This very rural region welcomes from all sides fruit and veggies, local flavours, artisan crafts, flowers, and even truffles, the « black diamond » !
The whole atmosphere is southern and very authentic. That's normal, it dates back from the foundation of the city, and this market has been named « exceptional market » since 1996.
Important info: every Friday from 8AM to 12H30. More into: ww.carpentras-ventoux.com
Bonus : the Southern markets song
I could talk to you all day about the Provence markets, but Gilbert Bécaud had sung it all already : here is this French gem for you !
So, which market are you dying to visit? Which ones have you gone to? And is there any other market that I should have added on the list? Share your thoughts in the comments!
I have enjoyed following your Talk in French website for 3 or 4 years now. I also enjoy your weekly newsletter. This was a great article about markets. I wanted to suggest another market that we thought was beautiful both in terms of colour and architectural surroundings. The market in Sarlat la caneda in the Perigord.
You are absolutely right, Sarlat has a great market and the city itself is beautiful.