If you want to get into the heart of French culture, you have to visit at least one of the country’s famous markets. Deeply intertwined in the lives of the French, it is here that old traditions are still going strong amongst the locals heading off weekly to buy groceries, flowers, or knick knacks, or to just to have a chat with neighbors and enjoy the atmosphere.
France has some of the most vibrant markets in the world, featuring everything from fresh local produce to handmade crafts. Outdoor as well as indoors, you’ll find them dotted all over France. If you are traveling around the country you should know that every town or village will have their own neighborhood market, at least once or twice a week.
The country also boasts a range of lively outdoor markets, which can be found in almost every major city. However, there are certain markets that are more famous than others, that will have both locals and foreign tourists flocking to the area.
So from gourmet wines to quirky antiques and artisan food markets, here are the best markets in France and a wonderful way to experience local life. Allons-y!
1. Fish and seafood market on the Vieux Port of Marseille
I had to start this list with the oldest market in France, the fish and seafood market on the Vieux Port of Marseille. Located on the Mediterranean sea, Marseille is the oldest city in France, founded in 600 BC as the Greek colony of Massalia.
Its strategic location on the Mediterranean sea made the Vieux Port an important trading and fishing port, along with being an access point for the Greeks and Roman Empire.
The fish market that sets up nearby on the Quai des Belges continues that age-old tradition. Fresh fish brought in from the Mediterranean sea, early in the morning, and sold to make the city’s famous bouillabaisse.
2. Marché aux Fleurs Cours Saleya in Nice
One of the famous large squares in the Old town of Nice is called Cours Saleya. The area is a bustling flower and farmers’ market in the mornings during several days of the week, before turning into a giant terrasse for nearby restaurants in the evenings.
This is a lively part of town, just footsteps away from the Promenade des Anglais and coastal beaches.
With the French capital of perfume, the town of Grasse about a 50-minute drive away from Nice, the area is famous for its flowers and an international leader when it comes to scents and perfumery. You can read more about visiting Nice here.
3. Antique market in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is a small town in the south of France, better known for being one of the largest antique markets in Provence.
Isle-sur-la-Sorgue’s famous antique market is held every Sunday, and runs from the full day. However, if you want to pick up a few souvenirs, I recommend going early, because all the good stuff goes quick.
In addition to the antique market, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue has a food and drinks market on Thursday and Sunday mornings from 7-13h.
With everything from fruits, vegetables, seafood, cheeses, charcuterie, soaps, linens, and more, there is something for everyone. Entry to the market is free. You can read more about local foods and drinks to try in Provence here.
4. Marché d’Aligre in Paris
Sometimes called Marché Beauvau, if you are looking for an authentic market where local long-time residents in Paris go, this is it.
Unlike the other Parisian food markets like Marché Mouffetard and Marché President Wilson which are in the most expensive parts of the city, Marché d’Aligre is in more of a middle-class neighborhood.
The market here is divided into two sections, with a large covered market, inside 3 halls, and an uncovered portion that runs down the rue d’Aligre. Along with foods from all across France, it also includes other items like wines, antiques, household good, fabrics, old books, furniture, etc.
The market is open everyday except Monday from 7:30am-1:30pm on weekdays and up to 2:30pm on weekends. You can book a guided tour to Marché d’Aligre here.
5. Provençale markets in Aix-en-Provence
If you happen to be in the south of France, in Aix-en-Provence on Tuesdays, Thursdays or Saturdays, don’t miss the open-air markets that sell everything from flowers to vegetables to lavender oils.
Set in the old town, near the old château of Aix-en-Provence (which is now the town hall), this is a wonderful setting from which to explore the traditonal provençale markets that are so popular in this part of the country.
There is also a 2nd outdoor market on occasion in the large central boulevard called Cours Mirabeau which is a bit like the “Champs Elysées” of Aix-en-Provence.
Lined with several large cafés and green fountains, there is always something going on at Cours Mirabeau, with farmers’ markets, antique markets, and other markets depending on the season.
6. Christmas market in Strasbourg
One of the most popular Christmas traditions in France has to be visiting the Christmas market in Strasbourg in December. While each city, town, and village will have its own marchés de Noël, the one in Strasbourg is considered to be one of most charming in all of France.
With small rides, Christmas trees for sale, and everything from cheese, meats, lavender products, and any other artisanal product you can think of, these little Christmas markets will put a smile on anyone’s face.
7. Braderie (flea) market in Lille
With over 10,000 exhibitors in the streets, the city of Lille in the north of France hosts the world’s largest flea market selling antiques, paintings, furniture, and more. It is usually held the first weekend of September, attracting millions of people every year.
It is believed that the first annual flea markets in Lille date back to 1127 and is a big festival in the city. With various stands, local foods, a half-marathon, and parties late into the night, there is something for everyone.
8. Halles de Bocuse in Lyon
The city of Lyon is considered the French capital of gastronomy, so it stands to reason that one of the top food markets in France is in Lyon.
Much of the city’s reputation is because of famed French chef Paul Bocuse who was known for his innovative approach to French cuisine and made the city his home base.
In order to find the finest ingredients for his Michelin star restaurants, Bocuse lent his name to the Halles de Lyon, a large indoor food market that first opened in 1971. More than a farmers’ market, it is an epicerie fine, with artisan meats, seafood, cheeses, Beaujolais wines and more.
9. Marché des Lices in Rennes
The heart of the city, this large square holds many restaurants and bars. But probably one of my favorite things to do in Rennes is to visit the giant farmers’ market, the Marché des Lices.
The first market was held here in 1453, and it has been a gathering point ever since. At one point in time, even executions took place here.
The market has expanded several times, with everything from fruits and vegetables, flowers, and more being sold here. There are also large indoor stalls selling meats and poultry and even food trucks selling local Breton specialties.
The market runs every Saturday from 7:30 am to 1:30 pm. It is one of the biggest markets in France, even bigger than the ones in Paris. You can read more about visiting Rennes here.
10. Marché de Sanary-sur-mer
Sanary-sur-mer is famous for its daily markets which were voted the most beautiful markets in France in 2018 by TF1, a major national French television station.
The markets run daily from 8am to 1pm along the main quai in town.
In addition, a larger market takes place every Wednesday morning near the Allée d’Estienne d’Orves, combining with the one along the port, on quai Charles de Gaulle.
The markets sell everything from fresh seafood, to local specialties like lavender and olive oil, as well as other souvenirs that can easily survive in luggage to take back home.
There is also a marché nocturne artisanal held at times during the summer months. You can read more about visiting Sanary-sur-mer here.
11. Marché de Uzès
The small duchy of Uzès in the region of Occitanie (next to Provence) is famous for its Wednesday and Saturday morning markets, where locals and tourists all gather to do their weekly shopping.
The streets are packed, and parking is nearly impossible, so be sure to arrive early (or spend the night before).
On the narrower streets, there are also clothing stalls, linens, pottery, jewelry, and many a florist. You can read more about visiting Uzès here.
So have you picked where you want to visit first? If you enjoyed that article, you may want to read more my etiquette guide and tips for visiting a French market. A bientôt!