One of the great things about France is of course the food – but we’re not talking of swanky Michelin starred restaurants here but every day, commonplace food at the street markets in France.
Every town and village seems to hold a street market. In the smaller towns there are tiny once a week markets in the village square with a few local producers selling straight from the farm and market gardeners selling from their garden. You’ll also find a visiting stall holder or two selling specialist goods.
In the big towns you’ll find the markets are more frequent and you may be able to locate a market every day of the week. Bigger French towns will often have a covered market (marché couvert), sometimes called “les Halles” (like the famous Les Halles de Lyon). There will be a much wider choice of stalls and like the small towns, you’ll find local produce from the farms (including poultry and other livestock), market gardeners and specialist producers as well as some stall-holders selling products from further afield.
From the north to the south and right across France buying fresh, local and seasonal produce at a market is a traditional way of life.
To fully immerse yourself in the culture of France – a visit to a street market will open your eyes to how the daily lives of the French go on. Housewives in house coats get there early and peruse the stalls searching out the freshest vegetables and fruit. People have their favourite sellers – whether it is for bread, fruit, meat, cakes, clothes or household items. If you look at the cheese stall with the biggest queue – you know you’re going to be buying the best cheese in the market.
Most markets open early in the morning and close at lunch time. Stay for lunch and buy street food for an authentic French al fresco meal. The ever present chicken rotisserie is easy to find as the scent of the roasting chickens fills the air and at bigger markets you’ll often find some excellent local specialities like shell fish.
It’s always great fun to sit and watch the daily life of French markets at the local cafés where you can enjoy people watching and the banter of the stall holders and their customers.
There is often a cluster of good restaurants to be found close to the market in a French town, and chefs will each morning pay a visit and bring back boxes of the freshest fruit and vegetables like this restaurant in Sarlat where the chef’s choice includes a truffle amongst the mushrooms and eggs purchased at the famous market that morning (below).
Many of the markets take place in the town squares and the picturesque settings add to the experience.
Night markets are usually held in bigger towns like the famous Cours Saleya market in Nice, one of the most colourful and vibrant street markets in the south.
To find a street market in France, search local tourist office websites or visit their office in town for details and times.