Flea markets and antiquing are a way of life in France. And they’re not just about finding hidden treasures – it’s also a way to absorb the culture and traditions of France. Provence has a full agenda of flea markets all year round. But, when it come to antiquing in Provence, there is one place that simply mustn’t be missed – the year-round capital of antiques in the south of France – L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.
In 1966, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, a little town of immense charm that sits alongside several branches of the Sorgue River, held its first antiques fair. It was such a success that they decided to do it again. And again. Nearly 60 years later, the town is renowned for its antique shops, flea markets, and annual fairs. In fact, it is the second biggest antiques centre in France, and the third largest in Europe.
Not just one but 6 antique ‘villages’
More than 300 antique dealers are gathered year-round in 6 ‘villages’ dedicated to antique shops. You’ll discover everything from furniture – including industrial and venerable antiques, to lamps, paintings, and rugs. Find vintage handbags, lace dresses and haute-couture. Browse through piles of vintage, linen, old comics and ancient books. Find unique sculptural busts, antique tools, large jardinières and urns. There’s even contemporary art. The villages d’antiquaires (antique villages) of l’Isle-sur-la-Sorge are the place to go for lovers of antiques, art and preloved treasures.
An awesome weekly antiques market
With its waterside cafés and restaurants, and little bridges criss-crossing the canals dotted with ancient mossy wooden waterwheels which once powered the local industries of weaving and paper making – L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is full of charm. The town is nicknamed the” Venice of Provence” for its watery arteries and beauty. It’s not just antiques shops that make this one of the top places in France for finding treasure.
Every Sunday between 8 am and 6 pm (except Jan 1 and December 25), the Avenue des 4 Otages is transformed into a vast open-air antiques market. And – the icing on the cake, a traditional street market is held on Sundays too. Shop for fabulous food – olives, cheeses, charcuterie, and quintessential Provencal produce on one side of the river. And browse for antiques on the other side of the river! Take time to relax at a gorgeous café. Stroll the historic streets and along the canals. Enjoy a glass of local wine, and even pop into one of the many museums. There’s no better way to spend a Sunday, though it can be really busy in July and August – you’re likely to be able to browse easier outside those peak visitor months.
Annual antiques fairs
If you are in any doubt that l’sle-sur-la-Sorgue takes antiques seriously – the town also boasts two huge international antiques fairs each year. They are held over the easter weekend and in mid-August. Hundreds of sellers set up stall in the streets and thousands of people from around the world flock to the famous fairs to browse, bargain and buy.
More antiquing destinations in Provence
If you’re a real fan of antiques and flea markets – then Provence has more to please you. Head to Villeneuve-lez-Avignon, across the river from the papal city of Avignon. At the bottom of this beautiful village, each Saturday a brocante, a flea market, is held in Place Charles David from 7 am to 1.30 pm – great for the bargain hunters and for finding a unique souvenir.
And in historic Carpentras, les puces brocante (flea market) is held every Sunday from 9 am to 6 pm in Allées Jean Jaurès.
Find details of more antiques and flea markets in Provence at provenceguide.co.uk/events/antiques
Find loads of great information on what to see and do in Provence at provenceguide.co.uk
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