L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in Provence makes for a perfect holiday destination year-round thanks to its status as the antiques capital of France. Not to mention the fact that it is one of the prettiest towns you’ll ever meet. It’s a lovely sunny place, full of charming restaurants, bars and cafés and a buzzing atmosphere. Here are some of the top things to do in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue Provence from restaurants to shops and antiques…
The sites of L’sle-sur-la-Sorgue
I arrived in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue on a sultry evening having travelled by train from Paris. My base was the Hotel Les Terrasses and the first thing I did when I got to the room was fling open the windows to drink in the views. Bang, smack over the top of the famous Basin de Sorgue or as the locals call it Le Bassin Bouïgas. Dusk was falling, lights glowed softly in trees, the reflections shimmering gently on the surface of the clear water. The sound of laughter, light chatter and glasses clinking floated up to my window tempting me to join the diners below.
It’s an iconic sight that little lake. Restaurants line the terraces around it, birds sing in the trees and it is the perfect place for people watching. A glass of rosé, the favourite drink of Provence, was set in front of me with a dish of crusty bread and dark tapenade. The scent of the crushed olives filled the air, my determination to diet dissolved. A little boy played with a wooden car at the table next to me, his parents chatted quietly.
The warm air and the pink and purple sky made for a magical moment and I couldn’t help thinking “it doesn’t get much better than this”. My salad was delicious, the ambiance was wonderful and I couldn’t fault my first night in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. I slept like a baby and woke up to deep blue skies with just the slightest whisps of cloud, and the sound of the town waking up. It’s enough to make you fall in love with a place.
The Water wheels of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
Through the town of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue runs the bubbling river Sorgue, originating from the famous source of the Fontaine de la Vaucluse a mere 5 miles away.
Along the river are a dozen or so historic, green moss-covered water wheels. They’re eerily beautiful, a reminder of the town’s past when it was a centre of wool, paper and silk making. Follow the river to the point where it divides known as “le partage des Eaux” for a very pretty view and the perfect selfie spot. Wandering along the tranquil roads, there is a hint of blossom and herbs on the warm air and plenty of sights to admire.
There are lots of places to shop for souvenirs, clothes, gourmet food products and gifts. One of the most fabulous shops I visited was La Boutique de Francine 20 Avenue Julien Guigue. Francine has been collecting textiles for more than 50 years and the shop is packed with ancient and vintage things from hats to ball gowns, pillow cases, sheets and a ton more, ask to see in the back room to discover an absolute treasure trove of textiles. Of course, antiques are what make this place an absolutely stand out place to visit.
Antiques at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
With 7 “antique villages”, warehouses and more than 350 antiques and bric-a-brac dealers open all year round on weekends and holidays, this town is antiques heaven. When the big antique fairs take place several times a year – there are a lot more dealers in town. Isle sur la Sorgue is the largest antique centre in France, second only to Paris (and a lot sunnier).
Eating and drinking in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
There are lots of fabulous restaurants in this town. Around Le Bassin, along the river, in cobble stone squares under the shade of plane trees – there’s plenty of choice here.
Locals love: The perfect place for lunch is the Café du Village in the Le Village des Antiquaires de la Gare. It’s popular with dealers, locals and visitors for its terrace that’s shaded by vines and plants plus a fabulous menu. In France, its de rigeur to take two hours for lunch. At this lively, pretty restaurant in the largest and oldest of the antique villages in the town, you won’t have any problems whiling away the hours. 2 Avenue de l’Égalité.
Dinner at Les Terrasses hotel restaurant round the Le Bassin. Tasty food, friendly staff and the view is to die for…
Grab a snack at Le Cri des Crocs food truck. Great tasting organic salads and tasty hamburgers that you can eat at the little tables in front of the river, a picturesque spot. 871 Route d’Apt
Wine and Dine: Le Vivier restaurant has a fabulous menu created by a talented team. With a Michelin star, creative, refined cooking, stunning location overlooking the river Sorgue. With the sound of a water wheel gently splashing – it’s nigh on perfect and very romantic. 800 Cours Fernande Peyre.
Aperitif heaven: Sous la Robe, a wine bar with a pretty courtyard. They do a great planche (a plate with nibbles) with your drink. 5 Avenue des Quatre Otages.
Pop in for a beer, glass of wine or pastis at the Café du France simply because it’s so very French and pretty! 14 Place Liberté.
There are two excellent food markets a week, Sunday and Thursday mornings and lots of food shops in town.
How to get to the Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
By train from Paris via Avignon. In summer months the Eurostar runs direct from London to Avignon. The train from Avignon to Isle-sur-la-sorgue costs a few Euros and takes 25 minutes.
By Air: Avignon Airport or Marseille-Marignane International Airport then take the train.
Hotel: Les Terrasses de David et Louisa. Simple, comfy rooms and a view to die for (Avenue du Général De Gaulle)
Tourist office websites: www.oti-delasorgue. co.uk; www.provenceguide.com