I love French markets – not just for the fresh produce, though there’s always something new to discover, but also the traditional baked goods, distinctive charcuterie and local cheeses that give an insight into the regional cuisine. There’s also the voyeuristic pleasure of watching locals go about their daily business and the chance to find unique pieces of servingware or condiments to evoke memories of that special place, sometimes years later. While travel is only via memories for the time being, I’m especially grateful for the bits and pieces I’ve carried back from some of my favourite markets around France.
Marché aux Puces Saint-Ouen, Paris
The world’s largest secondhand wares market is held on the outskirts of Paris every weekend and, while it’s not a food market, it is a wonderful place to find beautiful cooking accoutrement, from silver snail tongs and antique linen to shiny copper pots and vibrant majolica servingware.
Les Halles de Narbonne Languedoc
The covered market in this ancient Roman port town features seafood of all sorts including local oysters and rare violets (sea squirts), grotesque monkfish, rouget, langoustine, sea snails and eels, alongside beautiful seasonal vegetables, cheese, charcuterie and casual eateries with spectacular seafood platters.
Grand Marche Provençal St-Rémy-de-Provence
The vibrant weekly market flowing around the main square of St-Rémy is one of the most memorable I’ve ever seen, with its huge array of fresh produce, flowers, cheese, charcuterie, colourful local pottery and linen, traditional nougat, tapenades, lavender and huge bubbling pans of snails in tomato sauce.
Marché des Lices Rennes, Brittany
France’s second largest food market has been held on Rennes’ Place des Lices every Saturday morning for at least 400 years. Locals buy seasonal fruit and veg, seafood, meat, cheese, charcuterie, huge wheels of bread and other baked goods from outdoor stalls and vendors in two covered halls.
Les Halles Grand Hôtel-Dieu Lyon – CLOSED
In an elegantly restored former 17th century hospital, in the heart of the city of gastronomy, is a small exclusive covered market with a handful of artisanal stallholders selling confectionary, chocolate, bread, meat, cheese, seafood, fresh produce and wine, plus the Les Halles bistro.
Where's France's best flea market?
France’s largest market for secondhand wares, including antiques, is a sprawling warren of streets and warehouses on the northern outskirts of Paris. The Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen is divided into a number of smaller markets focusing on furniture, art, books, clothes, kitchenware and so much more … you could easily spend an entire day exploring it.
What's the difference between the French words for market: marché and les halles?
Marché is the French word for market. If it’s a covered market (inside a building) it’s called les halles (literally ‘the halls’).