One of the pleasures of visiting southern France is enjoying one of its many traditional open-air markets, of which there are many! Almost every city, town, and village has a weekly market, and in some larger locations, they happen more than once a week.
These markets don’t just sell fresh produce. They also sell local cheeses, quality cut meats, regional wines, olives, spreads, breads, prepared dishes, clothing, jewelry, ceramics, exotic textiles and souvenirs from Southeast Asia, shoes, and much more. Larger markets might also have informal, live music and outdoor cafes or bars at which to gather and socialize.
Indeed, a lot of culture, history, and tradition make up these markets, and many of the vendors are craftsmen who have been coming to the area markets for years. For an excellent summary of what French markets are all about, including their cultural significance, see this link.
A Favorite: the Mirepoix Market
One of the larger, more popular, and fun markets to attend in the Midi-Pyrenees region in southeastern France where we’re currently staying is the Monday market in Mirepoix. What we love about it: first, it’s huge! And so, offers a large variety of food and products. They even have one of my favorites: a stand with multiple tables piled high with gently used clothes that can be had for as little as 1 Euro a piece. The kids loved the 1 Euro stand, which was filled with dozens of knick-knacks–such as sewing kits, reading glasses, hardware pieces, and toys—unbelievably all for 1 Euro a pop. (Of all the choices at this stand, the kids picked out toy phones with their allowance money. I wish I knew in advance those things would make so much noise!)
Another attractive feature of this market is that it is centered in a beautiful square surrounded by buildings with colorful wooden shutters that originated in the 12th century. This large square, or courtyard area, is surrounded on all four sides by cafes and bars with plenty of outdoor, sidewalk seating from where you can sit and watch the lively market action. Bookshops and tabac shops also surround this square, between cafes. I made a mental note to come back to Mirepoix on a non-market day, just to sit right here at Cafe Castignolles and enjoy this town’s beauty.
This market is lively! Walking around it, I recognized a few vendors from the Saturday market in Quillan and the Sunday market in Esperaza (which I wrote about in a previous post), and I realize many just move from market to market each day.
If you come through this area in France, be sure to check out this market!
Practical Info about the Markets
Local markets generally run from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. (lunch time) on certain day(s) of the week all year round. In addition, many towns also host evening markets in the summer months of July and August, and special occasion markets, such as at Christmas.
For a list of markets, see one of the following:
- For a list of markets in and around the French department of Aude (in southeastern France), see this list.
- For a list of markets for each department in France, see this list.
You may wish to check with the nearest tourist office to confirm markets listed are still happening, or in bigger cities, to get their exact locations.