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The Best French Flea and Produce Markets

August 17, 2011 4:00 pm
posted by Rebecca

Everyone loves a bargain.  No-one more so than the French, from whom shopping at markets is a way of life. What better way to while away a Saturday or Sunday morning than browsing around stalls laden with pans and pots and fishing rods or heaving with delicious cheeses, locally grown asparagus and fragrant flowers.

Wherever you’re heading in France, here’s a guide to some of the best brocante, braderie and marché au puces.

Brittany – Quiberon

This small city at the tip of the thin Breton peninsula comes alive each Saturday morning (and Wednesdays in Port Haliguen to the east of Quiberon, during the summer months) with a lively produce market.  Expect to find delicious regional foodstuffs as well as fresh fish.  The perfect spot to shop for a picnic or gorge on freshly shucked oysters!

Accomodation: stay at the Residence Ker Avel

Nord-Pas de Calais – Braderie, Lille

For one weekend a year Lille becomes the bargain hunting capital of Europe as the Braderie fair takes over town.  Held each September, Braderie is renowned as one of the largest flea markets on the continent with over two million visitors flocking to steal a deal.

Over 200 km of pavements throughout old Lille are taken up with stalls selling paintings, antiques, ornaments, furniture and junk of every description over a full 48 hour period.

One particular highlight is the competition to see which restaurant can create the tallest pile of mussel shells from the signature dish of moules et frites.

If you can’t make the Braderie at Lille, Calais is an easy pit stop for day-trippers and ferry-philes, with two good produce and flower markets.   The market at Place d’Armes takes place on Wednesday and Saturday mornings at the centre of the old town.  Shop for flowers, flower bulbs and local food specialities including ostrich pâté, the savoury tart, flamiche, locally grown chicory, home-made honey, farm-produced jams, northern France’s famed fish soup, foie gras and speciality saucissons.

Another takes place at Place Crèvecoeur to the south of town on Thursday and Saturday mornings, great for fruit and vegetables.

Accommodation: Stay at the Village Belle Dune

Franche-Comté – Vieux Quartier, Belfort

The first Sunday of each month (except during January and February) sees the most famous flea market in the East of France set up shop with over 200 stalls in the old town.

Here you can snap up Alsatian bowls and milk pitchers, grey stoneware jugs, clocks from nearby Besançon, enamel plaques from Alsace, linens, books, toys, glassware, copperware and furniture.

Rhone Alps – Vieux Quartier, Annecy

The market in the old town at Annecy is renowned as much for its stunning setting on the edge of Lac d’Annecy, surrounded by mountains, as for its rustic regional wares.  As you’d expect, there are Alpine goods a plenty including cow bells, skis and paintings of mountain scenes.

The market runs throughout the day on the last Saturday of each month.

Accommodation: Stay at the Aparthotel Annecy Centre

Villeurbanne, Lyon (also known as ‘Puces’)

This legendary flea market takes place in Villeurbanne, on the outskirts of Lyon, every Sunday morning, with dedicated bargain hunters arriving at the crack of dawn.  There are more than 400 stalls of antiques, bric-a-brac, used goods and 18th and 19th century furniture.  A smaller version also takes place at the same site on Thursdays and Saturdays.

Paris – Marché aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt

Ask any Frenchman to name a Parisian flea market and St-Ouen or ‘Clignancourt’ will be top of the list, acknowledged as the largest antiques market in Europe and the oldest in Paris.  There are more than 2,000 shops spread out over a nine mile radius selling cheap clothing, military surplus, shoes, sunglasses and leather goods.

The other main contender would be Porte de Vanves on Saturdays and Sundays for its eclectic mix of goods.  The Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves is more compact than Clignancourt with 300-plus stalls.

Also worth checking out is Richard Lenoir for all manner of foods, from the freshest meats, cheeses and produce to international foods and flavours.

Accomodation: Stay at the Aparthotel Paris Opera 

The Loire – Boulevard Alexandre Martin, Orléans

Held every Saturday morning in a car park on the Boulevard Alexandre Martin in the charming town of Orléans, this bustling market attracts around 100 vendors.  Bargain hunters will love this treasure trove of rustic items, ranging from tools and buckets to fishing rods, kitchenware and quality linen.

If it’s food you’re after, then head to the weekly Saturday morning market in Saumur, showcasing the best of the ‘garden of France’.

Take a look at Le Chant blog for lots more wonderful pictures: http://lechant.wordpress.com/2009/06/06/saumur-market/)

Provence and South of France

There are more markets than you can shake a stick at in the South of France.  Here are just a couple of favourites.

Cours Saleya, Nice

The flower and produce market at Cours Saleya operates every day bar Monday (when the square is taken over by the antiques and flea market).  There are hundreds of varieties of flowers grown locally in the fields of Provence including carnations, roses, camellias, lilies, irises, freesias, daffodils, cyclamen, chrysanthemums, azaleas, marigolds, daisies and gardenias.

Sunday is the best day for produce, fish, meats, cheeses, fruit and veg.

Accommodation: Stay at the Residence Heliotel Marine

Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, Avignon

On Saturday mornings 100 or so stalls set up just across the Rhone from Avignon at the Place du Marche along the Ave de Verdun, selling Provençal pots, pottery and bedspreads.  This market gets fewer tourists than the main Avignon flea market on Sundays, and as a result good deals can be found.

Accommodation: Stay at the Village Point Royal en Provence

Midi-Pyrénées – Allées Jules Guesde, Toulouse

Discerning shoppers will enjoy scouring this quality flea market for ‘decorative’ rather than rustic wares.  Held on the first Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the month throughout the day along the allées Jules Guesde in central Toulouse.

Accommodation: Stay at the Aparthotel Toulouse Aèroport 

Aquitaine – Perigueux

Wednesdays and Sundays are market day in Perigueux, the capital of the Dordogne River Valley.  Stalls are set up near the cathedral in Place de la Clautre selling fresh produce and cheeses.  There is also a market specialising in fois gras and truffles on place St-Louis in Puy St-Front from November to March.

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