The Loire Valley is bursting with lively markets selling everything from local food and wine to unique crafts and antiques. As well as discovering some great local buys, they also offer a unique insight in to the local community and culture. Whether you are a foodie looking for an authentic farmers’ market, a bargain-hunter after a buzzy flea market, or simply want to take in the beauty of endless fragrant flower stalls, here are ten of the top markets in the Loire Valley to explore. Grab your wicker basket and get shopping.
Le Marché du Carreau des Halles, Tours
The historic city of Tours has a staggering 20 markets. Le Marché du Carreau des Halles is a real farmers’ market, with dusty vegetables pulled fresh from the fields. Established in 1833, it is one of the oldest in the city. It is a great place for fresh, local food directly from the farmers themselves. Get there early to select your fruit and vegetables before the heat of the day sets in and the locals descend.
Angers is the capital of the Anjou province. Close to the station, the city’s famous Marché Lafayette takes place on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. With a huge array of restaurants and cafés, it can be tempting to first head for brunch in Angers, but make sure you leave plenty of room: the market’s bountiful stalls are bursting with fresh peaches, homemade jams and local cheeses. Make sure you pick up a portion of the freshly cooked snails for lunch and seek out one of the city’s beautiful parks. If you have time, head to la Maison d’Adam. The impressive building is home to more than 80 craftsmen and women who create an array of pieces using glass, clay and wood. The result is an Aladdin’s cave of unique souvenirs and gifts.
The medieval city of Loches has a great morning market every Wednesday and Saturday. Stalls displaying everything from freshly roasted chickens and immaculately presented goat’s cheese to handmade jewelry, and household items line the lower part of this beautiful cobbled city, all overlooked by its imposing castle. Arrive before 10AM and grab a free parking place just beyond the train station, then you can wander over the River Indre and take in the castle en route. There are plenty of restaurants and cafés dotted around for a post-market pick-me-up.
Along a refreshingly shady tree-lined avenue, next to the River Vienne, the historic town of Chinon holds a decent antique market on the third Sunday of each month. It is a great place to rummage through old mirrors, antique frames and distressed furniture. The town itself is also worth a visit for its quaint cobbled streets and half-timbered houses.
Chinon Antiques Market, Promenade of the Doctor Mettrait, Chinon, France
Every Saturday morning Nantes’ Place Viarme is a treasure trove of old statues, artwork, porcelain and furniture. Thanks to Nantes’ coastal location it isn’t unusual to find objects with a naval or nautical history. This October it will also host the annual autumn Capharnaum de la Brocante, a three-day flea market extravaganza with 160 displays featuring lace, postcards, embroideries, paintings and more.
Sprawled along one of Tours’ picturesque tree-lined boulevards, Béranger is one of the Loire’s finest flower markets; it also sells a nice selection of craft items. It takes place every Wednesday and Saturday and its colourful blooms make it a great photo opportunity, plus it smells divine.
One of the region’s biggest markets, Amboise’s Sunday market boats around 250 stalls selling everything you can think of; from your standard French market fare to the bizarre (think lawnmowers, sinks and, on occasion, even beds). Situated along the banks of the River Loire it is a true destination market, with many people making a day-trip of it as it’s only a short walk from the château. Arrive early to secure a parking space, as by mid-morning they’ll all be snapped up. There is also a smaller Friday market for those seeking a less intense experience.
Orleans is one of France’s oldest towns and it boats an impressive array of specialist markets throughout the week; from fabric and organic food to books and a Saturday flea market. If you only visit one, make it the atmospheric night market on Fridays. It kicks off at 5PM and is a great place to turn up hungry, with lots of local food and drink on sale alongside reassuringly worn, secondhand books and local crafts. The 19th-century bronze statue of Joan of Arc, the city’s heroine, oversees proceedings which continue until 9:30PM.
Nantes’ oldest and biggest market, Talensac has been trading since 1937. It runs every day except Mondays, when most shops and markets in France are closed. It sells a huge array of food and, due to Nantes’ seaside location, the seafood and fish stands are particularly impressive.
This popular hillside city retains a striking Gothic cathedral, a famous chateau and various historic monuments to admire. It has various markets throughout the week, but the largest is the Saturday morning market, which boasts over 100 stalls selling fresh produce. In winter, grab some of the great value oysters and indulge in a hot chocolate as you take in the picturesque setting. In summer, fill your basket with local stone fruits and enjoy the live music.