Must-Visit Food Markets in France

Explore the best food markets in France for a delicious foray into French cuisine
Explore the best food markets in France for a delicious foray into French cuisine | © Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo
Jo Fernandez

France is famed for its food and wine, much of which regularly appear in our kitchens. Who hasn’t stocked up on brie, baguettes and a bottle of Bordeaux? However, browsing the multiple food markets in France is a different experience altogether. From the historic Les Halles d’Avignon where top chefs show off their skills, to Nice’s vibrant Cours Saleya market, we’ve rounded up the country’s best food markets for a delicious foray into French cuisine.

1. Avignon

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark

A woman buying fresh fish at Les Halles indoor market in Avignon, Provence, France
© parkerphotography / Alamy Stock Photo

In the Provençal town of Avignon, home to the Unesco World Heritage-listed Palais des Papes, you’ll find the Les Halles covered market, which dates back to the 1800s. It is so good that the region’s top chefs buy their produce here in between whipping up inspiring French dishes during cooking demonstrations. Around 40 stalls peddle fresh fruit, vegetables, cheese, organic meat, fish, pastries and wine. When it’s time for a spot of lunch, buy a slice of warm quiche from one of the bars and restaurants and eat it sitting in the square. Daily, except for Mondays.

2. Marseille

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Fish market with large cuts of fish at the Vieux Port (Old Port) in Marseille, France
© Nathaniel Noir / Alamy Stock Photo

Follow your nose to the daily fish market down by the atmospheric old port in Marseille. Founded by the Greeks, Marseille is the oldest and second-largest city in France and one of the most important seaside towns along the Mediterranean. Spend a sunny morning browsing the silver-skinned catch of the day, including grouper, turbot and bream, cooled by the salty sea breeze. It scores top authenticity points for the fishermen arranging their nets to get ready for another trawl. Once visited, you’ll understand why fish-filled bouillabaisse is the city’s most famous dish.

3. Paris

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

The vegetable and fruit market at the indoor Marché des Enfants Rouges in the Marais, Paris
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

You’d expect one of the world’s great gourmet capitals to have a market or two worth visiting – and you’d be right. Lucky Parisians can shop for regional produce all across the city, but we’re highlighting the Marché des Enfants Rouges in the hip Marais district. Despite the sad name – the “red children” being the inhabitants of the 16th-century orphanage once here – there’s an energy around the narrow aisles piled high with fresh everything, from richly coloured carrots and radishes to aubergines and green beans (French, of course). Much of it is organic, too, as you’d expect from one of the best food markets in Paris. Lunchtime lures those in the know for their favourite Italian, Lebanese, African or Japanese dish.

4. Nice

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

The outdoor Cours Saleya market in Nice, France, with covered stalls and crowds at dining tables
© Eric Nathan / Alamy Stock Photo

With a year-round balmy climate and scattering of oh-so-chic restaurants, Nice lures in holidaymakers for good reason. It comes as no surprise then that the capital of the French Riviera has many decent food markets as well. Head to the Cours Saleya morning food and flower market. It’s a photographic dream for travellers who capture snaps of the perfect-looking fruit on upturned baskets to share on Instagram. But only visiting in person reveals the alluring aroma of so many fresh flowers in one space. Daily, except for Mondays.

5. Lyon

Architectural Landmark

A charcuterie counter at the gourmet market Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France
© Image Professionals GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

The third-largest city in France, Lyon also goes by the gastronomic capital moniker, home to a whopping 4,000 restaurants, 21 of them Michelin-star. One of the latter was owned by a French chef of super-star status, Paul Bocuse, which explains the deferential name of the legendary covered market, Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse. Ripe cheeses, cured meats, truffles, spices and chocolate are just a few of the edible goodies you’ll find at this glass-fronted mecca for French food, as you go elbow-to-elbow with fellow culinary enthusiasts. Open daily.

6. Trouville

Architectural Landmark

People shop at the outdoor fish market housed in a charming 1930s burgundy building in Trouville, Normandy, France
© ONLY FRANCE / Alamy Stock Photo

Trouville, Normandy, is a hybrid of an old-fashioned seaside town and a working fishing village. Housed in a charming 1930s burgundy building – in contrast to the town’s pastel 19th-century villas – close to the mouth of the Touques River, the twice-weekly fish market is a must for seafood and fish lovers. Take your pick from scallops, mackerel, sole, prawns, lobster, crab and oysters, all kept fresh with regular sprays of water. Afterwards, sit with a glass of crisp white and a plate of your favourite. The town’s restaurants buy their fish here, so you know it’s the real deal.

7. Périgueux

Architectural Landmark

The outdoor Wednesday market in Périgueux, Dorgogne, France, with the citys Romanesque cathedral in the background
© Paul Edmunds / Alamy Stock Photo

You know a town loves its food when one of its most feted buildings is the ornately carved exterior of the 15th-century Maison du Pâtissier, built by a man who made his fortune dishing up the local pâté de Périgueux (foie gras, wrapped in cured meat and pastry). In the central Dordogne region, Périgueux is all about the regional fare. Each Saturday, the open-air market fills the Place de la Clautre with pinkish heads of garlic, farm-fresh eggs and white asparagus, not to mention the earthy truffles and controversial foie gras for which the area is known.

8. Rennes

Architectural Landmark

The covered Saturday food market in Rennes with a display of different types of saucisson sec
© AGF Srl / Alamy Stock Photo

The Marché des Lices in Rennes is the second-largest market in France and livens up the city every Saturday morning, something it’s been doing since 1622. Over 300 Breton producers display their honey, bread, cider and crêpe-encased, pork sausage-filled galette-saucisse, ready for locals who come armed with sturdy baskets. The setting is also a bit of a draw, with characterful half-timbered townhouses-turned bars where locals sit at bistro tables catching up over a coffee or a pint.

9. Obernai

Architectural Landmark

Charming timber-framed houses line the market square in Obernai, Alsace, France
© agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo

Most popular at Christmas, when the Place du Marché turns into a festive fantasy full of heart-stoppingly cute wooden chalets, the Obernai weekly market is one of the most popular in Alsace. Swelling the medieval ramparts each Thursday morning, locals and tourists gather to buy the region’s wine – Obernai is on the 170km (105mi) Alsace Wine Route – and sweet kugelhopf, a traditional brioche-like Alsace cake, among revered regional specialities.

10. Toulouse

Historical Landmark, Architectural Landmark

A woman walks her bicycle through the Victor Hugo covered market in Toulouse, with an artisan charcuterie counter behind her
© Forget Patrick / / Alamy Stock Photo

Don’t go hungry to Marché Couvert Victor Hugo, the largest covered market in the southern French hub of Toulouse, or you’ll buy up entire stalls. There are buttery pastries, cheeses, charcuterie, fish, bread, butcher’s shops and fruit and vegetables. Stock up on jars of white beans and duck confit so you can try your hand at the classic regional French dish of cassoulet once you get back home. Daily except Mondays.

Pair a weekend of traditional French food with a stay at one of these top French spa hotels. Alternatively, head to a ski resort in the Alps to sample the best raclette and tartiflette in the country.

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