Best Markets of the Luberon (and beyond)
Which are the best street markets of the Luberon? There are several to choose from every day, but if you are coming for a week you will want to know which are an absolute must on any given day. Read on...
OK you are not spoilt for choice for Luberon markets on a Monday, so head for Cavaillon market, where half the population of the town seems to converge on the central avenue for the weekly market. Cavaillon market is more gritty than others, it's where people are looking for clothing bargains, fabrics, footwear, household goods, as well as food. Cavaillon is the western gateway to the Luberon and a proper town, so its market is not as quaint as all the picture-perfect Luberon villages, but more 'real'.
Beyond the Luberon: Forcalquier market is the biggest one in the Alpes de Haute Provence department, which neighbours the Luberon to the east. Like all markets a little off the tourism trail this is an important weekly appointment for locals to meet and catch up. As well as all the usual market delights, Forcalquier is especially good for linens, earthenware and local products.
On Tuesday you have two very picturesque markets depending on where you are: Gordes in the northern Luberon and Cucuron in the south. Neither market is especially large, but both offer a spectacular setting - around the castle of Gordes, and the vast water basin and plane trees at the heart of Cucuron.
Beyond the Luberon: Vaison-la-Romaine is a blockbuster market in a town full of Roman remains. There are up to 450 stalls in summer so this is a biggie, and it takes up most of the disarming central streets and squares of the town. Head for Cours Taulignan for food produce, and elsewhere for all sorts of other wares. And there are far more locals than tourists, which means prices are kept low.
In summer, the best-kept secret is that the very popular Coustellet Sunday farmer's market also has a Wednesday evening edition - there are fewer stalls but still every wonderful and local fruit or vegetable, wine, oil, cheese and herb that you could dream of. And no crowds.Beyond the Luberon: two of the best markets in Provence are on a Wednesday. Half an hour west is the refined little town of St-Remy-de-Provence, a stunning setting for a market that spreads through its cobbled streets and squares, and attracts a well-heeled crowd. Sanary-sur-Mer is 90 minutes away on the Mediterranean, but it is an amazing setting for a market and was voted the most beautiful market in the whole of France by the viewers of the main TV station TF1. As well as a rainbow of fruit and veg, this is a fishing village so the seafood stalls are exceptional.
Roussillon, Menerbes and Goult markets have one thing in common - they are modest in size but in a perfect setting in some of the most beautiful villages in Provence. If you want to see what the locals of these villages look like, this is the time.
Beyond the Luberon: Aix-en-Provence - this magical city is full of markets on Thursdays (also Saturdays). This is when you can call in on Place des Precheurs for fresh produce, Place de Verdun for non-food items, Place Richelme for the farmers’ market, the Place de l’Hotel de Ville for the flower market, and Cours Mirabeau for clothes and textiles. All within a 5-minute walk in the centre of France's most beautiful little city.
Two great Luberon markets happen at the same time and in neighbouring villages - Bonnieux in the north Luberon and Lourmarin in the south. You can drive from one to the other through the cut in the Luberon mountain in 20 minutes and that is what you should do. Even if you are not buying, they are a feast for the eyes. Bonnieux is smaller, about 20 stalls, but beautifully arranged on the main square. Lourmarin stretches further with more stalls, and then come lunchtime you are in the best village in the Luberon for lunch al fresco.
Beyond the Luberon: If you want small and a gorgeous village, like St Remy in miniature, Eygalieres gets the nod. Or if its size you're after, go to the city of Carpentras, where it feels like the people of Carpentras and surrounding areas still come to do their weekly shop amid the 350 vendors.
Saturday morning means one thing in the Luberon: Apt market. This is the Luberon's biggest market, with over 300 stalls in the historic centre's main street and surrounding squares. Saturday mornings in Apt are a fixed rendez-vous for people from villages all around.
Beyond the Luberon: Uzès, just because medieval Uzès is an architectural must-see, and worth the 80-minute drive. Uzès market is another popular hangout for locals and tourists alike, so best to get there early or late.
If you are only in the Luberon for one Sunday you are going to need to go to two markets, not too far apart but very different. In Coustellet you have the famous farmer's market, which is only local produce picked in the last day. This runs from April to December. The Isle-sur-la-Sorgue Sunday market is a two-in-one - there is a regular food market, but more famously there is the antiques and bric-a-brac market, for this is the antiques capital of France. One thing these markets have in common is they are very popular; the local recommendation is to go early. Booking a table in l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue for lunch is also highly recommended, there are many restaurants to choose from.
Note: Provence markets runs from about 7.30am to about 12.30pm, so if you arrive in the afternoon there will be nothing there!