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Top Tips for Visiting a French Market

One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and aromas of the French way of life is to visit a market. Almost every town and city across France has their own, some of which are held on a daily basis.

Our top tips on visiting French Markets

Tips for Visiting French Markets

French markets are usually vast bustling affairs, with traditional market traders who call out their best prices to passing customers. It is well worth standing back and taking a moment to absorb all that is going on around you. The atmosphere at a French market is one which will stay with you long after your visit has ended.

Unlike the UK, where the traditional market has long been struggling to survive, the markets of France are bustling, thriving affairs. Fresh local produce is available in abundance, much of it grown within just of few miles of the market in which it is being sold.

Obviously, fruit and vegetables make up large proportions of the market, as do meats, cheeses and in coastal areas in particular, fish. In fact, there are very few foodstuffs you cannot purchase there, and many French people avoid the supermarkets and buy their fresh produce at the local market.

The market tradition is such a way of life in France that speciality markets have sprung up across the country. Paris has a regular antique market, and in Lyon the rare book market is a delight for the bibliophile. In certain seasons, it is even possible to visit markets where just one product is on offer such as mushrooms or truffles. Whichever market you decide to attend we have compiled a list of top tips so that you can make the most of your visit.

  1. Plan Ahead

    It should go without saying, but the more planning you put into your holiday, the more likely you are to enjoy it when you arrive. If you are staying in a gite, find out about the markets in the local area before you travel. It should be possible to find a different market to attend on every day of your stay if you so desire, and of course, the fresh local cuisine will enhance any French stay.

  2. Arrive Early

    French markets tend to open early and are often disbanded by midday. The most popular stall-holders sell out quickly and arriving early is essential if you are to purchase the best of the produce. Another bonus of arriving early is that you will be able to peruse the goods on offer in a more leisurely manner than if you were to arrive later in the morning. In the summer especially, by mid-morning the markets are often teaming with tourists, and that quintessential French atmosphere tends to disappear.

  3. Bring Your Own Bag

    Whilst the stallholder will provide you with flimsy plastic carrier bags, the fresh fruit, vegetables and meat that you are buying will often be quite heavy. Take a strong bag with you, preferably one that slips over your shoulder, and not only will you find your purchases easier to carry,you will also reduce the risk of having to retrieve apples and grapes from the street when the handle gives way on your carrier.

  4. Take Plenty of Coins

    While no market trader is going to turn you away if you wish to pay with a note, early in the morning change is limited, and you may be less than popular if you try to pay with a 20 Euro note for a 1 Euro purchase.

  5. Don’t be Afraid to Point

    If your French vocabulary is a little rusty don’t be afraid to point to the item you are after, the stallholder will not find this rude. In fact, the market is often so busy that they may not hear you if you spoke anyway. A few simple gestures can be just as effective in completing your purchase as if you were fluent in the local language.

  6. Ask if You can Try Before You Buy

    We all know that produce can range from the exceptional to the very poor. You are in a new country, and many of the items on sale are bound to be unfamiliar to you. Don’t be afraid to ask to try before you buy. Most sellers will willingly let you sample their goods as they know this is a great way to ensure a sale. This is a fabulous way to try the regional specialities, and expand your palate.

  7. Ask for Advice

    Like market traders across the world, the French sellers have the gift of the gab. Take advantage of this and ask them what they recommend. You may find that this introduces you to a whole new range of foodstuffs that you had never even considered. It is not unusual to receive advice on meat from the produce traders, and advice on wine from the fish merchants.

  8. If You are Running Late

    Whilst it is best to get to the market early if you wish to experience the full French-ness of the market, there is something to be said for arriving just as it is packing up. Like UK markets, at the end of the day the stallholders are anxious to sell the remainder of their produce. Many will offer a very good price on a large quantity of items and it is a great time to grab yourself a bargain.

French markets are a delight. There really is no better way than to experience French culture than to immerse yourself in the early morning melee at the local market. If you get the chance it is well worth taking the time to pay at least one a visit.

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