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Tastes of Provence: Up Close At French Riviera Food Markets

One of the best ways to experience a yacht charter destination is immersing yourself into its gastronomic pleasures – regional food, good wine, harvest festivals and local markets. On the French Riviera, discovering the food markets ashore highlights a Provençal ritual and the link between farm, orchard, ocean and table. With a fabulous climate that sustains agriculture, to experience any French town or city at its core it’s worth being there on market day.

Fresh fish on sale in Cannes

Nature’s Bounty

There is something highly appealing about visiting a food market on the Côte d’Azur – a visual and aural feast with bright fruits in baskets, rainbow-hued vegetables perched loftily in wooden boxes, pinwheels of cheese beside racks of poultry and meat, ocean-fresh seafood glinting from shelves, locals gossiping amongst the stalls and the calls from the vendors over their produce.

Olives for sale in Provence market

Scents of heady garlic, warm bread and sliced charcuterie entice buyers amidst stunning displays of fresh flowers, lavender products, aromatic salt, exotic spices and bunches of herbs.

Food markets are a great reason to visit the Cote d’Azur year round on a yacht charter, where Provence’s charm is evident in the culinary highlights.

Market square in Valbonne, France

Flavours of Provence

Cuisine in restaurants on the French Riviera is typically Mediterranean, so naturally the food markets reflect what is the pick of each season. Your private yacht chef will most probably know the best seasonal stalls – and be on a first name basis with many of them! – and may return to the yacht after provisioning with fresh cèpes, stock ingredients for bouillabaisse, game birds, sweet summer fruits or black truffles.

Fresh fish on sale in French Riviera market

If you want to go shopping yourself, there are plenty of regional specialties to tempt yacht charter guests! Look for plump olives, herb-infused olive oils and buy tapenade or anchoïade to order, as much or as little as you want.

Sample petits farcis (stuffed vegetables), socca (chickpea pancakes) or pissaladière (caramelized onion tart with anchovies, garlic and black olives).

Sip a fruit-soaked liqueur, spread some basil pesto onto a chunk of baguette or scoop some thyme, rosemary, marjoram and oregano together for a seasoning hit of Herbes de Provence.

Anchoïade - olive paste from Provence

In spring, add white asparagus, juicy strawberries, vibrant cherries and stone fruits into your basket. During the height of summer, market stalls have an abundance of fresh produce such as Cavaillon melon, eggplants, peppers, figs and tomatoes. The cooler shift in weather during autumn means you’ll be eating plums, wild mushrooms, chestnuts and all manner of game from the hunting season, plucked, preened or stewed for buyers. From November, look for black truffles, olives, oysters and clementines.

Market Shopping Tips

In larger towns and cities, there are daily markets; in smaller towns and villages the food markets are held once or twice weekly. Most food markets tend to start early and finish around midday or 1pm, so naturally the best produce goes earlier in the day. Vendors set up in the pre-dawn hours, so if you’ve planned a shore excursion ensure you don’t park your rental car in the town square, often the location of the daily/weekly market, as it will be towed.

Take small denominations in cash and a shopping tote or basket.

Antibes Market

Regarding market etiquette, it is considered impolite to handle the produce therefore the general rule is ‘do not touch’. Vendors are proud of their produce, so simply point or let them choose for you as they know which produce is freshest.

Make a day of exploring the French Riviera – start with meandering around a food market in a coastal town such as St Tropez, Antibes or Cannes before staying ashore with a picnic of your market goods or enjoying a long lunch where leisurely glasses of chilled rosé make a perfect match for French Riviera cuisine.

The entrance to the Provencal Market in Antibes, France

8 Top French Riviera Food Markets

The French Riviera region is home to over 35 weekly food and farmers markets which retail everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to artisan honey, fragrant herbs, homemade jams and cured meats.

Here are 8 markets that are located within reasonable proximity to ports along the coast:

Antibes:  Just a few minutes from Port Vauban, Antibes’ fantastic covered Marché Provençal is one of the most popular markets in the region. Situated on Cours Massena in the Old Town, the outside stalls are reserved for professional traders and growers; the stalls in the middle are vendors with smallholdings or large gardens. The type of products you’ll find are fresh fruits and vegetables, cured and fresh meats, olives, cheeses, spices, herbs, fish. Visit the Marché Provençal in Antibes daily from 1st June to 1st September between 6am-1pm; in the other months it’s daily excluding Monday.

The market in old town Antibes

Cannes:  Cannes has a number of daily food markets – head to Marché Forville (daily from 7am-1pm excluding Monday ) or Place Gambetta (daily from 7am-1pm excluding Mondays in winter) for poultry, cheeses, herbs, fruit, vegetables. Cannes La Bocca has a daily food market from 7am-1pm daily, except Mondays. Marché Forville also has a great range of specialty food shops around the outside of the covered market selling foie gras, salmon, chicken and conserves.

The Forville market in Cannes, France

Golfe-Juan:   Golfe-Juan has some excellent fishmongers and they host a fish market every morning except Mondays at the old port. The weekly food market is held on Friday mornings at Place de l’Église.

Mandelieu-la-Napoule:  Food products including fruit, vegetables, olive oils, honey and more can be bought on Wednesdays and Friday mornings at Parking area des Termes, Place des Combattants d’Indochine et d’Afrique du Nord, and Thursday mornings at Place Saint Fainéant (in the carpark across from the Mairie annex).

Menton:  You can find all types of fresh products at the covered Marché des Halles near the Zone Piétonne including meats, seafood, fruit, vegetables, dairy products, herbs and cheeses. Open daily except Mondays, mornings only. There is also a market held on Saturday mornings at Marché du Bastion, quai Napoléon II.

Monaco:  Monaco is best known for luxury shopping, but the food markets are some of the most vibrant in the region with a mix of cultures and local products. Stop by Marché de la Condamine at Place d’Armes daily where you can buy fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers outside, and at the indoor market stock up on specialty foods, meats, fish, wine and baked goods. There is also a covered market on avenue St Charles, open daily you can buy bread, deli goods, meats, fruit, vegetables and dairy products.

Nice:  The flower, fruit and vegetable market in Nice is one of the best attractions on the French Riviera. Situated at the Cours Saleya in Vieux Nice, the stalls with pretty striped awnings showcase the best of the Côte d’Azur’s authentic products including those from the hinterland, orchards and market gardens. The Cours Saleya market is open from Tuesday to Sundays (produce from 6am to 1.30pm + flowers 6.30am until 5.30pm except Sunday).  The National Council for the Culinary Arts has ranked the Cours Saleya flower market as one of France’s ‘special markets’, so don’t miss it when on yacht charter here.

Flower market in Nice, France

Elsewhere in Vieux Nice, the Marché aux Poissons is held in Place Saint-Francois every day except Monday from 6am to 1pm and is a small but lively fish marketplace.

For a local vibe, we recommend the Marché aux Fruits et Légumes de la Libération that is open every day except Monday from 6am-12.30pm. Off-the-beaten path for tourists, its popular with locals who flock there for honey, farmhouse goat’s cheese, fish, meat, fresh fruit and vegetables sold by indoor and outdoor vendors. Find the market at Place du Général de Gaulle, 10 minutes north of Nice’s main train station or take the tram and get off at Libération stop.

St Tropez:  The St Tropez market at Place des Lices is held twice weekly on Tuesday and Saturday mornings from 7am until 1pm and takes place in a wonderful setting under the plane trees. You’ll find all sort of foodie treats such as pastries, cheese, honey, bread, as well as the usual glorious fruit and vegetable selections. When the market is not on, the square is jammed with locals playing boules and the open air caféterias buzz with atmosphere – it really is a great place to while away time on land! If you like seafood, there is a morning fish market on Place aux Herbes close to Vieux Port with all kinds of fish, mussels, octopus and Mediterranean oysters than are saltier than the Atlantic varieties.

Tarte Tropézienne

Other food markets on the Côte d’Azur can be found in Beaulieu-sur-Mer (Tuesday to Saturday mornings at Place Général de Gaulle), Biot (Tuesday mornings at Place de Gaulle), Grasse at Place aux Herbes (3 mornings weekly) and Place aux Aires (Saturday morning), St Paul de Vence (Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays at the lavoir), Valbonne (Friday mornings at Place des Arcades and Place de l’Eglise), Vence (daily except Monday at Place du Grand Jardin) and Villefranche-sur-Mer (Saturday morning at Jardin Binon).

Market Hopping : Special Mentions

Bio / organic:   There are a number of markets with vendors selling bio or organic products in the region including every Wednesday at Square Beaverbrook in Cap d’Ail from 8am-1pm, Wednesday and Saturday mornings in Villeneuve Loubet village, Tuesdays and Fridays in the Cap 3000 carpark at St Laurent du Var and Saturday mornings at Marché du Capitou at Place Jeanne d’Arc in Mandelieu-la-Napoule.

Black Truffle Markets :  Winter brings a busy calendar of black truffle markets across southern France from November to March. The most famous truffle market here in the south east is in Richerenches in the Vaucluse held every Saturday from 9am-1pm. It is open to both the public and wholesale traders and results in a large proportion of France’s truffle sales. Other winter black truffle markets are held in Aups, Valréas and Apt.

Black truffles for sale in France

Carpentras : Located just over one hour from Marseille’s Vieux Port, Carpentras is an ideal town for a shore excursion with well known markets and accessibility to the Côtes du Ventoux and Côtes du Luberon wine regions. Berlingots, the traditional French striped candies named by Clement V in the 14th-century are created in a factory there – you can visit the Confiserie du Mont Ventoux, by appointment. In spring, you’ll find the highly acclaimed Carpentras strawberries and a Strawberry Festival; during winter, charter guests can roam the stalls at the black truffle market held on Friday mornings from November to March.

Italian Markets:  Cruising eastward from Monaco, yacht charter guests can visit the Italian border towns of Ventimiglia, Bordighera or San Remo, all with very good food markets at lower prices than France.

Look for typical products such as balsamic vinegar, Italian cheeses, prosciutto, pastries and sundried tomatoes.

Market in Ventimiglia, Italy

Ventimiglia’s covered food market is open daily, but many people opt to visit on Friday mornings when combined with the large seafront market selling leather goods, souvenirs, artisan food products and clothing.

Bordighera’s market is open from 8am-1pm on a Thursday morning, while San Remo’s food market is open Tuesday and Saturday mornings.

Marchés de Noel :  Any foodie will love the regional Christmas markets where stalls sell everything from spiced wine to pain d’épices and biscuits. You’ll also find elements for the 13 desserts used to celebrate Christmas across Provence – including mixed nuts, candied fruit, pears, dates and fruit preserves.

This article was written by Rebecca Whitlocke on behalf of Bespoke Yacht Charter.

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