With spring around the corner and warm temperatures to follow, the market in Aix-en-Provence is at the very top of my list of 10 favorite markets. The city’s famous flower market will soon be an irresistible cacophony of color, scent, and variety, a veritable garden in the midst of the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville. It is the place to be on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings.
We usually start our market expedition here in the flower market although we always park south of Cours Mirabeau in the Mignet parking lot (so we can stop off at Les Deux Garçons to fortify ourselves with a grand crème) and then we walk to the top of the market and begin. If you don’t know Aix, we recommend that you begin with a stop at the brand new Office de Tourisme where you can pick up a map (to navigate the labyrinth of tiny lanes you will soon be on) and lots of other helpful information.
Wander among the cut flowers, potted plants, and even small trees for one’s garden. There are rows of bunches of irises, azaleas, tulips, sunflowers, roses, dried flowers and local flowers whose names I don’t know. A bounty of color and scent beckon you. It is hard to come back without even just a small bouquet. (And just so you know, you can order exactly what you want and find it waiting for you at the next market!)
Before you leave this square (also called place de la Mairie), look up at the stately 17th century l’Hôtel de Ville with its beautiful wrought iron grilles. The magnificent wooden doors are adorned with lion’s head knockers that must have tempted so many passersby to knock that they are now permanently fixed in place. Three flags representing Provence, France and the European Union always fly and occasionally have company.
If you didn’t find the vegetables you were looking for in place Richèlme, another produce market awaits you in the Place des Prêcheurs, near the Palais de Justice. The produce here is not limited to local farmers, as is the market on place Richèlme, and it is not as picture pretty as that found in the smaller square, but it is much larger and you may find some bargains here.
Make sure that you stroll through the brocantes market, located in the place Verdun in front of the Palais de Justice. Like a flea market, you can find some good deals if you know what you are looking for. I have seen some pretty glassware and silver and interesting trinkets. And, I have seen some real junk.
By now, it’s nearing lunch. The vendors will be rolling things up soon. There are many places for lunch in this very cosmopolitan city. Our very close family friend who just spent six months studying in Aix highly recommends La Tomate Verte (inexpensive, excellent, interesting,amazingly good food)–I can’t wait to try it! We would add nearby Le Formal (moderately expensive but excellent). La Bastide du Cours offers very good brasserie food and, of course, our old favorite for a good lunch is Les Deux Garçons, both on cours Mirabeau where the people watching can’t be beat.
Aix-en-Provence is one of my favorite cities in Provence. Less than 30 minutes by car (about an hour by luxurious bus) from Lourmarin, where we hang our hats, we go to this market frequently– in all the seasons. And we go to the English bookstore called Book in Bar, the Musée Granet, the movies, concerts, and out to eat. Aix has been a popular destination since the Romans founded it over 2000 years ago. I don’t foresee that changing.
Market Days: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings until around 12:30 p.m. Note that the produce market in Place Richèlme is open daily.