Every summer, I like to try and spend a little bit of time with Ben’s family at their house close to Béziers, in the Occitanie region of South West France. One of the simple joys of those holidays is spending a morning wandering around a market, picking out food for lunch and presents for the friends and family back home. I haven’t blogged about this region of France very much in the past, I think because it feels like a home away from home for me, but I’ve decided to change that, because it’s a really lovely spot for a summer holiday. There are tons of markets in this area of France, but here are my top picks for a morning of haggling in the sunshine.
Saint Chinian is home to a popular market which springs up every Thursday and Sunday in the town square, packed with locals and tourists alike. This is a great place to pick up some tasty food for lunch – there’s a roast chicken stand, you can usually find someone stirring up a giant paella, and I got some delicious flatbread here in the summer. Aside from food, you can find plants, clothes, and fragrant soaps (which make great gifts for the people you’ve left at home). Last time I was there, I spotted some English books for sale, as well as an English stall, which wasn’t doing much to improve the impression the French have of our cuisine – tinned pie, anyone?
Aside from the market, the town is also at the centre of the Saint-Chinian wine AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée, controlled designation of origin). This means that there are plenty of wine-tasting options available to you both in Saint-Chinian and the nearby villages.
Narbonne is a great town for a day trip – it’s probably the biggest town on this list, and there’s a lot to see and do. There’s a daily food market in Les Halles, which has both fresh produce and prepared food, as well as various markets every Tuesday (second hand clothes, food textiles), Thursday (everything, with the possible exception of food, but including flowers), Saturday (organic market), and Sunday (everything except food).
Once you’ve got your market fix, be sure to wander the shops in the lanes on either side of the canal, have a look around the ruined cathedral, and pause for a drink in the town square.
The artsy and charming town of Pézenas is a must-see for a lot of visitors to the region, and therefore the Saturday market can get very busy in peak season. Still, there’s both a standard and an organic market to see, and it is an extremely pretty little town.
I should confess that I’ve only been to Pézenas once, and I didn’t really like it. I am the only person in the world who doesn’t like it, and I’m determined to return and see what all the fuss is about.
Bedarieux is a funny one. It’s a town of 6,600 people with a three screen cinema. There’s a huge market here every Monday, which is spread throughout the town. It would be a great way to get tourists to visit local shops, but because it’s on a Monday, all the shops are closed.
Personally, my favourite section was the flea market, held near the river, which had a wide variety of items for sale, including a harpoon, a hunting knife, a gun, and a sextant.
If you’re going on holiday to the area, then I’m sure Carcassonne is already on your list – the medieval walled city is a must see in the region. Why not time your visit with a trip to the market in the ‘modern’ town, too? On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, you have flower, fruit and vegetable markets. Saturday also brings the clothes market (new and second hand) to town, and on Sunday, there’s a local producers market. As with Narbonne, Carcassonne also has an indoor food market, open from Monday to Saturday.
Fly with Ryanair from Bristol, Luton, Manchester, or Edinburgh
Fly with Easyjet from Gatwick or Luton
Fly with Flybe from Southampton
Fly with Ryanair from Glasgow, Dublin, Manchester, East Midlands, or Stansted
Fly with Ryanair from Luton
Fly with Ryanair from Stansted
Fly with British Airways from Heathrow
Fly with Easyjet from Bristol, Luton, or Gatwick
Fly with Flybe from Guernsey, Jersey, Southampton, Birmingham, Manchester, Dublin, Glasgow, Belfast, Edinburgh, or Aberdeen