Due to its wonderful ambience, charm and compliment of many great shops and wine bars, St-Remy-de-Provence market is a very popular.
Hundreds of vendors line up every week and many, if they aren’t regulars, wait from 6 am onwards merely in the hope that a regular will cancel so that they can jostle to take their place. All of this is regulated by the ‘placier.’ See here a video of Alain, the Placier of Saint Remy de Provence:
I might be biased as I work in this market. I will try not to be. St Remy is one of the most popular markets with tourists. This is for good reason. Many of the most popular weekly markets actually have the same lucky vendors. It is my self-imposed task to find the subtle differences between these markets.
St Remy is the best market for women’s market dresses (linen loose-fitting dresses in blues and whites that everyone wears in the heat) and handbags. Don’t be fooled by the shops- the market dresses are often exactly the same and cheaper. Right now you’ll start seeing scarves and boots appear…
This is one of the best markets to buy gifts (for yourself or otherwise). You’ll find Provencal fabric tablecloths, tea towels, soaps, small paintings etc. It is also the most musical market I’ve come across with a range of buskers from those sitting on the street side with a guitar to three-piece jazz bands. The stalls wind through the main streets of St Remy where you’ll be tempted not only by the market wares but the high-quality patisserie shops, Provencal home décor shops, and chic clothing shops.
If you want to get the best of your day, I would arrive quite early, as there is little parking in St Remy. Sniff out a bakery for some croissants or a treat called ‘Cousadou’ (a unique speciality of Artisan Boulanger Robert Cambillau). Then head to the Café de la Place where all the locals gather and market vendors stand at the bar to drink a quick espresso after setting up their stands. If you feel like a lazy morning, this café supplies many English and French newspapers. It’s also perfect for that activity that must be coupled with visiting any market- people watching.
Make a Day of It
The market is only really fully set up at around 9 am. It gets quite busy at this time of year around 10:00-10:30 am until 12. The stalls dismantle only around 1 pm. Personally, I would wander the market and then leave before it gets too busy. I suggest heading south to Maussane-les-Alpilles for lunch in the town square. At the 2 superb bistros there (one bistro specialising in fish and one in more market fare such as lamb cutlets), you can calmly while away a couple hours. There are also about 20 other restaurants (amazingly) in this small village. They range from haute cuisine to pizza.
Then, if you haven’t had too much wine and still have a little energy, you can head to the medieval hilltop town of Les Baux de Provence (voted one of the most beautiful villages in France) and wander around the castle ruins. You can also visit the Carrieres de Lumieres right next to the town. This is a cathedral-like quarry that has been transformed into a theatre where projectors screen onto every surface paintings from the great European masters. You can roam around and discover this year’s theme, the Italian Renaissance.
St Remy de Provence Market
When is it: Wednesdays all year 9am-1pm
What you’ll find there: typical Provençal market (soaps, flowers, cloth, bags, olives, fresh food etc) with more options for upmarket versions of clothing, tablecloths and art
Make a day of it (if you’re a shopper): Wander around the market in the morning, have lunch, and then peruse around the stores in the afternoon
Wander around the market for a couple hours in the morning and then head 15 min south to Maussane for lunch and then Les Baux for stunning views of the Alpilles.