1 September 2023
“And here are some basil leaves to go with your tomatoes! “This is often what the first person on the market will tell you after giving you your change and putting your shopping in your basket, sometimes with a singing accent and a face burned by the Côte d’Azur sun.
And it is not without cooking advice or a typical Nissarde recipe that you will leave with your arms full of fruit and vegetables, each as colourful as the next!…
The market here is an institution, a tradition, a lifestyle or simply an education in good manners. In any case, it is a pleasant exchange where everyone is the actor of a timeless play in which, by magic, the local identity becomes the only scenery for all your senses.
The charm of markets in and around Nice
Who has never had the pleasure of wandering through the alleys of a market in Provence, and more particularly in Old Nice, along the Cours Saleya, and of wanting to stay there to taste the thousand flavours of this sun-drenched land?
Who doesn’t like to slow down and let themselves be carried away by the scents of the garrigue, or the olive in tapenade?
Who doesn’t appreciate the simple happiness of doing their shopping early in the morning, taking part in the unconscious staging of Act I of a feast to come with family or friends? The market is a convivial place and one goes there quietly and with pleasure while strolling and chatting, at any age.
But in the South, and on the metropolitan territory, it goes without saying that it has an even more pronounced flavour because it is indeed the traditions and the local identity that are celebrated by drawing on history…
Gilbert Bécaud sang the markets of Provence, yes of course, but let’s not forget that the heart put into this song was probably carried by his childhood memories of Nice.
And, in our beautiful Metropolitan area, influences go far, including towards Italian territories, because if we plunge into the riches of history, the county of Nice was until 1861 part of the Kingdom of Piedmont Sardinia.
So many riches in influences and traditions.
The market is the soul of a place. Symbol of a whole territory, often extended to the whole of Provence and part of Italy, it alone is the heart of the city.
Thus, each commune of the territory contains a typical atmosphere on fair days.
From the highest perched to the water’s edge, each village has its own particularity, its “character” and its flagship products.
How about a tour to discover them better?
Beaulieu sur Mer
On the coast, the Marinoni square in Beaulieu sur Mer is animated by the Provencal market all year round, on Saturday mornings and Sundays in season. During the week, from Monday to Friday, the stalls offer local fruit and vegetables and fish products and give way, every first Sunday of the month, to the Italian market!
Cagnes sur Mer
Further to the west, it is without a doubt that charm operates in the Cros de Cagnes, a district of Cagnes sur Mer which has managed to preserve its traditional maritime activity.
It’s in this pretty little port with the allure of yesteryear that the last professional fishermen of the area make you discover the fish of the coastal waters. Depending on the catch of the day, these sailors are full of preparation tips and other recipe ideas. To do this, go to the fish market where you will discover species such as poutine, a speciality of the local market.
Cagnes sur Mer also offers traditional markets throughout the week, but it should be noted that every first Saturday of the month, an Italian market with a dolce vita and authentic atmosphere is offered on the 11th of November.
In the summer, the promenade in front of the church of Cros de Cagnes is an ideal evening out with the family, as it turns into an alley of craft markets.
A little further north, only a few kilometres away, Vence already breathes the air of Provence and it is on its square known as the Grand Jardin that a handful of local producers, often organic, sell the fruit and vegetables from their harvests every morning, except on Mondays. They are joined on Tuesdays and Fridays by vendors from a little further away, and their garlanded stalls provide a holiday atmosphere. The conversations of one another, the sound of water running from the fountains and the sunny café terraces become the postcard of your memories.
Moreover, Matisse, who spent several years in Vence, liked to compare this market to the one in Tahiti because the colors and perfumes are so bright and exotic.
In spring and autumn, come and smell the Vence rose, so special because it is both delicate and robust. The Tango rose, orange and slightly coppery, is renowned for its exceptional fragrance and fruity flavour. The delicacy of this exceptional variety is also honored by some master restaurateurs but also by a famous brand of coffee.
As in Cagnes sur Mer, in July and August, a night-time craft market takes place every Tuesday on the main road, bordering the medieval city: these are the Shopping Evenings. Also in summer, a flea market and antiques, very popular with specialists, takes place in August. There is even an antique book fair.
Redirecting itself towards the Var, Carros offers you a traditional market every Saturday morning.
But it is undoubtedly in April that this commune finds itself in the spotlight. It celebrates the strawberry of the canton of Carros, which includes the villages of Gattières and La Gaude. This strawberry is considered to be one of the best in the world! Very sweet, it is adapted and highlighted by the starred restaurateurs.
On the fringe of this festival, there is a traditional market of local products, mainly mouth-watering, but also decorated with stalls for discovering the trades of yesteryear…
In any village in the middle and high country of Nice, a small rustic market of only a few stalls takes place during the week or at the weekend. The more you go towards the mountains, the more you will have the chance to be in the heart of the terroir, and to taste its benefits at the source.
Thus, in Roquebillière, in addition to the small rural market on Tuesday mornings from April to October, it is interesting to discover the brewers’ and terroir festival which takes place at the beginning of August. In the old village, there are stalls selling traditional beers and products from the high country: something to delight your taste buds and quench your thirst in the heat!
In the mountains, we follow the seasons more than anywhere else, and the flavours are celebrated according to the harvest.
Why not come back in autumn to celebrate honey and chestnuts?
Tastings, demonstrations of the work of the craftsmen, numerous animations, and good humour on the program to discover the amazing world of bees and the gold they produce!
Less than 15 minutes by car, Belvedere, a village perched on a hill with an exceptional view of the Vésubie, is a paradise for these craftsmen. A market… but local honey, fruit and vegetable producers and brewers! Nothing extraordinary, you may say? And yet, the Belvédère honey factory makes the most of the incredible work of the mountain bees by offering you unusual honeys: rhododendron, all-flower, lavender, chestnut, thyme…
A local brewer offers 3 types of beer: lager with elderberry, brunette with coffee and hopped redhead.
A craftsman uses his family know-how to make you discover his biscuits, with natural products without colouring or preservatives, and even offers a gluten-free variety.
And yes, the market takes another form on the heights, and is done by visiting the locals. You are thus welcome at the farm! A wide choice of products and fruits from organic farming is offered to visitors who then rediscover the fruit sorbets, jams, syrups, fruit pastes of our childhood, or those of the tales of yesteryear…. There is the desire to renew the links with nature, and it is therefore natural that you will be invited to pick around the farm, and thus get to know the diversity of wild plants in the Alpes Maritimes.
In Saint Martin Vésubie, from May to September, a mountain market takes place at unusual times: from 3pm to 7pm, craftsmen, creators and producers from the local area and neighbouring valleys meet in the square every Thursday.
But for the regulars of the year, a small agricultural market takes place in the morning during the weekend (Saturday and Sunday from 8am to 12pm).
In the Mercantour, local products have a great deal of influence on the cuisine. There, one often eats there the “tarte aux blettes” (chard pie).
In the Nice Cote d’Azur metropolitan area, the cuisine is thus marked by both Mediterranean and Italian influences. The local products are the treasures of a land that the great chefs put forward, in a noble, healthy and refined cuisine. And it all starts with shopping in the market!
If you are lucky enough to stroll one day on the road to the markets, something will stay with you, and for a while you will have the feeling of having been a local and magically forgotten where you come from…