One of the delights of spending time in the south of France is enjoying the wonderful outdoor markets of Provence, a tradition in this area for hundreds of years. These markets are held on a regular schedule, usually one morning a week in villages and towns.
Our Luberon Experience groups have the opportunity to visit three markets during our week in Provence: the famous and very large Sunday market in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, a smaller market in either St. Saturnin-lès-Apt or Gordes on Tuesday, and the market in our own village of Bonnieux on Friday.
Charley and I have been spending several months a year in Provence since 2003, and we never tire of experiencing these wonderful markets. Over the years I’ve visited markets in perhaps 20 different cities, town and villages in Provence… and there are many more! Each market has its own special character. You can learn more about the markets in my previous blog posts Enjoying the Markets of Provence and Shopping at the Markets of Provence.
Today I want to highlight the market in our beautiful little village of Bonnieux, population 1,400. Bonnieux is perched on a hillside on the north side of the Luberon mountain and has a history dating back 1000 years.
The Bonnieux market is special– and I don’t just say that because the village is my second home. I love the setting, the smells and sounds, the colors, the festive ambiance, the just-right size, the friendly sellers and and the wonderful things they have to sell. I love to look and also to buy, and I enjoy chatting with our local friends. but most of all, I enjoy watching our groups have a wonderful time.
The Bonnieux market attracts many visitors like our travelers, interested in shopping for the traditional wares of Provence: tablecloths, jewelry, pottery, art, clothes, scarves, lavender and more. But depending on the time of year, I think at least half the people at the Bonnieux market are local residents or second-home owners who come to buy food for the next few days and (maybe more importantly) to socialize with friends. It’s kind of a weekly “open house” and very much a social occasion, one Charley and I thoroughly enjoy.
The center of the market is the Place du Terrail (also called Place Gambetta), the main square. in the lower part of the village and just a minute’s walk from our little hotel. From the north side of the square there are views across the beautiful Luberon valley to the villages of Lacoste and Goult, and on a clear day all the way to Mont Ventoux.
In the off-season, there might be just a few sellers on the square, but from April through October, stands extend in several directions, including down the one-lane Rue d’Ittenheim to the traffic circle and around the “new” church. We usually walk out the door of our apartment on the tiny pedestrian street Rue Lucien Blanc to find the spice seller just to the left.
For our groups, it’s the last full day of our Luberon Experience week, and Bonnieux feels like home. We gather for a leisurely breakfast around the big table at our hotel, while outside the market vendors arrive, setting up their stands and getting ready to welcome customers for the next four hours. The vendors know each other well, and they socialize over coffee before their busy time begins. We suggest to our groups that they wander out to the market after 9:30 am.
We have a free morning in Bonnieux on Fridays to enjoy the market, visit the shops and galleries, and explore more of the village. Sometimes people rent an electric bike for a few hours. Nowadays I usually lead an early morning hike from Bonnieux to the Pont Julien, but we’re always back in Bonnieux to enjoy an hour at the market.
Wander the Bonnieux market with me, and experience the best of Provence.
We browse the stands, admire the seasonal produce from local farmers, chat with the sellers we know well, and greet our friends and neighbors. This market is such a comfortable size… if you see something you like, you can always find the seller again!
We always recommend relaxing over a coffee, at Nicolas’ ice cream shop, at the welcoming bar/restaurant Le Terrail, or at the village boulangerie (where you can also enjoy a delicious croissant or pain au chocolat). It’s a magical moment in Provence, shared with friends.
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We’ll be back in Provence in May and September 2020 with our Luberon Experience groups. Our groups enjoy village life in Bonnieix, the markets, wonderful food and wine, and much more. We still have several openings in our 2020 trips. Learn more about our award-winning week, check our schedule, and join us to experience the good life in Provence!
Kathy and Charley Wood founded European Experiences in 2006 European Experiences, offering week-long “slow tours” in some of the most beautiful areas of Europe. They have personally hosted 124 Experience groups. Their trips include The Luberon Experience in Provence, France, named one of the top 50 tours in the world by National Geographic Traveler magazine.
Kathy hosts Experience weeks in the Luberon, the Chianti region of Tuscany, Puglia, Alsace, the Dordogne, and the Cotswolds. Charley is now mostly retired but continues to co-host two longer tours with Kathy: The European Christmas Experience (12 days) and The Cornwall Experience in southwest England (10 days).
Kathy has been traveling in Europe for 30 years and loves sharing her special places in Europe with other travelers. The Woods have a second home in their beloved village of Bonnieux in the Luberon. Read more about Kathy and Charley here.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.