It’s exhilarating to walk in to any fresh food market in France, all senses go in to overdrive trying to decode the dozens of noises, sights and flavours hitting them all at once. The produce looks vaguely the same as at home but actually everything is fresher, deeper in colour, riper, and tastes & smells of so much more.
The South West is home to many of the finest ingredients of French cuisine: rich flavours of Gascony, subtle Basque spices, not to mention the abudance of superb wine and seafood. Enjoying all this is among the top reasons for visiting the area, and there's no better way than by visiting a local market. The south west France coast in particular has some fantastic markets – we’ve picked our five favourite ones from Biarritz & Capbreton up to the Arcachon Bay, along with nearby places to stay so you can shop like a local and visit every day. Whet your appetite and read on…
Biarritz Les Halles is the grand cru of all the SW France coast food markets – the oldest (since 1885), biggest and open all year round. In the middle of Old Biarritz, surrounded by cafés & restaurants, and just a stone’s throw from the Plage des Basques. Piments (small spicy red peppers), charcuterie and cheeses from the Pyrenees, Basque breads and cakes – with a typically Gallic flourish Biarritz Les Halles is said to be where you’ll find the Basque soul. To go truly native get there early, shop, then head to one of the surrounding cafés for a breakfast pit-stop.
Open every day 7.30am to 1.30pm.
Next to Cap Ferret’s chic outdoor marché is the main event, Cap Ferret indoor fresh food hall. It’s big and loud, with a surprisingly intoxicating smell of espresso, ripe cheese, fresh oysters and bread. Get there at 10 and there’ll be ancient grandmas buying their veg, up-since-dawn surfers and traders having an early beer, Parisiens haggling with the wine dealers and the likes of you & me trying to look unfazed by it all. Fabulous!
Open every morning 8am – 1pm mid-June to mid-September.
A centrepiece of Arcachon’s rebuilt pedestrian district is the smart glass-fronted covered food market. A more mannered affair than Cap Ferret, the produce for sale is as wonderful as anywhere, especially the range of seafood, prepared dishes to heat at home and a remarkable selection of oysters fresh out of the Bay – you can enjoy half-a-dozen with a perfectly chilled sauvignon blanc at the wine bar in the corner.
Open 7.30am to 1pm every day plus 5pm-8pm Fridays & Saturdays, mid-April to mid-May, early July to late August; 7.30am to 1pm everyday but Monday the rest of the year.
Stay nearby: Arcachon holiday houses & apartments, all close to Arcachon centre and a walk or bike ride from Les Halles.
Capbreton (next door to Hossegor on the Landes coast) is a working fishing port, home to an armada of 19 fishing boats. From stalls on the quayside each boat sells its catch to restaurants and fishmongers from Biarritz to Moliets, but also to members of the public, Brits included. Brush up your seafood vocab, get up early, don your best white wellies and give it a go! (OK, you can skip the wellies.) Sellers will gut, de-scale & fillet as required, and even suggest recipes if you need them.
Open every day 9am-midday, 3-6pm – days/times may vary according to conditions.
Stay nearby: holiday villas, summer houses, beach apartments in Capbreton, Hossegor & Seignosse, many a walk or easy bike ride from Capbreton fish market.
A few kms up the peninsula from Cap Ferret village is Piraillan, whose daily summer market, underneath a distinctive wave-shaped roof, is a revelation – dozens of sellers of the ripest peaches, reddest tomatoes, almost weightless crusty baguettes, to-die-for patisseries, variously unknowable varieties of seafood and a wonderful deli counter.
Open 8am -1pm daily from the last Saturday in June to the first Saturday in September.
Stay in two lovely Cap Ferret villas with pools nearby:
Foodies will notice we’ve omitted to mention one, the fabulous Marché des Capucins in Bordeaux. Details, photos and nearby places to stay will be in a Bordeaux Short Breaks guide coming very soon!
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