Wandering through markets can be one of the great pleasures of any holiday, and French markets are some of the best. Whether you’re seeking out antiques, vintage goods, gourmet food or fresh flowers, the Cours Saleya in Nice’s historic old town will have something for you.
The Cours Saleya is at the heart of the old town and runs parallel to the famous Promenade des Anglais and the beautiful Mediterranean sea. The buildings around the square are beguiling and attractive, with their beautiful colors, interesting architecture and a clear Italian influence. One building you should watch out for at the end of the market, the Palais Cais de Pierla, was once home to Matisse.
Today the markets are an integral part of the city, both for locals and visitors. Wandering through the stalls early on a hot summer morning is a real pleasure. All of your senses are treated to the glorious smells, sights and sounds of this enchanting place. Row after row of wonderful stalls await you under their colorful striped awnings and vendors entertain with their lively banter.
Everything is so tempting. The smell of French bread and delicious croissants is seductive. The range and quality of the cheese stalls is exceptional. The vendors selling Socca (a chickpea and flour pancake) can’t be passed by.The vivid colors and range of fruit and vegetables are irresistible. The bouquets of lavender, French soaps and flowers of every shape size and color perfume the air.
The friendly traders draw you to their stalls, and it is so hard to resist the temptation to buy more than your daily needs. I make a point of visiting early each morning when I visit Nice, when my family are usually still in bed. I buy fresh produce everyday, and return to the apartment laden down with what I need to cook lunch or dinner. I never return without a couple of baguettes and a bag of croissants for breakfast — and of course a few pastries for an after dinner treat!
There are also stalls selling herbs of every kind, exotic spices from around the world; olives, pastries, candied fruits such as figs, pears and tangerines.
Dotted around the market you will see artists painting portraits of market scenes and selling their work. In the evening when the market is closed, the square becomes the outside dining area for all of the nearby restaurants.
On Monday mornings my first port of call is the antiques market. Vendors set up their stalls by 7.30 am, and quickly the area becomes very busy with professional dealers, tourists and locals all looking for a bargain, or hoping to find that elusive piece that will make them a fortune. This is a serious business at the Cours Saleya, with most stall holders appearing to be professional antique dealers. The range of goods for sale is impressive, with something to suit everyone, from mirrors to pottery, weaponry to linen, crockery, jewelry, handbags, silver, the list goes on. I always head for the dealers selling antique postcards, and always come away with more than I intended to buy.
The atmosphere is always friendly, the dealers are rarely pushy and plenty of time is allowed to pick and choose and change your mind. As midday approaches, look out for the very French way of making every meal special, even if you are spending the day selling your wares on a market stall. Traders order lunch from the restaurants surrounding the stalls and wash it down with a bottle of wine and good conversation. No packed lunches here! Even the pampered pooches are treated to a nice lunch at their owners’ feet.
Before you buy gifts in the local shops, check out these markets to see what you can find. No doubt you will find much more interesting presents and souvenirs from your trip here, with something to suit every price bracket.
Fruit & Veg Market 6am – 1:30pm (Tues-Sunday)
Flower Market 6am – 5:30pm (Tues, Thurs, Fri) 6am – 6:30pm (Weds, Sat) 6am – 1:30pm (Sundays and holidays)
Antiques Market 7:30am – 6pm on Mondays (with the exception of holidays or the eve of a holiday)