The Marché Notre Dame in Versailles was created more than 300 years ago by Louis XIV. Nowadays it is a wonderful place to shop for food, with covered market halls dating back to the 19th century that are open every day except Mondays, and a large and lively outdoor food market in the centre of the quadrangle of halls on Friday and Sunday mornings. The food is fresh, seasonal and often comes from local producers. It’s a great way to experience the atmosphere of a small town French provincial market, just a stone’s throw away from Paris.
I would recomend you take a train from Gare St Lazare in Paris to Versailles Rive Droite. Buy a picnic at the market and take it into the nearby gardens of the Palace of Versailles. Otherwise there are plenty of fantastic cafés and bistros around the market where you can enjoy a delicious lunch before strolling over to the palace, which is often less busy in the afternoons.
Too often visitors come to see the Palace of Versailles, and completely miss the beautiful town that it sits in. If you want to experience life in a small French town, Versailles is the perfect place to do it.
Marche Notre Dame, 78000 Versailles. Covered market open Tuesday – Saturday 07:00 – 19:30 and Sunday 07:00 – 14:00. Open air food market Tuesday, Friday and Saturday 07:00 – 14:00
As the seasons change so do the fruit and vegetables available at the farmers markets in France. I love the way people still buy and eat locally and seasonally here, it encourages us to experiment with new foods and recipes, and ensures that what we eat is fresh and at it’s best. Even the colours have changed to match those of autumn!
When we lived in the countryside near Bordeaux, we would forage for mushrooms, wild leeks and salad leaves. We used the wild elderflower to make drinks and our cupboards were full of jams, fruits in syrup, dried mushrooms and fruit compotes. We even made fresh ice creams with fruits from the orchard. It’s much harder with a small Parisian garden, but local markets are all over the city and growers come from the countryside bringing fresh, local produce. You can find a market somewhere every day, just make sure you go in the morning, by lunchtime everyone has packed up and gone home.
And nowadays we can even find kale in Paris, thanks in a large part to this wonderful blog, The Kale Project. I used to grow it, and really missed it when I got back here. Running around Paris looking for it (use the great map on the blog) allowed me to discover all kinds of wonderful farmers markets that I may not have otherwise got to.
The above photos were all taken at the Marché des Enfants Rouges in the Marais.
One of the (many) great things about living in Paris is that it’s quick and easy to escape the city – in no time at all you can find yourself in rolling countryside with nothing but fields as far as you can see.
I love to shop at the farmers markets which you can find all over the city, but even better, we like to go to the farm and pick our own fruit, vegetables and flowers. One of the best ones I have ever been to is about 17km away, to the west of the city.
This time of year is a real feast, we came home loaded with all sorts of delicious, fresh produce. And of course it’s as local as possible, about 20 minutes from the field to the fridge! It’s fantastic to live in such a beautiful city, with amazing access to art, fashion and culture, but Paris is also a city where private gardens are scarce. If you’re lucky you can have access to a shared garden, but otherwise it’s wonderful to be able to enjoy the pleasures of picking our own fruit and vegetables at the weekends too, just as if it was my own garden!
Cueillette de Viltain
Open daily 9:00 – 19:00 from early April to November
One of the things I love about living in France is that people here enjoy eating food when it is in season. Of course you can get all types of fruits and vegetables all year round, but I like shopping the French way, going to the market and buying local produce when it is at it’s best.
We look forward to the first French strawberries and asparagus in late May, and gorge ourselves on them knowing that the feast will soon be over. Not only does it mean you eat a wide variety of fruit and vegetables throughout the year, but it really seems to add to the pleasure knowing that you only have a short window of time to enjoy them in. And of course they are always at their best just harvested, it’s hard to beat the first fresh apricot of early summer.
At this time of year we are spoilt for choice… below is what was on offer at the market in Chartres this morning. You can find markets in and around Paris every day of the week, many of them like this one with local producers selling what they grow. Just make sure you go in the mornings – by lunchtime everything and everyone will have disappeared.
baby vine tomatoes
raspberries & strawberries
Created in 1615 under Louis XIII, the Marché des Enfants Rouges is the oldest market in Paris. It was named after the orphans from the nearby orphanage – dressed in red as a sign of charity, and was set up to feed the new neighbourhood of the Marais.
Today it is a small but vibrant and diverse covered market. Saved by locals in 2000 who petitioned vigorously to have it reopened, it now houses various stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, meats, bread and flowers, but also an eclectic range of eateries, always busy at lunchtime and a wonderful place to grab some lunch and sit on the terraces amongst the market stalls. I went on a Sunday, and had a choice of Japanese, Italian, Lebanese, Moroccan, farmers burgers, brunch, traditional French bistro fare, crepes or charcuterie and cheese plates from a wine bar. The atmosphere is lively and local, the setting picturesque (the market is now a listed historic monument) and the food delicious.
The market is located in the top end of the Marais, or ‘Haut Marais’, now even more fashionable and still less known to tourists than the lower end. A visit and lunch in the market followed by a stroll down through the lively southern end of the Marais is a great way to spend a day.
Open daily 8:30 – 13:00 and 16:00 – 19:30. Sunday 8:30 – 14:00. Closed Mondays.
- Marché des Enfants Rouges, 39 rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris. Métro: Arts et Metiers