Types of market
You can expect to find two types of market - the farmers market and the Provencal market. The farmers market is where you'll find the fruit and vegetable of the local region on sale, plus meat from the butcher, bread and cakes from the baker, cheeses, herbs & spices. Anything to do with food really! This is the kind of market that all the larger villages offer. Prices tend to be higher than you would find in the supermarket, but the taste and the quality of market-bought goods simply does not compare to the mass produced, anemic fruit & veg in the local Super U. The climate in Provence lends itself so beautifully to farming that much of the produce in the market is organically grown and likely to have been picked the day before.
The Provencal market (Marche Provencal) tends to be much larger, with all the fresh produce described above, with the addition of clothing, fabrics (napkins & tablecloths are most popular), ceramics and other local crafts, costume jewellery, leather goods - the list goes on...
Flea markets are also popular - they are known as Marche aux Puces or La Brocante (secondhand goods). They tend to occur once a month at selected locations, usually on a Sunday.
Provence is a well known destination amongst antiques hunters, with people coming from all over the world to find their special piece of history to take home with them. From antique furniture, to jewellery and mirrors, there is a grand selection available - including some genuine antiques!
L'Isle sur la Sorgue is the best known town for antiques - it has many serious antiques shops along with international fairs & markets. There are several antiques arcades open throughout the week. The dealers here are more likely to converse with you in English and can arrange international shipping, but don't expect to find many bargains here. For a wider selection in terms of goods & price, try the weekly flea market held every Sunday morning. The stalls line the series of canals that run through Isle sur la Sorgue - it makes for lovely day out for the occasional browser, but be prepared to mix with the hundreds of other day trippers visiting the market.
If you are looking for something slightly cheaper but still Provencal in style, look out for 'Brocantes' (flea markets). The bigger ones tend to be in the main cities. Avignon hosts a flea market on Sunday mornings in Place des Carmes (starts at 6.30am and it's worth getting there early!). Across the river in Villeneuve-les-Avignon, the flea market is held every Saturday morning in Place du Marche & Avenue de Verdun, and offers probably better value than it's neighbour.
Aix-en-Provence holds antiques & bric-a-brac markets on Tuesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays on Place Verdun. During July & August, antiques dealers and artisans show their wares on the Place Jeanne d'Arc & Cours Sextius. In addition, you will find a number of antique boutiques in the city, with a cluster to be found on Rue Manuel & Rue Emeric David, just to the west of Boulevard Carnot in the centre.
In Bouches du Rhone, Arles has a flea market on the first Wednesday of every month on the Boulevard des Lices.
Of course, many of the villages that you will pass through in Provence will have an antiques shop, so keep your eyes peeled as you pass down the main street. Something else to look out for are the Vide Greniers - these are more like car boot sales than professional sellers. Vide Greniers translates as 'empty attic' so you never know what you may find - a pile of tat or a hidden gem!