Cours Saleya is the heart of Old Town Nice and it’s always pulsating with life. Striped awnings cover the daily market and shelter the products on offer from the hot sun. Crowds of locals and tourists come to do their shopping or sometimes just to snap photos of the colorful displays. The scents of fresh produce and flowers seem to put everyone in a good mood and the atmosphere is friendly.
Cours Saleya hosts four different markets. The most well known is the Marché aux Fleurs, or Flower Market, held Tuesday through Sunday. It’s actually a combination of the flower market and the fruit and vegetable market but the name, Marché aux Fleurs is commonly applied to the whole thing. The fruit and vegetable stands pack up by 1.30 in the afternoon but the flower stalls stay open until about 5.30.
The flower sellers might get this special treatment because of the importance of the flower market in Nice’s history. In 1897 Nice opened the first wholesale cut flower market in the world. The growers in the hills would bring down their cut flowers every morning. After the wholesalers had made their bulk purchases, the market would be opened for individuals to buy their bouquets.
Thanks to the railroads, carloads of cut flowers were shipped from Nice to cities across France and Europe every day for almost 100 years. One story says that Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, inspired by the flower parade he had seen in Nice, wanted to create a similar one in St. Petersburg. He ordered two train wagons full of flowers from Nice which sped across the rails and arrived in Russia a day and a half later.
Today, the wholesale section of the flower market has moved to another location but a group of flower sellers can still be found at the west end of Cours Saleya, supplying the daily floral needs of the Niçois.
The largest part of the market today is made up of colourful fruit and vegetables, often quite artistically displayed. The sellers tempt the passers-by with samples. And it works, of course. After a taste of melt-in-your-mouth melon how could you resist taking one home for later? If you need ideas for how to prepare or serve an item, the vendors are happy to dispense that advice as well. Along with the tantalising fresh produce you can also find products such as spices, olives, honey, soaps, etc. You will always buy more than you had planned so be sure take an extra bag.
One interesting stall in the market is the socca seller called Chez Thérésa. This business has had a presence in the Cours Saleya market since the 1920s. The “Thérésa” of today is the third one to dish out plates of socca, the chickpea flatbread which is a Niçois speciality. It’s cooked a few streets away and arrives every five minutes or so on its own special little cart pulled by a scooter. You can sit and eat, or get your socca “to go” in a paper cone. (Click here to read more about socca and Thérésa)
The only day you won’t find flowers and food in Cours Saleya is Monday. That’s the day for the marché à la brocante, the antiques/flea market. Here you can find all manner of items, such as furniture, jewellery, books, vintage clothing, bric-a-brac, etc.
Then in June, another market pops up. In the warm summer evenings, you can browse the marché artisanal nocturne, the evening crafts market, while strolling through Cours Saleya on your way to dinner. It runs from June to September.
Place du Palais de Justice
Just one street behind Cours Saleya is the Place du Palais de Justice where there are markets almost every Saturday. The first and third Saturdays of the month, you’ll find a book market selling everything from used paperbacks to beautiful rare books. The second Saturday is a craft and painting market, and the fourth Saturday is a market selling old post cards. Officially, the hours for these Saturday markets are 7.00-17.00 but I have arrived at 9.00 and they were just setting up.
One more little market that might be worth a look is at the other end of the Old Town. It’s the fish market at Place Saint-François. It’s small with just a few stands, but very popular with the seagulls who eagerly await the market’s closing when they get to “clean up”.
Whether you are looking for flowers, produce, antiques, books, or art, you can surely find it in one of the markets in the Old Town of Nice.
List of Markets and Hours
- Flower Market – Marché aux fleurs – Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 6.00-17.30. Wednesday and Saturday 6.30-18.30. Sunday 6.30-13.30. Closed Mondays.
- Fruit and Vegetable Market – Marché aux fruits et legumes – every day except Monday from 6.00-13.30
- Antiques/Flea Market – Marché à la brocante – 7.00-18.00 – every Monday
- Evening Market – Marché artisanal nocturne – 18.00-0.00 – June through September
Place du Palais de Justice
- Book Market – Marché aux livres anciens et d’occasion –1st and 3rd Saturdays, 7.00-17.00 in winter and 7.00-19.00 in summer
- Arts and Crafts Market – Marché aux peintures et artisans d’art – 2nd Saturday of month, 7.00-17.00 in winter and 7.00-19.00 in summer
- Postcard Market – Marché aux cartes postales – 4th Saturday of month, 7.00-17.00
- Fish Market – Marché aux poisons – every day except Monday – 6.00-13.00.
Other Markets Worth a Mention
- Antique/Flea Market – Marché à la brocante –3rd Saturday of month, 8.00-17.00
- Art Market – Marché exposition de peintures – 1st Saturday of month. 9.00-17.00
Place du Général de Gaulle
- Fruit and Vegetable Market – Marché aux fruits et légumes de la liberation – Ave. Malausséna – every day except Monday from 6.00-12.30. This market doesn’t have the same character as the Cours Saleya market, but the prices are normally cheaper.
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