If you want to experience a city like a local, visiting a food market should be on your hit list. The lively ambiance, the sizzle of cooking food, the craving eyes of hungry shoppers… you can’t help but immerse yourself in this buzzing little world while browsing the rows of food stalls.
Before travelling to a city, I always research into markets because they offer insight into regional diets, plus it’s likely you’ll find some delicious gems during your market tour. I’ve written about several markets already, including the Marché du Midi in Brussels and the Turkish Market in Berlin. In Bordeaux, the one to visit is the Marché des Capucins, where you can experience daily life in this charming French city.
The market is located in the south side of the city, not far from the Basilique Saint Michel (which I recommend visiting, especially for the view from the top of the free-standing bell tower called La Flèche). If you’re staying in another part of the city, walking to the market is a great way to take in Bordeaux’s atmosphere.
The Marché des Capucins – also known as the “belly of Bordeaux” – is the city’s largest market. It’s set in a covered, indoor space, meaning that a rainy day won’t stop you from enjoying the market experience! The market dates back to 1749 when efforts to rejuvenate the neighbourhood brought to fruition a weekly market day. Nowadays, the market runs daily (except for Mondays), with weekends being the busiest trade days.
When you browse the market, your senses will be titillated by the sounds and smells of trader life. Bordeaux’s inhabitants stroll in with their grocery carts in tow, ready to visit their favourite vendors for the week’s ingredients. Meat is chopped and wrapped, the day’s catch is slapped onto ice, vegetables are weighed, and vendors call out their deals of the day.
This market has everything you’d expect of a market: vibrant fruits and vegetables, butcher and deli meats, cheeses, fish, and even calf brains! It’s hard to pass by the bread stalls without buying a fresh baguette or a croissant to nibble on. And the bowls of gorgeous olives will simply lure you in. I recommend slowly wandering through the aisles: explore the products on offer, observe the locals making transactions, and pick up whatever food catches your eye. There are also stalls selling hot and cold foods to eat on the spot, including Spanish tapas, Portuguese croquettes, and Japanese sushi. Consider your cravings cured.
Something to look out for at the market is the incredibly fragrant wall of fresh herbs. One of the stalls called La Cabane aux aromates has a massive stockpile of the greenest herbs you’ve ever seen. Leaves of parsley, coriander, basil, dill, and mint are stacked high, releasing a beautifully uplifting and alluring aroma. In fact, this stall had the longest queue at the market, and the smell is enough to understand why!
Another popular stall at the Marché des Capucins was the Moroccan café serving traditional mint tea. At Les Délices du Maghreb, sweet mint tea is prepared fresh and poured from a height. The tea makers – who are clearly skilled at this craft – tilt the tea pot into the glass and as the pour continues, they lift the tea pot higher and higher. It’s amazing how they hardly spill anything at all! The tea is refreshing and sitting at the counter offers a calm respite from the hustle and bustle around you.
Here’s a little anecdote: while I sat enjoying my mint tea, a woman came to the café and ordered 20 of their almond-filled moon-shaped biscuits. I was intrigued and asked her why she wanted so many. She broke one in half and shared it with me, saying “You just have to taste them to know”. They were indeed nice and they’re very obviously her raison d’être! Ha! It’s encounters like these that make travel so much fun!
So do yourself a favour and visit the Marché des Capucins during your trip to Bordeaux. You’ll undoubtedly come out with some fantastic goods in hand!
- Market hours: Tuesday to Friday 6 am to 2pm / Saturday and Sunday 5.30 am to 2.30 pm.
- Bring cash (not many vendors will take card).
- Go to the parking lot on the floor above the market for a bird’s eye view of the market comings and goings.