market day in Forcalquier

Jour de Marché in Forcalquier

Set in northern Provence, Forcalquier is a picturesque town with a rich history and plenty to explore. From our hometown in Apt, it’s a quick 40-minute drive towards the Alps. When you arrive in town, the richness of the architecture is striking and tells you much about its wealthy past. Settlements in the region date back to Roman times; in fact, a Roman bridge still stands just outside Forcalquier. The town was previously the capital of Haute Provence, and served as an important commercial hub for the region back in the Middle Ages. It was led by the powerful family of the counts of Forcalquier and at one point, it even minted its own currency.

The town was also a center of the Troubadour movement, which celebrated love, chivalry, and the arts. Interestingly, you can still see traces of that legacy in town with a lot of young performers who act in local plays or play with local bands. One of the most famous landmarks in Forcalquier is the Citadelle, which sits atop a hill overlooking the town. Built in the 12th century, the Citadelle played an important role in the defense of the town, and remains an impressive structure.

Our family has always really enjoying going to Forcalquier. When he was a child after the Second World War, our grandfather used to cycle there to go to the region’s first public swimming pool of the region – even though it was over 25 miles away from his home! These days, we often visit not to swim, but to shop. Every Monday is market day in Forcalquier. As a summer job, our uncle would work at his godfather’s stall selling pâté. To this day, our family still regularly goes to the market in Forcalquier.

On market day, the town is thriving with crowds of locals and tourists hustling bustling to buy food, artisan-made souvenirs, and clothes. A couple of fishmongers come straight from the seaside towns near Marseille, over an hour and a half away. The selection of fruits and veg is always seasonal with most produce traveling no further than 10 miles to reach town. There’s a stall we particularly love, the Tourton stall selling the famed Alps delicacy. It looks like ravioli but is filled with either Tomme cheese from the Alps or spinach, and it’s deep fried right in front of you. We often have it as a snack whilst walking around the market.

Stop at any of the bars at Place du Bourget for some refreshments, as they are all very authentic bistrots. Another square we particularly like is the one near Rue du Palais, since there’s another nice bistrot there and it’s surrounded by some lovely shops. If you are feeling fit enough, try walking all the way up from there to La Citadelle, on the hill above the village where you’ll get a breathtaking view over the Durance Valley and the Luberon.

Another must visit is the shop at the Distilleries et Domaines de Provence. They make delicious apéritif drinks including pastis and the delicious Rinquinquin which you can buy on our website, here. If we were to recommend one great restaurant in town, it would be L’Esperluette. They cook delicious regional and seasonal food, using local produce. They have a cool bar area inside the restaurant, a hidden garden with a terrace, and a very interesting wine list.

Just a mile away from Forcalquier is Mane. It’s worth a visit if you are planning a trip to Forcalquier. Stop at La Maison des produits de Pays and you’ll find a great selection of produce from the area, including olive oil, jams, honeys, and sweet treats. Another spot worth visiting in Mane is Le Chateau de Sauvan, a stunning 18th century manor whose architecture is inspired by the Trianon Castle in Versailles. Finally, have a walk around the Salagon Museum and its incredible botanical garden.

Just a few miles further afield is Lurs, a little village perched on a steep hill overlooking the Durance Valley. Surrounding the village you’ll see olive groves with some of the oldest olive trees in the region. There’s only one restaurant in the village, La Terrasse, and it’s one we love. It’s authentic, serving great local food at very reasonable prices, with a cute bar area and an incredible terrace boasting a stunning panoramic view.

Forcalquier and the surrounding villages make up a region of northern Provence we particularly love. It is authentic, unspoiled and bursting with a rich history. The countryside is less manicured than the Luberon valley and in some parts looks more alpine than Mediterranean. Jean Giono (1895 – 1970) is one of our favourite regional authors. This region of Provence features in a lot of his books. He is far more talented than us at describing it and although his books were all written over than fifty years ago, they give an accurate description of how it is to live there and who the people are. If you can’t plan a trip to the region anytime soon, why not read The Man Who Planted Trees and get transported there anyway?

view of Forcalquier from Above

market stall in autumn in Forcalquier

market stalls in Forcalquier

flower in the gardens of the Salagon Museum

Place du Bourget in Forcalquier and view of the concathedral

brocante at Forcalquier

La Citadelle in Forcalquier

fishmonger at the market in Forcalquier

The tourton stall in Forcalquier

View of the Durance valley from Lurs

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