The seaside town of Les Sables d’Olonne has long been a firm favourite for Irish tourists on their annual French holiday.
Many guide books skim completely over this rather flat stretch of France, but it holds a lot of attractions that draw thousands of Irish here every summer.
The town is really a lot of semi-high-rise buildings sitting just inland from a long sweep of sandy bay. But what it may lack in olde charme, it more than makes up for in vibrancy during the summer, when hundreds of thousands come to enjoy a place by the sea that’s very well geared up for summer seaside fun. Besides, nobody builds modern towns quite as aesthetically appealing as the French do.
The main market in the Halles Centrales is, in contrast to much of the town, a beautiful old Belle Époque building of steel and glass that was designed by local architect Charles Smolski and which opened in 1890.The building – also referred to locally as “Le Pavillon Baltard de la Vendée” (after a much larger edifice in Paris) – was restored to its original light-green splendour in 1990 and holds about 80 stalls on its two floors, selling the full range of local food and craft, with the emphasis strongly on food.
You can park up to an hour for free in its car park (the Parking des Halles) right throughout the year, although you do need to get their early during the summer months.
Le Marché des Halles Centrales is open every day except Monday from 08:00 to 13:00 from the 15th of June to the 15th of September and during French school holidays. The upper floor is open in the morning on Wednesdays and Saturdays and is reserved exclusively for local small producers. The market also has its own website (in French only) with more details and news.
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(Related Articles: Vannes Market Guide); Lorient Market Guide; Nice Market Guide; Rennes Market Guide; Toulouse Market Guide (with video).