Interested in antiques and expansive outdoor markets? Then L’Isle sur la Sorgue is definitely a must-see day trip that is less that an hour drive from Aix-en-Provence. Situated on the Sorgue river about 25km southeast of Avignon, it’s aptly nicknamed the “Venice of Provence” because of how the town has evolved over the centuries to nestle against the edges of the intertwining waterways punctuated by charming waterwheels. Yet it is most famous for its antique shops and Sunday market that originated in the 16th-century. Parking can be a bit of a challenge due to the large number of other antique enthusiasts who will likely be joining you, but once you’re in town you’ll be treated to more than 300 stalls filled with unique items that are sure to please even the most discerning of collectors.
A Brief History of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
Originally called Insula, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue took its current name in the late 19th-century. However, settlement of this area dates as far back as around 4000BC during the Neolithic period. The city began to take its present shape in the 11th-century AD as fishing, oil, wheat, silk, paper, and rugs became the primary industries for early inhabitants. L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue was (and still is) considered an arrondissement of Avignon, and during the 14th-century was under the direct influence of the Avignon Papacy and the seven Popes who reigned there before the official papal seat returned to Rome. The city was ransacked and set on fire during the French Revolution, and later transformed economically by the hydraulic energy captured by its waterwheels, which now are mostly gone although a few purely decorative ones do remain as reminders of the past. Today the primary industry is tourism, attracting visitors from around France and the world. If your itinerary allows, I highly recommend a day trip visit during your stay in Aix-en-Provence.