Outdoor markets have existed in the city for hundreds of years and many of the market gardeners (maraîchers) who ply their trade are but the latest generation in their family to do so.
Likewise, over the years shopping habits have been passed down within families, so faces are familiar and greetings are often on a first name basis with warm handshakes attached. New faces are welcomed warmly and equally efficiently, with a brisk touch for all during peak hours (though there’s always time to share cooking advice).
While supermarkets do their best to compete, nothing compares to the familial and familiar ambience of an outdoor market. To this add a lovely locale in one of the city’s leafy, cobblestoned town squares, in the shadow of a quaint church or nestled by a medieval fountain. The result is as much a rich social and historically-tinged experience as a satisfying culinary one. Most of all its about encouraging community, where people of all ages mingle, chat and sample.
It’s not all about food, though. Geneva hosts some excellent flea markets offering antique books, porcelain, copperware and household goods.
Stands selling artisanal and handmade objects as well as manufactured goods, including clothes and shoes, offer a tantalizing and often cheaper alternative to the merchandise found in high street stores.
As proof of the prominent role outdoor markets play in local culture, the City of Geneva recently launched an easy-to-use, day-to-day online guide entitled Genève Marchés. The site automatically opens on the current day of the week, showing you which markets are open and where you can find them on a city map. You can also plan ahead by clicking on your desired shopping day or by choosing “calendrier marchés” for a weekly overview.
Scroll down the page and click on the name of your chosen market and you’ll be brought to a page with a description of the merchandise available, the opening hours and street address, as well as a link to a layout of the marketplace so you can find a specific vendor.
The guide also takes note of an increasingly visible phenomenon — the growing presence and popularity of food trucks, now to be found at ten of the city’s busy hot spots. To find out which food truck is nearby on the current day, just click on one of the ten locales found at the top of the page under “Food Trucks”, or for a weekly overview click on “Calendrier Food Trucks”.
Scroll to the very bottom of the page and hover your cursor over the photos of the ten food trucks now servicing Geneva to find out their location Monday to Saturday. Click on each space to be brought to the business’s homepage for a description of what kind of dishes they offer.
Together with outdoor markets, food trucks enable visitors, residents and employees to reclaim a corner of a street for their own, revitalizing neighborhoods and supporting the growth of independent entrepreneurs and small businesses. This new online guide is a great way to encourage this increasingly popular trend and I hope you find it useful and fun to use.
Beyond Geneva, more great outdoor markets
Although I always consider Carouge to be part of the city of Geneva, technically it isn’t. Admittedly, it does have its own special look and feel, which is all the more reason to head out to its Place du Marché on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7:30am to 2:00pm for its wonderful weekly market. Held in the lovely square opposite the Eglise Sainte-Croix, the church bells treat shoppers to a carillon concert every Saturday morning.
One of the best outdoor markets and well worth the short car ride from Geneva (on Highway A1, direction Lausanne, exit 10) is the Sunday morning market at Divonne-les-Bains in France. More than a hundred vendors take over the central part of this small town to sell everything from spices to seafood, chicory to BBQ chicken, amazing fresh pasta, meat, cheese and seafood, Provençal specialties, as well as clothes, fabrics and flowers. Local bars, restaurants, bakeries, cafés and shops also open their doors.
People come in large numbers from far and wide to enjoy the convivial atmosphere so be sure to get there early enough to find a parking spot, especially in the summer months. The market opens very early and officially closes at 1:00pm, but it goes on a little later in summertime and starts closing up a little earlier during the winter months.
The lovely city of Nyon in Canton Vaud hosts a number of popular markets, including a Food and Artisanal Market every Saturday from 7:00am to 2:00pm in the town centre.
An Artisans Market at the Place du Midi takes place every first Saturday of the month (except January and February) from 9:00am to 5:00pm.
And every last Sunday of the month (the second Sunday in December) and excluding August, a Flea Market (at this link, click on “Les Puces de Nyon” in the column at left) featuring a fascinating assortment of goods from over a hundred vendors takes over the Quartier de Rive down by the Lakeside from 8am to 6:30pm.
Do you have a favorite weekday or weekend market in the area of Geneva, Vaud, or neighboring France? If so, please leave a comment and tell us all about it.
The information provided in this post is accurate as of May 2016.