Last Updated on 3rd March 2023 by Sophie Nadeau
The delightful market town of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue lies alongside the river Sorgue in rural Provence and is a must-see for antique lovers, for those who wish to experience an authentic Provence market, or even just those who love quaint destinations in Southern France. Here’s your guide to the best things to do in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, as well as what to know before you go.
Please note that, while L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is the official name of the town, people often just say L’Isle-sur-Sorgue for short and the names are used interchangeably.
- What is Isle sur la Sorgue known for?
- Best things to do in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
- Where to eat and drink in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
- Getting around town
What is Isle sur la Sorgue known for?
The Provençal town is located in the Vaucluse department of the region of Provence and boasts a population of around 26,0000 inhabitants.
The destination is close to Fontaine de Vaucluse and is particularly famous for its Sunday market, as well as being one of the top spots in France to go searching for vintage treasures and antiques.
There are so many amazing finds to be discovered, that the town is often touted as the ‘European antiques capital’. The many canals and waterways snaking their way through town have led to the nickname ‘Venice of the Comtat’. L’Isle-sur-Sorgue is also where the poet René Char was born.
The town began life as a little fishing village and gained its name due to the fact that the town is quite literally on its own little island in the middle of the River Sorgue. The waters were used for fishing, irrigating crops, washing clothes, and washing ash (known as buagdo).
Best things to do in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue Sunday Market
If there’s one thing that visitors to the area shouldn’t miss, it’s the sprawling Sunday market that takes place on a weekly basis. Over 300 vendors sell everything from local Provençal ceramics and pottery to local fruits and vegetable to bread and every other Provence food stuff you can think of.
Shop for souvenirs
As well as the antiques market and regular market, there are a number of permanent shops where you can go shopping for unique souvenirs to bring home from your Provence trip. Some of the best things to purchase include woven baskets, anything made with lavender, rosé, and locally made honey.
Go in search of antiques
As well as pop-up brocantes up and down the streets in the areas which aren’t hosting the traditional market stalls, there are countless shops and back alleys filled with antique shops and vintage stores. The antique district of the Provence town is split into five distinctive shopping villages.
In total, there are over 300 antique sellers. During special events, i.e. the International Antiques Fair which takes place twice a year, on Easter weekend and on August the 15th, there are over 500 market stalls to visit.
If you do choose to visit, be sure to head to the market with cash as not all sellers accept card payments- and be sure to barter for a better price! For more information about antique fairs in France, check out our French brocantes guide.
Notre-Dame-des-Anges Collegiate Church
The Notre-Dame-des-Anges Collegiate Church (Our Lady of Angels Church) stands at pride of place in the very heart of the old town and is a particularly unique blend of Baroque meets Southern Gothic.
The church was founded as early as 1212, though wasn’t consecrated until 1222. Free to visit (though donations are always welcome), the interior boasts painted frescoes and grand vaulted ceilings. The ecclesiastical building has been listed as a historic monument since 1911.
Yet another breathtaking monument worth a closer look is the Tour d’Argent, which is translated into English as the ‘Silver Tower’. The name refers to not only to a tower dating back to the 12th-century, but also to an islet of the same name which showcases several medieval buildings.
Stroll around the city
Like many destinations in more rural areas of France, one of the primary ways to soak up the ambiance of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is to stroll around the town and allow it to reveal itself to you. Little canals meander alongside cobbled streets to create a town that appears to have been plucked straight out of a postcard.
See the historic water wheels
The force of the Sorgue was useful in industry in a time before electricity. Water wheels were used to power spinning mills and mill grain.
There were once as many as 66 wheels in Isle sur la Sorgue. A smattering of water wheels which were once used to mill grain, spin wool from sheep from the Vaucluse mountains, and make paper can still be seen across the town today.
Café de France
Though a little bit touristy, the Café de France is one of the most historic and presitigious eateries in town, and not just because it lies in the shadow of the Collegiate Church.
The history of the oldest brasserie and bistro of the Isle is long and fascinating and was truly immortalised by the Parisian photographer Willy Ronis in the 1970s.
Museums in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
The town boasts no fewer that five museums, each with their own unique exhibits attracting varying crowds. Museums include La Filaventure (museum of the Brun de Viantiran textile factory), an antique doll and toy museum, the Campredon Art Centre, and La Fondation Villa Datris (a collection dedicated to contemporary art).
Gautier Municipal Park
Though there are few green spaces to be found around town (the surrounding Provençal countryside more than makes up for this fact), the one quaint green space is located on the fringes of Isle sur la Sorgue and can be easily strolled through if you’re looking to get a little break from the crowds.
Where to eat and drink in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
As one of the biggest towns in the Vaucluse area, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue has no shortage of restaurants to suit plenty of different diets and price ranges. From fine dining to picking up a snack on the go, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
For those looking for a lite bite to eat (think quiches, salad bowls, and the like) or a speciality coffee, you need to look no further than the L’instant Appy. Complete with its own little terraced courtyard at the back, it’s the perfect place to stop for a little drink or snack.
Restaurant Bella Vita
While certainly not the best food we tried in Provence, for reasonable fare at reasonable rates, the meal at Restaurant Bella Vita was perfectly acceptable and catered well for our group which included several vegetarians and vegans.
Bar à Vin Sous la Robe
A cute little café offering dining options right by the river in the heart of the antiques section of town, you should head to Bar à Vin Sous la Robe. As well as an extensive wine list, the establishment serves up traditional French dishes overlooking the water.
Getting around town
If you’re planning to visit Provence, then I highly recommend renting a car for ease of access and because local transportation can often be labelled as patchy at best. This will also allow you to visit more off the beaten path places. Check here for the car rental comparison prices.
When it comes to parking in Isle sur la Sorgue, this can often present as a little bit of a challenge, particularly on market days when the town is teeming with tourists and locals alike. You can expect to have to queue to find a space, especially if you arrive in the afternoon.
There are two paid car parks in the centre of town (address of the one we parked at: 145-183 Chem. des Névons, 84800 L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue).
The town itself is not accessible by car and so you’ll have to walk around to visit most of the top attractions. Wear comfortable footwear as there are lots of cobblestones.
There is also a little tourist train that we didn’t have time to take but does loops of the town during high season. Known locally as ‘Le Petit Train’ (the little train), commentary is available in English or French and a loop takes 35 to 40 minutes.
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Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, travel, pizza, and history. A fan of all things France related, she runs solosophie.com when she’s not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming something sweet. She currently splits her time between Paris and London. Subscribe to Sophie’s YouTube Channel.