As its name reveals, L’Isle sur la Sorgue is a small island amongst the lavender fields and hilltop towns of Provence’s Sorgue River. Fondly referred to as ‘Venise Comtadine’ (the Venice of Provence), the island is characterized by canals with ever-blooming flora and dozens of quaint 18th-century waterwheels.
Yet, L’Isle sur la Sorgue lures visitors from the beaches of the Côte d’Azur and other Provençal towns for more than its exceptionally picturesque waterways. Home to over 300 antique stores and internationally-renowned antique markets, it is the antique capital of France. Among them, find boutique hotels, Michelin-star restaurants, rich Provençal cheeses, and chic art galleries. Here’s how to visit L’Isle sur la Sorgue.
Exploring L’Isle Sur La Sorgue
L’Isle sur la Sorgue promises some of Provence’s prettiest pictures. Find the best shots as you wander from 17th-century churches and mansions on the canalside to 18th-century waterwheels spinning idly on the Sorgue.
Canals and Narrow Streets
Explore the narrow streets and waterways, which are so well-woven into the character and history of L’Isle sur la Sorgue that it is nicknamed ‘Venise Comtadine’. The Waterwheel Walk, which connects fifteen 18th-century waterwheels (the area’s defining feature) in and around the islands, is the best route to take for a successful introduction to the town. Following refreshments on the terrace at Grand Hotel Henri, continue east along the Sorgue to Le Partage des Eaux, where the river famously parts.
The Old Town
Hanging flower baskets, vintage signage, and sun-bleached Provençal buildings abound, L’Isle sur la Sorgue’s old town is as charming as they come. Heading down winding streets and narrow canals like Rue Carnot and La Rue des Roues lead to stand-out historic buildings with antique shops, boutiques, and art galleries tucked between them. Centrally located La Maison Sur La Sorgue — a 17th-century mansion turned luxury boutique hotel — is an ideal base for exploring the old town.
Churches and Landmarks
The pièce de résistance of L’Isle sur la Sorgue is Notre Dame des Anges, a 17th-century Romanesque church sitting in the heart of the town. It’s best admired from the patio of the oldest café on the isle, a wood-paneled brasserie named Café de France, which sits directly opposite. While the church’s exterior remains typically simplistic for its age, the interior proudly displays intricately carved woodwork and a richly gilded altarpiece.
Discover the layout of the town and its canals through its waterwheel circuit. Stop by the town’s tourism office to obtain a map with the suggested walking route for your visit.
Antiques and Art
As the antique capital of France, L’Isle sur la Sorgue’s markets, antique shops, and galleries never fail to tempt visitors with stand-out pieces for their homes. Get your travel purse at the ready as you find everything from the opulent to the eclectic.
The World-Renowned Markets
L’Isle sur la Sorgue holds a weekly Sunday market featuring over 300 antique sellers across seven ‘antique villages’ throughout the town. Every year on Easter and August 15th, this number exceeds 500 as it hosts the International Antiques Fair, a world-renowned antiquing event. Find the most refined and edited antique stalls at Le Village des Antiquaires de la Gare, which sells everything from handwoven oriental rugs to spiral staircases and 19th-century decorations.
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Art Galleries and Antique Shops
Between market days, there are antique shops and stalls open all week long to keep the treasure hunt in full swing. While keen art collectors can find valuable pieces at Ramis Antiquités, those looking for exotic antiques should head to Jerome Caubel on Avenue de la Libération. Between them sits high-end galleries in converted mansions where art, history, and architecture collide to provide a lavish setting for events and private viewings.
Farmers Markets and Culinary Delights
Every week, visitors and locals alike eagerly anticipate the Sunday morning market to get their hands on top-quality antiques. While waiting for it to roll around, there are plenty of culinary delights to tuck into from local cheeses to Michelin-star fare.
The Sunday Morning Market (Morning Market Day)
In L’Isle sur la Sorgue, Sundays are made for breakfast on the patio in Les Granges du Bosquet’s private cottages, strolling through the Provençal countryside to town, and browsing the Sunday morning market. Eagle eyes can find valuable one-of-a-kind furniture and decorative objects at the antique stalls while foodies will most likely sniff out stalls selling fine local produce like truffles and nougat. With around 300 stalls open at this market every week, it’s the largest Sunday market in southern France.
Best Restaurants and Cafes
L’Isle sur la Sorgue’s riverside is blessed with the must-try Michelin-star restaurant Le Vivier where you’re guaranteed a memorable foie gras and monkfish. Patrick Fischnaller and Romain Gandolphe (the minds behind it) also own Solelh Bistro Gourmand, which serves equally Michelin-worthy bistronomic cuisine made with local produce in a more informal setting. For dessert (or perhaps a second), sample some Provençal cheese like Tomme à l’Ancienne and Banon from one of the local fromageries.
Activities in the Surrounding Region: Vaucluse and Luberon
From the heights of Mont Ventoux to the waterfront of Aigues Mortes, adventure awaits beyond L’Isle sur la Sorgue. Hiking, truffle hunting, and admiring Van Gogh’s artistry from his asylum are among them.
The Sorgue and Fontaine-de-Vaucluse
Go beyond L’Isle sur la Sorgue and follow the riverbanks 8 km east to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse. This charming commune is named after its valley spring which leads from the Vaucluse Mountains, creating the Sorgue River. Along the way, walkers can stop to dip their feet in the river at Le Partage des Eaux.
Hiking and the Outdoors
Look beyond Provence’s lavender fields and discover more varied landscapes on one of the scenic hiking trails in Luberon Natural Region Park. The Mars-like rock formations of Le Sentier Des Ocres are one of the best among them. Those looking for a tougher hike might challenge themselves to the 500-meter ascent to Mont Ventoux.
Use the quaint yet kitsch boutique villa Bastide de Bellegarde on the quiet outskirts of Avignon as a base to explore the best nearby towns in southern France. See the world through Van Gogh’s eyes in Saint-Remy, an ancient Roman’s eyes in the ruins of Vaison-la-Romaine, and a local’s eyes in Le Thor.
While Provence’s viticulturists are making fine French wine, its trufficulturists are hunting for black diamonds — the most sought-after truffles in the world. Those who share their passion for the finer things in life can learn their best-kept secrets and then share the rewards of their cultivation on a custom day tour with Emily of Your Private Provence. Or just an hour’s drive will take you to the truffle farm Les Pastras, where travelers can go on a private truffle hunt, meet the truffle dogs, and finish their tour day with a glass of champagne alongside a truffle tasting.