Samoens' Great Market

by Sally Ann Voak

Every Wednesday morning, Samoëns’ ancient Savoyard market, one of the oldest in France, fills the town with colour, fun, bustling activity, local produce, clothes and crafts.

A holiday in the Grand Massif has to include a morning spent browsing and shopping at a traditional local market. Set your alarm as most start at around 8.30am and the stalls will begin to disappear when the church bell chimes midi. There are plenty to choose from: the summer brocante at Taninges, to the Friday morning street market in Morillon. Each one has its own character: you’ll find all the ingredients for a princely lunch (start with local cheeses like Comte, Tomme, add hot fresh bread, ripe tomatoes, sliced saucisson, delicious fruit) and everything you need for supper. Choose from fresh fish from Marseille, olives and strawberries from the Midi as well as local Savoyard specialities like smoked meats, vegetables and conserves. Convenient favourites like pizza and spit-roast chicken are available too – just add a fantastic salad and tarte aux framboises for an easy and delicious, holiday meal.

In Samoëns, we are lucky to have a market that is renowned throughout the Savoyard region. Like our ancient and beautiful village, it is steeped in history. Founded in 1476, it was, at first, confined to La Place du Gros Tilleul, where, in 1555, the beautiful Halle was constructed. After the Revolution, the small weekly market expanded to include two big markets on the 4th and 5th of each month. Records show that in 1805, six fairs each year were authorised in the town plus a monthly animal market for cattle, sheep and horses. The most important event was the Foire de St. Michel, held on September 29th. Gradually, the market spread to the surrounding streets and the area opposite the Office de Tourisme. These days, the huge variety of items on sale includes plants, leather goods, household linens, and fashion accessories like baskets, bags, hats and scarves.  

For residents like Tom and Alison Ward-Lee and many of the locals, the market is a “must” for the weekly food shop and essential as a source of beautifully-made local alpine furnishing items like cushions, tablecloths, wall-hangings and paintings which often decorate the company’s luxury properties.

Market day is Samoëns’ busiest day: early in the morning barriers are erected and the 66 regular stallholders arrive, the numbers swelling to about 130 in summer. Among them is 60 year old Dany Ackermann. Her stunning stall: a dazzling display of olives, home-made tapenade, conserves, and olive oils could easily be the subject of an impressionist painting. Originally from Alsace, Dany worked in the restaurant business in Paris before deciding to use her culinary expertise to make her own tapenades and conserves at her home in nearby Taninges. “I source my olives from the Midi and from Morocco, then blend them with other ingredients: olive oil, anchovies, vegetables,” she says.  

Alison Ward-Lee is a regular customer: “You can serve olives at any time, with drinks, in salads, or with pasta, so I always have a good stock at home, trying different varieties each time. Dany’s black olive tapenade is delicious with grilled salmon, goat’s cheese and dried fruits and the sundried tomato tapenade is to die for!”

Tom adds “The market is social, a great meeting place. We combine business with pleasure here every Wednesday morning as we can meet up with work colleagues or local artisans. The town hums with life and laughter and you can end your visit with a cool beer or sip an apéro in a local bar. Perfect!” Tom checks out the market for cheese, pâté, and flowers and earmarks goods by local craftsmen to enhance the modern alpine décor in Alps Accommodation managed properties.

The Samoens Market takes place every Wednesday morning, from 8.30am, until noon.