Visiting Mirepoix is like stepping back into the Middle Ages. Colourful timber-framed houses with arcades surround the Place du Marchéchal Leclerc. And every Monday morning, this central square turns into one of the biggest and most beautiful outdoor markets in the region. For centuries, the Monday markets have attracted people coming from near and far to fill their baskets.
Mirepoix is a medieval town, dating back to the 11th century. It served as an important trading link between Carcassonne and Foix. This earliest version of Mirepoix was built on the right banks of the river Hers. However, after the big flood of 1289 destroyed Mirepoix, a new town arose on the left banks. And it is still there today. Since the 13th century, an attractive square has formed the beating heart of this new town, designed to promote social and economic life. The bustling Monday market fits in perfectly with this tradition.
You can still see the beautiful timber-framed houses that surround the square resting on impressive oak pillars. It is the picture-perfect backdrop for the weekly market, where you can find local produce, flowers, clothes and crafts. Normally, I would say to go early to a market for some tranquil shopping. However, as the covered galleries around the central square host many great restaurants, I would suggest you go a bit later. That way, you can have lunch to gastronomically extend your stay.
La Halle Couverte
Every Thursday is another market day in Mirepoix, however not as big as the one on Monday. On this day, only the covered market- La Halle Couverte- is used for, mainly, food stalls. This beautiful, cast iron covered market hall with open sides proudly stands in front of the Saint-Maurice cathedral. Dating from the 19th century, La Halle Couverte initially accommodated the grain trade. Nowadays, it has many purposes- it serves as a market on Mondays and Thursdays, but it is also the perfect spot for other events.
At about 12h30, the Monday market comes to an end. In about half an hour, most of the stalls are moved away and Mirepoix goes back to normal. I noticed people leisurely sitting down on the grass in the middle of the square, having a chat whilst sharing their just bought goodies. I followed my own good advice and sat down on the terrace of the restaurant Le Prélude, sipping a glass of white wine whilst enjoying the lively vibe.