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Renowned for its antiques fairs and flea markets, L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is an island town that grew up as the wetlands around it were gradually drained by canals. Set just east of Avignon on the Sorgue River, it was once a thriving industrial hub whose streets are now lined with a rich collection of historic buildings, antique shops and a few remaining waterwheels that once powered the town's silk and paper mills. It's a place our specialists admire and return to regularly. They can guide you on the best places to see, depending on your interests.

The riverside town is surrounded on all sides by the Sorgue River and criss-crossed by a series of canals. Little iron bridges link the narrow streets, waterfront cafes abound and fishermen still ply the waters for trout, crayfish, grayling and eel.

Its waterside geography has led to the town becoming known as the 'Venice of Provence', and the river has shaped its history in every way. Fishermen originally built houses on stilts above the marshlands, gradually digging canals to drain the land. By the 12th century, enterprising individuals had built the first flour mills here, the river now serving as a moat outside a series of ramparts.

The ramparts were largely removed in the late 18th century to allow for expansion, and soon the town had 62 mills serving the silk, wool, oil and paper trades. Millers and merchants made fortunes and built mansions befitting their newly acquired status, many of which remain today, their Gothic and Renaissance façades giving the streets a timeless quality.

As you wander about the town you'll also see numerous old washhouses on the canals and an inordinate number of antique shops. More than 300 permanent antique dealers are based here and the town's popular antiques fairs, held at Easter and in mid-August, draw in hundreds of others from across Europe. There's also a large Sunday market, held here since 1596, and a smaller Thursday market, where you can browse all manner and variety of antique furniture, memorabilia, house wares and art.

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