Food & Drink

12 Legendary World Food Markets to Eat Your Way Through

There’s no better way to indulge your senses in a new destination than to step into the orderly chaos of a local market and smell, touch, see, and eat your way through it entirely. A walk through some of the best global food markets is instant insight into a culture: neighborly camaraderie, social habits, traditional foods, and customary cooking practices paint a picture of heritage and customs. Market destinations also feature an array of painters, potters, designers, tailors, and other artisans adding more local flavor and appeal to the backdrop.

12. St. Lawrence Market -Toronto, Canada

Toronto’s St. Lawrence market has been a source of fresh food and other goods since 1803 when it teamed up with Toronto City Hall. Redesigned and updated between the mid-1970s and the 1900s, the market has been a staple in Toronto’s shopping market, continues to provide fresh food boost the local economy. Shoppers will find everything from fresh, fairly traded coffee to a variety of seafood within 120 different vendors each Tuesday through Saturday–Saturday being the busiest day of the market week. Three large buildings comprise the market: North, South, and St. Lawrence Hall within Toronto’s Old Town area. Generations of families continue to operate stalls in the market and sell everything from world-famous Canadian bacon (peameal) to freshly baked pies, crisp produce, and freshly made jams and pickled goods.

11. Kashgar Market -Kashgar, China

China’s Kashgar Market has been operating as a Silk Road market for centuries, offering up a host of delicious goods sourced from the region and up for sale each day of the week with the bustling livestock market open for business on Sundays only. Split into two distinct sections, the bazaar is lively, welcoming thousands of shoppers each week, and offers a huge array of foods and goods. If you arrive in the morning you’ll be witness to merchants arriving to their coveted spots by carts pulled by oxen and donkeys, and a backdrop of mostly men appearing more Middle Eastern or European than Chinese. Fruits, spices, nut, exotic produce, and hundreds of other items can be snapped up any day of the week. Most notable and raved about from all walks of life are the lamb kebabs cooked up by several different merchants every day.

10. Cai Rang Floating Market -Mekong Delta, Vietnam

There are markets, and then there are floating markets. Cai Rang Floating Market in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta is an extraordinary experience and a way of witnessing one of Vietnam’s most interesting and timeless cultural traditions. When visiting Saigon, don’t miss exploring this phenomenal market and all it has to offer. Set your alarm for dawn–the market is most impressive when it gears up around 5am. There are plenty of tour boats leaving Saigon’s riverbanks between opening hours and 7am so hop on and get ready for an incredible sensory experience. A tour is a great way to see the market’s breadth. Vibrant, traditional boats hawk wares from produce to clothing most showcasing goods from an extended pole protruding from their boats. Market days finish up around midday–arrive early to get the best of wares on offer and enjoy the busy and entertaining scene that unfolds.

Cai Rang Floating Market, Vietnam

9. Castries Market -Castries, St. Lucia

The sounds and aromas coming from St. Lucia’s Castries Market are enough to lure anyone into the exhilarating market environment and spend a few hours wandering throughout it. The bright, orange roof is easy to spot, a mainstay since the market opened in the late 1900s. Set in the capital of St. Lucia, Castries has attracted millions of visitors. From tourists to locals, shopping for daily staples, clothing, souvenirs, and more. Be prepared to endure the noise–the sounds inside the market are blaring–but that’s all part of the experience. This is the place to find the exotic spices and herbs flavoring the island’s most enticing foods: cinnamon, mace, star anise, hot peppers, and more. Enjoy some incredible, locally made rotis, try seafood that’s straight out of the ocean, and stock up on favored condiments like hot pepper sauce. Catch the action from Monday through Saturday and get ready for the crowds–especially during weekends.

8. Viktualienmarkt -Munich, Germany

Viktualienmarkt is in the heart of Munich, a robust exchange close to Marienplatz where traditional Bavarian foods are high priority for shoppers. Next door at the beer garden, tall, cold glasses of fresh brewed beer wash down warm, flaky pretzels and Weisswurst sausages–it’s this experience coupled with a walk-through of Viktualienmarkt that’s a classic experience when living in or visiting Munich. The market operates daily, revitalized from an old farmer’s market and now a favorite of gastronomists alike. Spanning more than 200,000 square feet, Viktualienmarkt offers a bevy of choices including cheeses, wild game, poultry, fruits, vegetables, freshly squeezed juices, baked goods, and flowers sold from 140 vendors. Official opening hours are from 8am to 8pm Monday through Saturday but arriving earlier is better as a big group of stalls shut down at 6pm. Within the market and vicinity are some terrific restaurants, bakeries, and flower shops.

7. Kowloon City Wet Market, Hong Kong

Start a day off in Hong Kong by feasting on the city’s best and freshest food at the Kowloon City Wet Market offering the absolute freshest options possible. With fish and seafood eaten regularly in Chinese households, it’s no surprise Hong Kong is home to many popular wet markets, the Kowloon City venue being the favorite. Freshly caught and picked, he goods can be found in the main building and small shops on the perimeter that spill into the streets, blanketed by colorful awnings and echoing jovial calls of market neighbors. Three full floors comprise the market: the first and second are dedicated to the wet market and the third floor houses food stalls and tiny cafes–a nice revelation is the large Thai population which means Thai food stalls offering up tasty curries as excellent as any Bangkok stop.

6. Borough Market, London, England

Any market existing for more than two centuries is worth exploring and that’s exactly the case with London’s Borough Market southwest of London Bridge. Savor the aromas of freshly baked pastries and breads–enough to float you off your feet so go with an appetite. There’s definitely enough variety here to browse for hours on end. Market traders number in the hundreds and offer up a host of fine foods: confectionery and bakery, European style charcuterie, dairy, seafood and fish, fruits and vegetables, condiments, spices, and preserves are all up for grabs. If you arrive earlier in the day, be prepared for a belly full of sublime food samples and other take away. Surrounding the market are a abounding “fast” food stalls where dishes like Malaysian curry, paella, and pasta area available: grab a bite and had over to Southwark Cathedral gardens for a picnic.

5. Mercato Coperto, Italy

Italy has always been celebrated for food and is renowned as a Foodie’s fantasy. From cross country culinary tours to incredible restaurants and lush olive groves, there’s little to be associated with Italy that somehow doesn’t come back to food in some way. Mercato Coperto in Trieste showcases an all-encompassing celebration of Italian food on a daily basis: amazing wines, olive oils, balsamic vinegars, rich cheeses–the list of specialties goes on. The markets’ exterior facade is entirely Art Moderne and with curving lines and a wealth of windows, it’s also a rare architectural sight. Erected in 1936 to protect market traders from bitter winter winds, the building is quite true to its original grandeur save for some necessary updates. A throw-back to the flea markets of Amsterdam and Paris, don’t miss out on the many other available treasures, from vinyl records to antiques and paintings.

4. Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

Istanbul’s 15th century Grand Bazaar is a heady experience for newcomers whose purpose is usually geared more to people-watching than shopping. The massive market sprawls over more than four dozen streets featuring 5000+ vendors offering everything from lamps and rugs to leather and culinary delights. If you’re a tourist, the one thing to try out is Turkish Delight, seasoned with pistachio, lemon, and rosewater, made by a host of families, and one of the most culturally significant foods to pick up. The spice shops re the real attractions here, bursting with aromatic mint, pungent cinnamon sticks, saffron, and huge array of other herbs and spices. One mission worth accepting is sourcing out the quintessential Turkish meal: the kebab, arguably one of the most delicious local foods and a must-try when visiting Istanbul, along with a stint in an historic Turkish hamam (bathhouse).

3. Union Square Greenmarket, USA

Visiting New York City, it’s almost a crime to skip Manhattan, home to scores of NYC attractions including Union Square Greenmarket. Though not particularly old–the market was founded in 1976–Greenmarket is special for bringing the surrounding countryside’s bounty directly into the city, promoting regional agriculture and offering NYC residents access to the freshest, most nutritional food around. The series of charming stalls embodies a group of grocers, bakers, farmers, and fishermen selling their goods in the Big Apple from 8am to 6pm four days a week. The story goes a dozen farmers began selling their harvests in a parking lot more than 30 years ago–an incentive that, over time, grew into a productive market featuring more than 225 fishermen and family farms operating out of a network of more than 45 urban markets and protecting over 25,000 acres of farmland from development.

2. Mercado Central, Santiago, Chile

Situated in a long, pale, rectangular building with broad awnings, Mercado Central in Santiago is art-nouveau in design and features the best iron work in the capital. Seafood is a major seller–if you’re not enlivened by the smell of fresh seafood (or the sound of it) skip the experience. Giant squid, exotic fish, shrimp, lobster, and more permeate the hall with ocean aromas–a paradise for seafood lovers. Operating since the early 1870s, this is where to observe the most skilled of fishmongers showcasing speed and agility utilized when preparing and packaging catches–it’s an incredible site to behold. Just few blocks from Santo Domingo church, getting there is easy and worry-free. If you’re not into perusing creatures of the ocean, source out a seafood lunch–fly by the restaurants in the middle (pricey and geared toward tourists) and head straight for the smaller stalls around the outer perimeter.

1. Mercat de la Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona’s La Boqueria occupies a divine location off the busy La Rambla pedestrian thoroughfare, perfect for a quick stop or a long wander. Enveloped by a huge array of excellent tapas bars, the area is filled with epicurean surprises–don’t overlook those out-of-the-way food shops and stalls. Described as a “gastronomic temple,” the market is one of the most colorful European food stops with amazing, kaleidoscopic displays of fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices, and plenty of sweet baked goods. Large booths in the central area of the market is where Barcelona’s best fishmongers spread out a dizzying array of seafood while to the left and right there are many additional blocks of stalls serving up Catalan specialties, bread, smoked meats, cheeses and more. Historically speaking, the market geared up in the early 13th century, selling meats by the city’s old gate.