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If you’re one who lives to eat—and not merely eating to live, why not weave in a visit to a local food market into your itinerary the next time you travel? While its always easier to grab a comfy seat in a restaurant, there’s no better way to uncover a city’s best-kept secrets and experience its culture than to jostle with the locals at some of the best markets around the world.
With everything from seasonal produce that you can take home to prepare using your fully-equipped kitchenette to ready-to-go meals that you can eat while on the move, these are our picks for the best markets in the world to go on a gourmet adventure.
Sanyuanli market is particularly popular with expats, as it features many international ingredients that can be hard to find elsewhere. Stallholders are also used to dealing with non-Chinese customers—good news for those unfamiliar with the Chinese language.
It’s an excellent place to discover some incredible food; come here for silken tofu, cured Chinese sausages and exquisite, fresh sea urchin. While you’re here, also stop by the nearby Shengfu Xiaoguan Market, which has more traditional Chinese ingredients for sale just five minutes away by car.
While the market offers mainly fresh produce, there are still some great options here for a quick lunch or snack on the go. Popular with the crowds is a spicy hotpot soup the comes with your choice of meat or seafood, but there are also delicious pastries and crispy fish on offer. Wash it all down with juice from a young coconut that comes complete with a handy ring-pull opener.
Still hungry? Take a short ten-minute drive and continue eating your way through the Chinese capital with a stopover at Da Dong Roast Duck (北京大董烤鸭店), which serves up the city’s signature dish, Peking Roasted Duck.
While the wholesale section—also known as the “inner market”—has since moved, Tsukiji is still very much alive with throngs of people continuing to visit the shops and restaurants that have remained outside.
Here is where you’ll continue to find the freshest seafood dishes and kitchenware. Begin your morning with a hearty sushi breakfast. Browse the shops for sushi knives and equipment before sampling the variety of skewers, grilled seafood, mochi and fruits its street vendors have to offer.
If catching the giant tuna auction is on your bucket list, you can still register for a viewing spot at the new Toyosu Market, which replaces the previous wholesale fish market. Don’t fret if you can’t make the 5am call time; Toyosu is still very much worth a visit. It is, after all, the largest wholesale market in the world and the freshest source for your seafood purchases.
Need a break from all the bargain hunting at Chatuchak Weekend Market? Hop over to Or Tor Kor Market, one of the best fresh markets in the world just minutes away. The colourful array of vegetables and tropical fruits artfully displayed at the endless stalls are enough to get your taste buds working overtime, while the selection of fresh seafood, homemade curry pastes and spice powders are second to none.
The food court is the best part of the market, with rows of incredible street food stalls to choose from. Try the mackerel curry with steamed rice or crunchy green papaya salad with crab. On a cooler day, a steaming bowl of noodles in soup with slices of roasted duck along with freshly made Kanom Krok (grilled coconut pancakes) will hit the spot.
Before you go, be sure to take home some sweet, golden mangoes; homemade shrimp paste and Khao Lam, a unique sticky rice dessert mixed with red beans and coconut and cooked in bamboo.
Fresh produce stalls, restaurants, bars and retail shops are interwoven here as Jerusalem’s most iconic and well-loved destination. The market—or simply known as The Shuk—is so popular that it offers guided or audio tours taking anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours!
Start your exploration here with a Sabih, an Israeli sandwich consisting of a pita bread stuffed with eggplant, salad, boiled eggs and tahini sauce. Keep warm with a traditional Jewish Red Kubbeh Soup, meat-stuffed semolina dumplings cooked in a red beet broth.
The Shuk can get rather overwhelming, but if you prefer exploring on your own over a guided tour, the market also offers a pre-planned, self-guide route and punch cards (“Bite Card”) which are helpful for getting around and sampling a variety of foods, drinks and cuisines.
When night falls, don’t leave just yet. Admire graffiti on the closed shutters of the day stalls, then indulge in some Kosher beer on tap while soaking in live music from the countless bars.
If you’re partial to a hint of spice, then the Spice Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı) will be heaven for you. Every spice (and spice blend) imaginable can be found here, alongside a dazzling array of sweets, nuts, dried fruits and cooking oils. This is also the place to stock up on authentic Turkish delights and Turkish Coffee.
Sometimes also known as the Egyptian Bazaar, this historical 17th-century market was built as part of the New Mosque (Yeni Camii) complex. Rent from the shops here help maintain the mosque and support its activities—a good reason to make your purchases here.
If the Spice Bazaar is not enough, you can continue your shopping at the Grand Bazaar, another one of the most historical places in Istanbul. Just a 10-minute walk away, it has 61 maze-like streets where you can get lost in its shops for hours.
Sitting in the heart of Barcelona is the famous La Bouqueria, the ultimate foodie destination and the best place to truly taste Catalan culture. Start at the centre, where you’ll see some of the best fresh seafood displays in the world. Then work your way outwards through the stalls offering everything from ham and sausages to vibrant vegetables and pickled olives.
While you can nibble on samples throughout the fresh market, you should save some space for the tapas stalls forming the market perimeter. Here, you can tuck into everything from fried baby squid to chickpeas with morcilla (blood sausage). Do also try a traditional tortilla, a Spanish omelette made with zucchini and potatoes. It’s also simple enough to cook in the comfort of your own residence.
While on the pricey side, it’s worth taking home some Jamón Ibérico, a unique cured ham only made in Spain and Portugal and arguably one of the finest hams in the world. Top it off by adding other local produce like Manchego cheese and Padrón peppers.
This vibrant outdoor market is the largest of its kind in Paris and is the best place to go for an authentic experience of French food and culture. Marché Bastille’s commitment to offering the freshest and seasonal produce proves successful, with the market being popular with locals as with tourists all year round.
Head to the centre of the market and watch the making of Breton buckwheat crepes (galettes) by skillful hands before ordering your own sweet or savoury snack. For seafood lovers, pay a visit to the main oyster stall for freshly shucked oysters. Hold out the empty shell after you’re done—it will be filled with a nip of white wine from a bottle behind the counter.
Don’t forget to grab some goat or classic camembert cheese, morel mushrooms and the quintessential crusty baguette before you go.
Although strictly seasonal as the truffle harvest peaks in November, this annual gourmet market in Italy’s Tuscany region deserves a place on any foodie travel wish or bucket list.
Truffle hunters—whose skills are usually passed down within families—head out into the hills with their loyal truffle hunting dogs from September to December each year, bringing back kilos of what is widely considered to be one of the greatest edible delicacies in the world.
If you’ve made it all the way here, don’t leave without trying the San Miniato white truffle tagliolino (Tagliolino al tartufo bianco delle colline sanminiatesi) at one of the finest spots in town, Papaverie e Papere. What looks like a simple pasta dish is actually made according to very stringent rules, from the exclusion of any artificial aromas down to the exact type of flour used for the pasta dough—durum wheat bran or soft wheat flour.
This market has been attracting foodies in the English capital for just over 1,000 years, and it’s still the best place to go for fresh produce and a diverse, international selection of edible treats. With so many options here, you can be assured of a full meal after getting your groceries done.
Don’t miss the handmade tortelloni stuffed with a spectrum of ingredients like crayfish, beef, burrata or even wild boar at La Tua Pasta. Vegetarians and vegans can check out Gujarati Rasoi, which offers traditional homecooked Indian fare, while Soul Food has light, healthy, Caribbean-inspired options such as BBQ lamb wraps and a classic Trinidadian chicken pelau.
Come later in the week when all stalls are trading and you’ll have access to the full selection of products on offer. Take your pick from locally made raclette cheese, ethically produced raw honey from East London, organic handmade English pork sausages or freshly shucked Cornish native oysters.
The locavore movement is huge in Manhattan, with its home base being the Union Square Greenmarket. Though smaller than some of its international counterparts, this fresh-food market punches well above its weight when it comes to quality and seasonality.
While you’ll find more fresh produce here over pre-made food, there are still plenty of delicious snacks on offer. Try a streusel Danish from market favourite Bread Alone, a spinach tart from Las Delicias or a wheatgrass shot from Union Square Grassman.
Many traders here are producers and makers of the products they sell, so don’t miss the chance to pick up some artisan bread, locally made apple cider vinegar, homemade gluten-free brownies and hand-rolled pretzels.
In line with the green movement here, you can also do your part by giving back: drop off your household food waste every market day or old clothing on Mondays and Saturdays at the market. Food waste will be collected, composted and transformed into fertile soil amendment to be used at local farms and gardens, while old clothes will be redistributed or recycled into other products.
Mexico’s largest and one of the oldest markets is a melting pot of the diverse culinary options the city has to offer. From traders shouting over stacks of colourful limes and habanero chili peppers, to dozens of packed taquerias and candy shops, a visit to La Merced will be a rewarding experience if you’re willing to get lost in the crowd and noise.
Fuel up at 5 Hermanos taqueria near door #9 in the banquetón, the food hall along the market’s perimeter. Touted as possibly the city’s best tacos, beef, sausage or tripe tacos are served with sweet onions and free flow pápalo leaves. For more antojitos (street food), hunt down a warm, comforting bowl of caldo de gallina (hen’s stew).
Wander further in and a spectacle will unfold before you as you reach the meat section: think butchers carving up a cow or hacking off fresh pork chops for customers. Specialties here include chicken intestines and cow’s head. If you’re feeling less ambitious, the butchers here still offer your regular beef cuts and freshly made sausages.