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Best food markets in the world? The kinds with multiple vendors?

If you were to plan an international trip based on cities with great, daily markets, what are some good candidates?

The type of market in mind is the more permanent variety, but with multiple independent vendors... not a once-weekly farmer's market (but similar in offerings). For example, Boqueria in Barcelona, or Grand Central in downtown Los Angeles.

There might be a few butchers, some seafood folks, produce vendors, etc. I seem to recall a central market in Swansea, Wales, for example, when we'd visit my Grandma as a kid. Lava bread, pancakes, cockles, welsh cakes, cheese, fish & chips, etc. were all served up by individual vendors.

I ask because this type of operation seems a thing of the past in many decentralized cities where suburban markets/vendors (under one owner) fill most needs. So I'm guessing the better ones that are still going strong have some tradition, are central to their city, and haven't been convereted to condos!


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  1. not international, but on the East Coast Philly, DC and NYC have fairly decent markets - nothing like the Boqueria, mind you.

    5 Replies
    1. re: hill food

      Borough Market in London is notable, although it's more of a tourist attraction these days rather than a real market. Prices are extorionate but there is a excellent variety of quality produce from all over the UK.

      Tsukiji market in Tokyo also comes to mind, although thats a fish market and also become a tourist destination. Certainly very interesting though.

      1. re: foreignmuck

        Do you know about other UK cities? I saw a BBC version of Kitchen Nightmares where Gordon dragged the chef to a local market to learn about purchasing more profitable cuts from a butcher. It wasn't London, from what I recall. I just can't recall where it was!

        1. re: foreignmuck

          I was just in London and quite enjoyed the stroll through Borough Market. Had mulled wine and cassoulet, sampled some goose fat on bread and drooled over the pork pies. Yum!

          1. re: KayceeK

            You drooled over pork pies? People are going to eat those, you know! Then again, perhaps that will add some spice to them.

            1. re: Lizard

              Well, they were behind a glass case. ;o)

      2. La Boqueria is probably my favourite, but it's pretty touristy these days. There's another good market in Barcelona, in the Born district, I forget the name. In Rome, I love the market in Campo del Fiori. The central market in Toulouse is pretty fantastic too, and I had great fun poking round the "wet markets" in Kowloon, Bangkok and Hoi An (Vietnam). Even if it was a bit disturbing seeing old ladies cut the legs off live frogs!

        1 Reply
        1. re: greedygirl

          "wet markets"

          in that vein, one could consider SF's Stockton Street from above Sacramento to Broadway as such (and a few on Grant near B'way). always amazing.

        2. Markets are everywhere in France. In Paris, each arrondissement has several markets that are open a couple times per week. Produce, potatoes, herbs, beans, olives, poultry, meat, charcuterie, eggs, cheese, wine, seafood, plus brick-a-brack, kitchen supplies, dvds, clothes, and so on. The suburbs have their markets, too. They're definitely not a thing of the past here, but it's not because they're centralized ... just the opposite, they're very much a neighborhood thing.

          1. Our mercado in Patzcuaro Michoacan is terrific - fresh veggies and fruits, meats, chickens, fish, flowers, kitchenware, clothing, DVDs and CDs. There are lots of food stalls towards the front selling different foods depending on time of day. Not gourmet, but really fresh, good food.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Pampatz

              Is this Mexico or Denver? I ask because it really could be a market in both places!

              1. re: tastyjon

                Patzcuaro Michoacan is in central Mexico and I'll second Pam's recco for it. A visit to Patz is never complete without a few stops into the mercado. Killer bionicos for breakfast...

            2. Pike Place Market in Seattle. It's a true farmer's market, with produce from all over the state. It also has permanent shops with out-of-season and out-of-area produce (e.g., bananas), several fishmongers and butchers (who still use sawdust on the floor and really do cut their own meat), bakeries (French, Russian, Turkish, name it), specialty stores such as Latin American and Asian and Italian grocery stores with things such as Salsa Lizano and canned bamboo shoots. There's a cheese maker and the original Starbucks, plus lots and lots of restaurants, any kind of food and ambience you could want: greasy spoons, tavs, sandwich joints, white tablecloth four-star places. There's an apothecary and non-food stores, too. And there are services, too: banks, a dentist, a naturopath, a sliding-scale medical clinic, a food bank. And everything is owner operated, no chains. The only reason Starbucks is there is because it's the first one.

              1. Granville Island in Vancouver comes to mind. A great food and scenery city as well.

                1. Lots of Italian cities have daily (or almost-daily) food markets. For me, Palermo wins hands-down for its warren of streets overflowing with food stalls, but I also really like the food markets in Florence, Bologna, Modena, and Catania.

                  The fish market in Pusan (South Korea) blew me away, even more than Tsukiji in Tokyo. (Many live fish tanks, with little counter areas where they will kill, cook and serve you a fish.) Budapest has a great covered market selling extraordinary salamis.

                  1. Berkeley Bowl in Berkeley Calif. Ferry Building in San Francisco.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: PeterL

                      The Ferry Building qualifies, but Berkeley Bowl does not, as it's not a group of independent vendors.

                      I love these markets and seek them out when traveling. Reading Terminal Market and the Italian Market in Philadelphia and the Lexington Market in Baltimore are a couple of markets I've enjoyed. When I was in Rome there was a permanent market down the street from where I was staying in Testacchio that had some fabulous butcher stalls (the area is the traditional slaughterhouse district).

                    2. We were in Merida, Yucatan a few months ago. I tried to get to the market every day - not necessarily for purchases (which we did make) but simply for the experience. It was awesome.
                      Fruits and vegetables for sure - a few which were new to us, but also a fish section, beef, pork, poultry. Also nuts, food stalls, prepared foods (castacan, or freshly fried pork belly, a kind of chicharon on steroids was amazing) and pastes.
                      The market also tied into sections which had a flea market vibe (some stalls selling live insect jewelry for example).
                      There was also a 'pet' section, although the lines between 'pet' and 'food' was quite blurry.
                      We experienced something new on every visit.

                      Although there are more modern markets and shops around the city, it seems everyone goes to the mercado municipal!

                      Similar to yours, Pampatz, the food stalls in Merida are fantastic - real foods, real good, real cheap!

                      1. Borough Market in London indeed - amazing, just love it esp since they have just redeveloped it - or rather restored a bit. And of course village markets all around france - specifically in Luberon - it changes - one village in the area holds market a day - so you can spend a week just going to a market a day in dif villages! Veg and fruit to die for...

                        1. Here are a few, though many cities have wonderful neighborhood food markets that don't make any list of large open-air or covered markets with a variety of food vendors:

                          Istanbul -- Egyptian Bazaar, known especially for the spices
                          Madrid -- Plaza Mayor
                          Milan -- Peck
                          Paris suburbs -- Rungis
                          Rome -- Campo de Fiori, Piazza Vittorio Emmanuele
                          Buenos Aires -- Feria de Marmol
                          Marrakech -- Souq el Kheir
                          Rabat, Morroco -- Medina
                          Toyko -- Tsukiji (known for the huge fish market)
                          Busan -- Jagalchi
                          London -- Marylebone
                          Melbourne -- Queen Victoria Market
                          Hanoi -- Dong Xuan Market, Long Bien Bridge (at night)
                          Thailand -- Pattaya
                          Addis Ababa -- Mercato
                          Manila -- Salcedo Community Market
                          Kenya -- Karatina Kikuya Market

                          1. I went to the most amazing market in Krabi, Thailand. Under one roof there was EVERY kind of meat, fish, vegetable, fruit, spice and dessert you can even THINK of imagining. Outstanding. Wish they had that in NYC.

                              1. The main permanent markets in Hue, Vientiane, General Santos (southern Mindanao, Philippines), Belem (Brazil and especially the fish building), Bangkok, and others come to mind (although I love these markets all over Asia and Latin America).

                                Equally fantastic are the weekly markets all over Latin America: the Sunday market in Totonicopan, Guatemala, for example, covers the streets on serveral blocks with a cornacopia (sp?) of everything.

                                Markets are a must for me in Mexico and Central America for breakfast and lunch.

                                Even the markets here in Cali are good: go to one for smoked shark and to a food stall there for fish stew.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                  Also in Guatemala, Mercado Central in Guatemala city is open daily as is the market in Antigua. The former has far more food stalls, many with counters and stools, but both have a huge selection of fresh produce and meats, although not much fish.

                                  There's a large daily market, both indoor and out, in Ubud, Indonesia. Lots of vendors selling home-cooked food, too.

                                2. I have never been to Boqueria... but Grand Central (which I love and have warm & fuzzies back from the days my dad & I would go there to buy sheets of Pork skin for pickling etc.,) pales in comparison to the gigantic & frenetic Mercado La Merced in Mexico City. When you talk "a few butchers"... La Merced has an entire building devoted only to butchers.

                                  Mercado San Juan also in MC is smaller but outstanding for its rock bottom prices on exotic produce, game & imported "gourmet" stuff like cheeses, pata negra etc., Overall, Mexico City has another dozen mercados that I think rival Grand Central Market in size, breadth & depth. In addition, on any give day Mexico City has 70+ tianguis (Street Markets that are kind of like a blend of Farmer's Market, Flea Market & Street Fair all rolled in to one)... most Tianguis average between 75 & 300 stalls... there are a couple that have about 1,000 stalls.

                                  Its safe to assert that Mexico City is a must for any food market aficionado.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. Almost any town or city in Mexico has at least one, and often multiple, stationary markets like you describe. They are a sensory overload and each has an energy unto itself. Almost every major metropolitan area will have an Abastos market, which is (roughly) a commercial produce market in the U.S. except you can usually find everything else you need there too. Dairy, meat, seafood, bread, chocolate (in Oaxaca), mole and pipian pastes and dry goods are usually available in addition to the wildest array of fresh fruits and vegetables you're likely to see. Not to mention all the fondas and food stalls from which to select a snack or a meal.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: DiningDiva

                                      Hey DD... have been to the Mercado de Abastos in D.F. since they switched locations? It is quantifiably the largest market in the world... but I think its no longer accessible to consumers just wanting to purchase by the box... am I wrong?

                                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                        I'm afraid I haven't. But I will be back in D.F. at the end of Feb. 2009, hopefully, I can pay a visit then. Have you seen this website? http://mexicanmercados.com/ It's a wealth of information (in English) on Mexican mercados and a good place for anyone interested to kick off some research

                                        1. re: DiningDiva

                                          I was wrong... my cousin informed my that consumers can still go the Central de Abastos and shop in slightly larger than Costco-esque quantities. I haven't been to it in its latest incarnation, but on paper its most impressive:

                                          > 705 Acres (about 568 Football fields)
                                          > 30% of Mexican grown produce is transacted here
                                          > 300,000 daily visitors
                                          > 1,881 permanent produce vendors
                                          > 338 permanent dry goods vendors
                                          > Farmers Market section... 624 Bays for Trucks / Big Rigs (stuff is sold right from the truck)

                                          They do allow vistors so I would guess this is a must... particularly because seeing the various State license plates will give you a really great sense of where all the produce comes from... Barley & Wheat from Jalisco, Pineapples & Sugar Cane from Veracruz, Calabacitas & Green Beans from Puebla etc., etc., etc.,


                                    2. La Merced in Mexico City is very big but, i don´t like watching people with infected tissue on their faces, beggers or prostitution. The smell at Mercado de San Juan...just couldn´t stand it. I like Coyoacán, everything is nice and fresh (the biggest poblanos, the swetest zapote blanco, etc...) and i feel safe. But my favourite Mexican market is the one in the city of Oaxaca, i love the aguas frescas, el tasajo, la nieve de leche quemada, los chapulines small, med, & large. What i like the most is that all social classes from the city converge at this site. I liked Eastern Market in Washington D.C. eventhough the place is small, they have the European cheeses that i like. And i was very surprised at the market in china town NY, the freshness of the fish and seafood and at a very low price, also many Asian veggies that i have never seen before.

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: Xacinta

                                        La Democracia in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala is a favorite, and of course the Sunday market in Chichicastenango. Was at the Jean Talon in Montreal recently and it was pretty spectacular, with magnificent produce and lots of good nibbles. When I lived in NYC and worked in lower Manhattan I would wander the shops and stalls of Chinatown and did much of my shopping there.

                                        1. re: Xacinta

                                          "La Merced in Mexico City is very big but, i don´t like watching people with infected tissue on their faces, beggers or prostitution."

                                          That is just an added plus. I haven't been in a few years, but I understand the area around La Merced has downgraded quite a bit... but I also read that San Slim will be donating money and working with the mayor Ebrard to fix that part of town up just like they did around the zocalo.

                                          Regarding San Juan.... I think any real 'hound would be enthralled at that mercado... I mean this is the actual place you might run into the Ricardo Munoz, D'Angeli, Pati Quintana or Enrique Ontiveros of the world shopping for their own restaurants.

                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                            Thats the best part! You need to go to the Mercado sobre Ruedas in Zona Norte Tijuana.

                                            Great people...I mean Zombie [as stgmtla terms them]...watching.

                                            1. re: kare_raisu

                                              EatNopal and KR,

                                              Yeah brothers! The zombies are actually there to keep the tourists away.As soon as the fanny pack and Hawaiian shirt crowd turn away in horror, all the vendors give the zombies, prostitutes, and beggars tips and food for a job well done.Then, they don't have to explain what suadero is while a tourist uncouthly rubs themselves with anti-bacterial lotion!

                                              That's right, Pati Quintana, la raza, and us.Our secret stands at the MSR la Coahuila are being guarded as we speak, like sentinels for the "real hounds."

                                              I'd also like to add the Mercado Municipal in Sao Paulo, one of the best.Cheeses from Minas Gerais, Atlantic salt cod(bacalhau), mortadela tipo Italiano from Brazil, cachaca, amazon fruit, every pig part imaginable(smoked and fresh), olive oils, malagueta peppers,fresh produce, seafood, meats, feijoada kits, Jamon Serrano from Spain, wine, food stalls like Bar do Mane for the Brazilian Mortadela sandwich, Hocca bar for the savory pastel de bacalhau,salgados....

                                              The Mercado is very nice and civilized on the inside with families and Brazilian hounds aplenty, but the zombies walk the streets around the market.I like towalk amongst them, take shots of rotgut cachaca from a dirty glass, and get fresh jackfruit from the guy that showers about once a week.

                                              Come on, it's part of the fun!

                                              1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                Didn't make it to the Market in Sao Paulo when I was there, but did go to the market in Belo Horizonte (the capital of Mina Gerais) which sounds similar, but certainly not as gentrifified as the one in SP. . Was certainly an experience. They did have a 'live' section though of animals couped up which wasnt too pleasant. Presumably for either slaughter or for pets.

                                                1. re: foreignmuck

                                                  Belo Horizonte? Beleza!They must have gad a great selection of cachaca, Minas being the largest producer, and many of the best.Probably even more of that incredible cheese.Love Minas Gerais cuisine, my favorite in Brazil.I was in Uberlandia,MG but didn't get to check out the market there.

                                                  1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                    they certainly did. There was one store with more Cachaca than I ever new existed...

                                        2. More Food Court than market, though both exist in the same place, any number of spots in Singapore.

                                          1. how timely (coincidence?)

                                            Mexico City markets in Sunday's WaPo:


                                            1. Here in Toronto we have the St. Lawrence Market just outside the down town core.
                                              It's a permanent 2 floor market with a Saturday farmers market across the street to the north.
                                              I'm not really in position to comment as I've only been to Quincy Market in Boston (Very nice) but there is an article from Food and Wine magazine posted on the bottom floor with ratings for a bunch of markets world wide. SLM is in the top 25.

                                              Most people on here look to check it out when they visit. It's great and a must do for a foodie.


                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Davwud

                                                I love the St. Lawrence Market too. Great fresh produce, decently-priced fish for making your own sushi at home, love the mustard vendor! Not to mention the location within the city as well; great for doing some furniture shopping later in the day after having a peameal bacon sandwich at SLM.

                                              2. You'll call me crazy but I say add Cleveland's West Side Market to this list.

                                                1. Check out the dry markets and wet markets in Singapore and Malaysia.

                                                  Dry Markets = produce, grains, kitchen wares, clothing, house items
                                                  Wet Market = meats, seafoods (the floors are wet from vendors rinsing after cleaning their foods and melting ice, hence the name)

                                                  Best time to visit a wet market is morning/afternoon whereas many dry markets don't open until 10-11am and stay open until night.

                                                  Tekka Market is a good example of a dry market in Singapore -- hawker stalls on the lower level, along with produce and grains, and then the upper floors are durable goods like clothing, housewares, luggage, etc. When I was there a couple months ago, the Market was being renovated and some vendors are in a temporary location but not all of them are there. There is also a wet market a few steps away.

                                                  1. In New York Grand Central Market and Chelsea Market both come to mind, as well as market streets with lots of food shops, like Bleecker Street west of 6th Avenue. Paris tends to have more of the market streets, which are fantastic, rather than a consolidated covered market (other than Rungis) -- the Rue Cler, the Rue Mouffetard and the Rue de Buci all spring to mind. Los Angeles has Grand Central Market and also the Original Farmer's Market -- this has skewed more towards prepared food vendors, but there are still a couple of great butchers, seafood vendors, bakers and grocers. There's the Mercato San Lorenzo in Florence. Also I think there's one in Oxford -- a covered market, though only about half the shops are food vendors.

                                                    1. Helsinki's open air market in Feb. at -20 F., hot soup in a heated tent never tasted so good, spring false moresl by the kilo (but they are poisonous if not prepared properly), enclosed market around the corner w/ great stromming (salt herring).. whale meat at the Stavanger, Norway open air fish market.

                                                      1. Queen Victoria Market or South Melbourne Market, here in Melbourne, Australia.

                                                        Pick up some fresh fish, some lovely Asian greens, some Tassie cheese, organic tomatoes, fresh wood-fired bread AND leave with a bag of steamed dimmies or some hot jam doughnuts, pretty much any day of the week!!

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: purple goddess

                                                          i was there visiting a friend last year and those doughnuts were pretty delicious!

                                                        2. Marche Jean Talon Market in Montreal http://www.wizgoboutique.com/WWP_Jean... (en francais)

                                                          1. Reading the posts kinda verifies my thoughts.
                                                            Markets in Canada/US and perhaps Europe can be nice, can be impressive, but I don't think they can compare to similar animals in Latin America or Asia.
                                                            I've been to Mexico, Central America, and South America, but alas, not yet Asia. These places have markets.

                                                            They seem less encumbered by such things as business authorities, sanitation requirements, health codes, permits, etc etc.
                                                            This may horrify the average visitor from elsewhere, but I think its part of what makes these places so great.

                                                            That plus the zombie police!
                                                            (sorry, I warmed to the term...)

                                                            I remember a small open air market in Belize. There were only a handful of zombies (all of whom had some sort of visible ailment), but there was also an american who was fully tatooed, from his bald head to his sandaled feet, poking around. He scared everyone, including me and the zombie police!

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: porker

                                                              Have you been to Madrid? Every neighborhood has a market, multiple vendor, most of them completely unknown to tourists. Because of that, some are kind of dingy infrastructure-wise, but the produce/meat/fish is amazing, as are the people shopping. La Cebada, in the La Latina neighborhood, has several floors of vendors. If you are a real market lover it is not to be missed, shabbiness and all.

                                                              You can find the location of all the markets on a Madrid map, I think my old one was a spiral bound, purse-sized michelin.

                                                              1. re: cbguivernau

                                                                I've been to Madrid, but alas missed the markets - we had our hands full with our friends who are not exactly 'follow your nose' kind of people.
                                                                We will definitely check it out next time round. Thanks for the heads up!

                                                            2. The English Market in Cork, ROI is quite impressive.

                                                              1. I travel extensively, and food markets are always on my agenda.

                                                                Yes, the Boqueria is extraordinary. Probably one of the world's best. I also thoroughly enjoyed the market in Valencia with its amazing seafood section. I purchased the best saffron I've ever had there, and I am able to contact the market vendor whenever I need to mail order a fresh supply.

                                                                There's a big difference between the food markets of the first and third worlds. I particularly love third world markets, although they aren't always for the faint hearted with the flies and the smells. Oaxaca is a great one. Asian markets are fascinating for westerners, with items that often seem quite alien. Fancy a couple of snakes for tonight's dinner? How about a porcupine?

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: NealR2000

                                                                  Neal: great saffron with no middle man mark-up??? link?

                                                                  at Baltimore's Lexington Market I once saw "fresh Muskrt" touted. but where Balto ranks in the 1st or 2nd world has been an issue of debate on the Mid-Atl board (I like the place whatever it is).

                                                                2. Abastos and Benito Juarez in Oaxaca.

                                                                  1. I just visited Nishiki Market in Kyoto, Japan, which was pretty amazing.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: Auriana

                                                                      That is one of the most wonderful markets I've ever been in as well. There are many markets in Taipei that are also fantastic, I don't have addresses for them however.

                                                                    2. Some of the big ones I've been to are Porta Palazzo (Torino), La Boqueria (Barcelona) and San Juan de Dios (Guadalajara)... but the ones I like best are ALWAYS the smaller ones that pop up weekly in whatever neighbourhood I happen to be living in (outside North America). In Italy the parking lot opposite my apartment, and the two surrounding streets, became a market every Thursday. The produce and cheese was always great. Sometimes the vendors wouldn't let me pay for things because I was buying so little! "No... not one KILO of onions... one ONION!" In Guadalajara there was one in a back alley halfway up my street every Tuesday... the produce was fantastic and it was the best place to stock up on fresh tostadas.

                                                                      1. The Blue Hill, Ellsworth and Bar Harbor farmer's markets, the Bangor one too, because they are where I live.