Food markets are the best way to discover a country, a city, and neighborhood. It’s a reflection of what the people eat, wear, use and crave for. A walk in a food market usually engages all the senses and provides a glimpse into the real life of the place.
I absolutely love visiting food markets. How about you?
A visit to one of these world’s best food markets will give you a venue to practice the local language, mingle with the locals, sample authentic foods and immerse in a slice of pure local lifestyle:
1. Mercado Central de San Pedro, Cusco
Cusco is Peru’s top tourist destination and South America’s oldest continually inhabited city. It’s the gateway to Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley and other visit worthy historical sites in Peru.
To get the most out of your trip to Cusco, go to Mercado Central de San Pedro, also known as San Pedro Market. Just a quick 15-minute walk from Plaza de Armas, San Pedro Market is where the locals gather. Inside are hundreds of stores displaying colorful Andean merchandise, raw meat, dozen types of potatoes and exotic potions and lotions too. There’s a food court offering meals at a fraction of the cost. Try the Peruvian the Caldo de gallina (Peruvian hen soup) in the market.
It’s one of my favorite food markets in South America.
2. Mercado Municipal de Sao Paulo
The Municipal Market of Sao Paulo’s eclectic industrial architecture was designed by architect Francisco Ramos de Azevedo in 1926, and the 72 stained glass windows are the works of Russian artist, Sorgenicht Conrad Filho.
A visit to the market is not just about the food and display of cheeses, fruits, sausages, peppers, and seafood, it’s to admire the perfect marriage of cathedral-inspired stain glasses and industrial architecture. I suggest visiting the mezzanine floor for the iconic mortadella sandwich.
3. Borough Market, London
Where do you go to London besides queuing to see the Changing of the Guards in front of Buckingham Palace and posing in front of the Big Ben?
Borough Market. London’s oldest food market.
Borough Market is over 1,000 years old and the place for local produce and amazing food and drinks. Go for doughnuts and sweet treats at the original Bread Ahead store. It’s the best place in London for doughnuts.
The market is open from Monday to Saturday and opens only on Sundays in December. The best time to explore is from Wednesday to Saturday when all stores are open.
4. Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid
More than just a market for tapas and drinks, this centrally located market in Madrid is a market dedicated to all types of Spanish food, all under one roof. You won’t find fresh produce to cook, but you’ll find hundreds of cooked food items to satisfy your taste buds.
Check out the assortment of olives and peppers at La Hora del Vermut. Try out a few and pair them with vermouth.
5. Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne
In Down Under, the Vic Market or Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne is the ultimate culinary spot for foodies. Interestingly, the market was built on the site of Melbourne’s first official cemetery. It was the largest market in Australia when it first opened in 1878.
Today, this historic venue is a shopping destination and a haven for comfort food, coffee, pastries, noodles and more. After shopping, you may want to grab a coffee at Market Lane Coffee (closed on Mondays and Wednesdays).
6. Gwangjang Market, Seoul
The oldest traditional market in Seoul is also the most popular tourist destination. Gwangjang Market has 5000 stores offering Korean street food, traditional bedding, silk, handicrafts, hanbok (traditional Korean dress) and more.
Most stores are closed on Sundays. It is located close to the famous Dongdaemun Market. I suggest combining a tour of both markets for a full spectrum of Korean street food and shopping. I recommend trying out tteokbokki (rice rolls) when in Gwangjang Market.
7. Naran Tuul Market, Ulaanbataar
If you like an adventure in a city setting, don’t leave Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital city without a visit to Naran Tuul. You’ll need to be aware of your surroundings when you navigate inside this massive outdoor and indoor market.
Known as the Black Market, Naran Tuul has traditional Mongolian food, cheap Chinese goods, Mongolian prayer scarves and clothing, boots, household goods including gers (Mongolian tents).
Naran Tuul’s food court is small but has delicious noodles and traditional Mongolian dumplings. Check it out when you visit.
Photos and article by Claudia Looi