The world's coolest food markets
Forget about another tedious trip to the supermarket, here are 10 of the best food markets on the planet to sharpen your appetite.
Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo
A visit to the world’s largest fish market is something you shouldn’t miss when visiting Japan. It's colourful and frenetic, with hundreds of stalls stocked with creatures from the sea. The famous tuna auction starts around 5am, but to be one of the 120 visitors to see it you might need to queue for hours beforehand. Afterwards, have breakfast of fresh sushi, or scallops topped with sea urchin, outside the main market hall.
La Boqueria, Barcelona
Up there with the best indoor markets in the world, La Boqueria is crammed with stalls selling sausages and ham, mushrooms, offal, fruit and vegetables, spices, hand-made chocolates, seafood, and local snacks. Around its edge are eateries serving hot chocolate and fried-dough churros at breakfast time, and seafood and sangria for lunch. Find it on La Rambla, Barcelona’s famous pedestrian thoroughfare.
Maeklong Railway Market, Thailand
Several times a day a commuter train slowly chugs through the centre of this large produce market, around 1.5 hours by road from central Bangkok. Stalls selling seafood and vegetables run right over the tracks. When it’s time for the loco to appear, the stallholders pull in their sun-shade overhangs and the tourists lining the rails suck in their chests. As the intimidating bulk of the train moves slowly past you could wipe the dust off its side with your nose.
The Egyptian Bazaar, Istanbul
A spice market is always a heady experience. As well as heaped piles of spices that zing with colour and fill the air with scent, this one in Istanbul is known for its terrific Turkish delight. Try the cranberry version covered in green pistachio chips. Market stalls also sell dried fruits, nuts and fresh dates, while others peddle sweets and cakes in all sorts of shapes and hues. You need to haggle to get the best prices.
La Vucciria, Palermo, Italy
Palermo can be a rough old place, but its famous street market adds a bit of culinary class to this crumbling, dusty city. Most days the market opens at 4am when the fishermen arrive to sell their catch. From then on, until late at night, the hubbub continues as hawkers and locals negotiate over porcini mushrooms, misshapen tomatoes, clumps of bay leaves and oregano, and crates of fruit straight from the orchard.
The Medina of Marrakech, Morocco
This unforgettable street market is made up of a maze of narrow walkways lined with stalls. It’s a feast of olives, huge cones of spices, teas, magical lanterns, tagines, and delicious sweets. There are mules pulling carts, snake charmers, stray cats, folk dancers, musicians, and monkeys doing tricks. It's like something out of an Indiana Jones movie.
Borough Market, London
London’s oldest market is more popular than ever. In fact, the push of people can sometimes be a drawback, especially at lunchtime when queues lengthen beside the giant pans of steaming paella. Three Crown Square, the market’s largest trading area, is devoted to fish and meat, fruit and veg, and delicious cheeses. From here, a warren of passageways spill past more artisan street-food stalls, reaching almost as far as the surrounding pubs.
Deira Spice Souk, Dubai
Every stallholder is your friend at this small spice market where you can hone your bargaining skills in the narrow alleyways. The atmosphere is intense with clouds of incense, fragrant spices, beckoning calls and Arabic chatter. There are mounds of saffron, frankincense, cinnamon, chillies, dried lemons, rose petals, and camel-milk chocolate drops. Shop here for cashmere clothing, natural cosmetics and camel-skin slippers too.
Mercado de la Merced, Mexico City
Hold on to your camera and hide your wallet in this authentic and enormous market that’s not for the faint hearted. There are distinct sections, with vegetables, spices, medicinal herbs and chocolate in one place, every animal part imaginable in another, and everything from toys to tacos elsewhere. You’ll be pushed along through this maze of claustrophobic laneways by the crush of people, but it’s all part of the experience.
Marché Mouffetard, Paris
This is where connoisseur Parisians shop for mussels and cockles, whole trussed lobsters and scallops in their shells. Street stalls and shops sell buckets of heritage tomatoes and bulbs of pungent garlic. There are cheeses from across France, plump cherries and peaches, patés and poultry, wines and gelatos, and plenty of sticky pastries. It’s civilised. It’s vibrant. And, oh là là, it’s just so wonderfully French!