Every self-respecting ‘foodie destination’ likes to promote its food markets. It’s natural since much of what we eat are inspired by the ingredients around us.
Invariably, when you visit these places on a gourmet-centric trip, you get dragged around them to marvel at how incredible they are.
While some are indeed impressive, and form a hub in the centre of town with a rich history to boot, others offer little to the keen traveller. At least, nothing more than what they can already find at home or just about every corner of the world.
Let’s be honest, if you’re visiting a new destination and you’re short on time, every location you visit should be worthwhile. So unless you’ve rented a self-catered apartment in the city, why would you want to visit a market that only sold produce?
With that in mind, here are some of the food markets that have inspired me.
St Lawrence Food Market, Toronto
Toronto’s St Lawrence Food Market frequently tops the list for being one of the best in the world and it’s not surprising.
The space is huge and there’s plenty to see, taste and buy.
Of course, the locals go in for the fresh produce but there were also people nearby who might pop in for lunch.
Unlike many of the markets I’ve been to, there were actually plenty of places to sit in St Lawrence Food Market so you could buy cooked food there and enjoy an economical lunch instead of eating in a restaurant.
The diverse offering features everything from Argentinian empanadas to Polish perogies. But, perhaps its best-known dish is pea-meal bacon – a Toronto classic.
When you’re an international traveller, it’s also important to know that if you want to buy some food to take home, they’re customs friendly.
One of the things that I would recommend is the mustard. Canada produces a significant portion of the world’s mustard and you could get some of the locally produced ones, like Kozliks, at the market.
Mercado Centrale, Valencia
I’ve been to Mercado Central twice, having visited Valencia twice, and I’ve been equally impressed both times.
Although I stayed in a hotel the first time, I booked an Airbnb apartment the second time so I could buy produce to cook.
It is exactly this produce that impressed me the most. All the ingredients that would typically only be available to chefs by special order in London were just out there in the open and available to the public to buy.
For example, one stall sold fresh sea weed while other offered dried shark.
Then of course, there were some of the more typical products like the legs of ham.
Gawking at the range of produce aside, there were also plenty of places to eat. In particular, it’s worth looking out for Ricard Camarena’s outpost at the market.
St George Market, Grenada
The market in St George, Grenada, is considerably smaller compared to some of the other places mentioned in this post.
In terms of the range of produce, it certainly doesn’t compare.
However, if you wanted to source spices typical of the Caribbean, there is nowhere better. Think everything from nutmeg and clove to cinnamon and mace.
Plus, if you wanted to tuck into some of the local fare, there were also plenty of options available. And even better, you could get fresh coconut water – from an actual coconut – to wash it all down with.
Ostermalms Saulhall, Stockholm
Stockholm’s Ostermalms Saulhall is over 120 years old and counting.
When I visited it in 2014, it had recently been revamped so it looked incredibly new.
I found the market very typical of northern Europe – there is a large selection of cheeses, preserves, cured meats and breads. In some respects, this is also its downside as the variety is limited.
That said, you will still find some ingredients that you won’t find in many other places – like a whole suckling pig for example.
And if you’re stopping for lunch, there were a couple of delis with seating where you could enjoy some simple Nordic fare with a glass or two of wine. Just be warned, it won’t be cheap.
Other ones of note
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the best food markets.
I know from my personal travels that sometimes a visit is just a snatched two-minute walkaround.
But while I didn’t have the opportunity to take photos, here are a couple of others that I would recommend:
- Central Market, Adelaide
- Mercado Central, Santiago, Chile
- Broadway Market, London