The 15 Coolest Food Markets In The World
By Andrew Thompson
Food markets are often the best way to experience a city. The best public markets across the globe offer fascinating insights into their city’s culture and traditions, and most will leave you with new appreciation for local delicacies. Dedicated small business owners are there to offer you samples of fresh local ingredients, share their knowledge of traditional cuisines, and even educate you on processes and methods that go into the dishes and ingredients that are on offer. Even if you’re not a serious foodie tracking down the best food markets in the world, stopping by a market when you’re in a new city should be on everyone’s to do list - even if it’s only for the great entertainment or incredible food!
London: Maltby Street
Maltby Street market in London has earned a label as one of the ultimate cool food markets around the world - a title it’s well deserving of. Although slightly more low key than London’s lively Borough Market, it’s carefully thought out and the perfect place to sample a range of international cuisines without the crush. The market is set beneath unique Victorian railway arches, and as well as dozens of amazing food stalls selling dishes from around the world, there’s also a restaurant and several other stores. Although there are plenty of savoury dishes on offer, you’ll find the longest queues at Bad Brownie - they’ve been voted the best brownie in London and are an unmissable stand. It’s because of stalls like these, and many others, that Maltby Street earns its place amongst the best food markets in London and is well worth a visit.
Kyoto: Nishiki Market
Kyoto’s Nishiki Market is one rich with years of tradition, and one of the best food markets in the world if you’re looking to pick up local ingredients and delicacies. It’s sheltered from the elements, and opens its doors between 9:30am and 6pm every day of the week. Late arrivers might find the busy walkways claustrophobic, and so arriving early affords you a bit more space and time to explore the various offerings. On offer is a range of items, from fresh fish to traditional Japanese ingredients, along with stalls selling prepared food and even some souvenirs and curios. If you sample just one dish at Nishiki Market, make it the takoyaki at Karikari Hakase - these fried octopus balls are a local delicacy and in spite of the generous serving they are surprisingly cheap.
New York: DeKalb Market Hall Brooklyn
Many locals and visitors consider DeKalb Market Hall in Brooklyn to be among the best food halls in the world, in spite of its relatively young age. This is particularly for fans of hyper local cuisine who want to sample goods inspired by the immediate surroundings of the market. There are more than 40 vendors at DeKalb Market Hall selling a range of items that reflect the diversity of the borough. Locals cook up a storm, drawing on inspiration from around the world - the Pierogi Boys make Polish dishes using their grandmother’s recipes, WikiWiki taps into the Hawaiian comfort food of poke bowl with style, and if you’re looking for something sweet to round it all off head to Dulcinea, where the churros are a particular favourite. Many credit the market for reinvigorating the city’s food scene. That’s high praise indeed, and reason enough to add this one to your list of the best food markets in the world!
Hong Kong: Temple Street Night Market
The Temple Street Night Market in Hong Kong is a bustling night market that sells everything from electronics to jewellery to clothing. It’s a lively destination that has earned the reputation as one of the best street markets in the world. Although the focus is on diversity, with many stores selling goods rather than food, it’s possible to fill up on local food while you walk the busy aisles. Most people there devour claypot rice, noodles and seafood, before heading off to haggle with stall owners on the already competitive prices. It’s a truly authentic experience, complete with live seafood in tanks outside the stalls to ensure the freshest ingredients. If you sample just one dish, make it the deep fried squid - it’s a local staple and available at a few stalls throughout the market.
Mexico City: La Merced
Mexico City’s famous Mercado de la Merced may be one of several noteworthy markets in the city, but its history, modern organisation, and sheer size make it one of the best street food markets in the world to explore. The market dates back to Mexico’s early colonial period, and in the late 1800s it became a permanent structure in the city. Today it’s a thriving food and goods market split into seven distinct zones - the zones are due to its sheer size; it’s the largest food market in the whole city. Each zone offers something different, from fresh ingredients to second hand goods, and many simply go there to join the crush of people at the most popular stalls selling delectable traditional ready to eat food. Unlike many trendy food markets that have sprung up around the world, stalls in La Merced don’t have flashy signs - many don’t even have names. So if you’re unsure what to go with, head to the main food section and look for the taco stand with the longest queue - you simply can’t go wrong.
Barcelona: La Boquería
Barcelona’s Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, or La Boquería for short, is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. With its location just off La Rambla, a long history and a variety of fresh goods on sale, it’s hardly surprising that this is considered by many to be in the top 10 world markets. The market dates back to the early 1200s, and these days it serves up a massive variety of items - from offal and eggs to nuts and seafood. There are also several bars dotted throughout the premises. All of this means that the market can get busy, overwhelmingly so at times. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, and still sample some of the market’s best food, your best bet might be to head there for breakfast. Although there are several stalls offering breakfast, there’s no beating Pinotxo Bar. La Boquería may be the biggest food market in the world, and it’s a must-visit while in the Spanish city.
Seattle: Pike Place Market
Seattle’s Pike Place Market is an extraordinary place. As home of the original Starbucks store, it’s well deserving of its place among the cool food markets around the world. But include the theatrics of the fish throwers, and the endless aisles of fresh, local food and thriving food stalls, and it’s also one of the most enjoyable. The market has been going since 1907 and is still open 363 days a year, but regular events and constant updates mean it hasn’t missed a beat in recent years. The atmosphere here is upbeat and lively, usually egged on by the quirky characters behind the counters of the various stalls, so go there ready to give and take a few friendly quips as you pick through the seemingly endless array of delicacies.
Istanbul: Egyptian Spice Bazaar
Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar is one of the largest in the city. After the Grand Bazaar it’s the most famous in Istanbul, and it’s an obvious inclusion on any traveller’s itinerary. That’s because it offers a fascinating window into the lives of local people, whose families have been visiting the market since 1664. The market is free to enter and open every day of the week, and even if you’re not looking to buy, a walk down the narrow aisles among the spices, cheeses, nuts and jams is an enthralling experience. If you find yourself feeling hungry after all the exploring, your best option is to visit Pandeli - a hidden gem of a restaurant above the market.
Paris: Marché Des Enfants Rouges
Marché Des Enfants Rouges in Paris may date back to the early 1600s, but even as the city’s oldest food market it doesn’t feel as if it’s aged at all. That’s because fresh food and produce, as well as the style of this Parisian market, is timeless. In a city packed full of remarkable food experiences, this may be one of the best to include. Marché Des Enfants Rouges is popular among locals who pop in to purchase the freshest produce in the city, but for tourists on a more relaxed schedule it’s perfect for picking up a lunch and watching the world go by in the surrounding streets. Although it might sound counterintuitive to head to a French market and eat foreign food, Japanese food stall Chez Taeko is unmissable - you’ll find it by following the crush of people around it.
Bangkok: Or Tor Kor Market
Or Tor Kor Market in Bangkok regularly features on lists detailing the best food markets in the world, and a visit here will confirm exactly why. It’s a heaving, vibrant fresh produce market that sells exquisite local ingredients, from local fruits and vegetables, to various cuts of meat and the freshest seafood. Although the food on offer is superb, many visit simply to soak up the atmosphere of the market and snap a few photographs of the overflowing stands and bustling aisles as part of a packed Bangkok itinerary. If you’re feeling only slightly peckish you can’t go wrong with a few steamed dumplings at Gui Chai R-Mar, or the pork satay at Moo Satay Heiy Hui. For a bigger dish, head to Mae Malee for the delicious curries.
Rome: Nuovo Mercato di Testaccio
Rome’s Nuovo Mercato di Testaccio is a beautiful open air market that has a distinctly neighbourhood feel. Vendors there sell fresh produce to smiling locals - everything from fish and meat through to fruit and vegetables are on offer. For those without access to a kitchen, there is also fresh food to go, including sandwiches, pasta, and Italian pastries. Unsurprisingly, the best options to eat at the market are typical Italian dishes - CasaManco sells amazing pizza, and Le Mani in Pasta serves dishes you can eat in the market, as well as pasta to cook at home. If that’s not enough to entice you on your visit to Rome, the setting of the building is an attraction in itself, as there’s an archaeological excavation site in its midst.
Melbourne: Queen Victoria Market
Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne is an iconic Australian market. It may have been operating since 1878, but it’s never been more upbeat and vibrant than now. That’s because aside from the endless aisles of fresh produce and speciality stores, there are regular events, like foodie tours and concerts, to keep things exciting. Some stalls have been there for decades, three of which - Bill's Farm, Happy Tuna, and M&G Caiafa - should be the first on your radar when you head in. In a market where it’s hard to find a mediocre stall, these still manage to stand out from the crowd for their fresh and inventive offerings. It’s also not only about food at the Queen Victoria Market - the historic location also hosts one of the city’s best book markets, so be prepared to stock up on plenty of high quality reading material
Amsterdam: Albert Cuypmarkt
In many ways Amsterdam’s Albert Cuypmarkt is the best way to experience a slice of Dutch life. The upbeat vendors give the busy market real personality, and they sell everything from vintage clothes and souvenirs, right through to fabric and electronics. It’s also one of the biggest food markets in Europe, and there’s a seemingly endless array of fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers and plants. Although savoury ingredients and dishes abound, it’s the sweet treats that get most visitors salivating. In particular, be sure to pick up a few stroopwafels and poffertjes, two world famous sweet Dutch inventions. In many ways the market is a little slice of Amsterdam life, and an unmissable attraction.
Budapest: Central Market Hall
Budapest’s Central Market Hall is a popular attraction for tourists, many of whom simply visit to take in the grandeur of the restored 1897 building. This is easily the largest and most beautiful of the Hungarian capital’s markets, and is one of the best food halls in the world. The market mainly sells an array of fresh products, most of which are typically Hungarian, that you can take home and prepare as part of a locally-inspired feast. But it’s also the perfect spot to sink your teeth into the famous Hungarian lángos - essentially deep fried dough with various toppings. In all, Budapest’s Central Market Hall is superb place to escape inclement weather, sample local foods, or just to engage in one of the best traveller’s pastimes - people watching.
Stockholm: Östermalms Saluhall
One of the best street food markets in the world is Stockholm’s Östermalms Saluhall. Although the focus here is on fresh ingredients and produce, there are several stores in the small market that sell exquisite Scandinavian dishes that you can eat on the spot or take home. Everything from open sandwiches and coffees is sold here, but if you’re unable to choose make your way to Tysta Mari. You can’t go wrong at this popular eatery that offers a wide variety of daily meals, but it’s the seafood, particularly the salmon dishes, that have even the locals returning for more. All of this, together with the orderly Swedish atmosphere and hundreds of years of history make it a celebrated and unmissable attraction in the capital.