I’m really enjoying having the time to cook right now. I’m missing my farmer’s market though, a ritual every weekend that makes me reminisce about the fantastic markets I’ve explored around the world. I’m a die-hard foodie — I will seek out the most authentic market in any town. I love how much insight you gain into a culture and I push myself to try unfamiliar foods and flavors.
Those of you who know me well know that my family and I are comfortable in almost any situation in any part of the world, but I recognize that markets can range from the highest-end pristine to the most rustic adventure. I’ve put these in a specific order, beginning with the most palatable/easy exploration, to those with a more hearty exploration that require a bit more adventure.
I highly recommend a local guide for almost every suggestion below. In the more accessible spots, a chef can enhance a market with insight and relationships that you as a tourist just won't have. In more far away destinations, the insight into local culture and tradition a market visit can offer is often missed without the context from a guide.
1. Ferry Building - San Francisco
My sister-in-law lives in San Francisco, so I’m very fortunate to make a visit to the city a few times each year. I NEVER tire of the Ferry Building. In fact, I don’t consider ever skipping a visit. On my last trip I went straight from the airport - suitcase in hand. The idea of the Ferry Building is to showcase small regional producers from Northern California. The remarkable lineup of purveyors and the fantastic redesign of the historical building combine for a must-do experience.
So much more than a farmer’s market, this is an actual foodie paradise. These “small producers” have become iconic names for any foodie: Slanted Door, Cowgirl Creamery, Hog Island Oyster — these are now legends that can be sampled one after another. Each small store offers some form of short menu to choose from. Some of the best restaurants are also located here with more traditional table seating. If it can get any better, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday is the Farmer’s Market — a place you can just imagine Alice Waters making her weekly visit.
The grilled cheese from Cowgirl Creamery is to die for. I am also a huge fan of The Slanted Door, and their small kiosk with to-go selections offers up the classic fresh spring roll or I love their Buns.
Good to Know
If it can get any better, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday just out back is the Farmer’s Market — a place you can just imagine Alice Waters making her weekly visit.
Scale of Adventure: Zero
The renovated building is located at the foot of Market Street right in the Financial District. This may be the Neiman Marcus of Farmers Markets.
2. Borough Market - London
This is the oldest market in London, dating back more than 1,000 years. The market and location were not always as gentrified as it is now. In the 1990s, a few pioneering artisan food businesses, one being Neal’s Yard Dairy, began moving into the area’s abandoned warehouses. But it was the success of a three-day Food Lovers’ Fair held at the market in 1998 that gathered Britain’s finest food producers and helped establish what is so wonderful about the market today, and the market and surrounding area have continued to develop.
So many of the stall owners are the actual producers — they know their products incredibly well. And not only can you purchase excellent quality products, you can also devour so many offerings from the different vendors. If that is not enough, just outside the building is a group of food trucks with a wide array of food offerings from around the world. Choose something new to try and sit outside and enjoy.
Neal’s Yard Dairy is a classic, located on Park Street. A cup of coffee at Monmouth is a great start too. Inside the market, the oysters are fantastic. The best idea is to come just before lunch to explore the market, then end with lunch outside at the food trucks. Padella is a restaurant just adjacent to the market known for their homemade pasta. Another new addition is Mimo, a gourmet food shop and cooking school originally from Spain that offers market tours and cooking classes (must be booked in advance).
Good to Know:
The market is closed on Sundays and public holidays.
Scale of adventure: Zero
I’m sure many would say that this market is too oriented toward tourists now and has lost some of its authentic charm. But feel very comfortable going for a visit.
3. St. Lawrence Market - Toronto
For more than 200 years, the purveyors at this market have passed along their craft — all remarkably proud of their offerings. The South Market contains more than 120 specialty vendors, while the North Market is best known for its Saturday farmers market.
This is one of those famous markets that is steeped in history (it started in 1803) and continues to remain relevant, often landing on “best markets in the world” lists. The market also hosts cooking classes — check out the website in advance of your visit to see what they’re offering.
Growing up in Upstate New York, we would often make weekend trips to Toronto, and we would never miss a Saturday here for breakfast — especially the delicious Canadian Bacon.
Good to Know
Be sure to arrive in the morning as things will close down as the afternoon comes along.
Scale of Adventure: One
This is Canada after all. The only reason I wouldn’t call this zero is because it is still a working market that reflects the wonderful energy and diversity of the city of Toronto.
4. Noordermarkt - Amsterdam
One of the most trendy markets in Amsterdam, this is part flea market and part farmer’s market that focuses on healthy, local products with many specialty purveyors. Here you’ll find local varieties of organic offerings: mushrooms, beautifully baked bread, and perfectly curated fruits and vegetables. This is very much a “best of the best” market, with prices to match. The location is also great if you are staying near Jordaan. This market is open on Saturdays.
On a beautiful day, wandering around the handful of stalls offers a marvelous array of tasting options, from the open-faced sandwich with wild mushrooms and a fresh egg to freshly shucked oysters and champagne — this has no rival in my mind.
The fantastic cheese stalls offer “gouda to go” in small paper cones that you can take with you.
Good to know:
On Saturdays there are 3 markets in one:
- on the left side is the Boerenmarkt farmers market
- on the right side is the Noordermarkt selling antiques, books, vintage clothing, jewelry, fairtrade bags and many various unique products
- and around the corner is the Lindengracht Markt
Scale of Adventure: One:
This is a picture-perfect market in a lovely area of the city. Always be aware of your surroundings, but it is a lovely place to spend the morning.
5. Rue Montorgueil, Marché d'Aligre and Marché des Enfants Rouges - Paris
(I couldn’t pick just one)
This is what we all picture when we close our eyes and imagine a food street in Paris. This two-block section features the oldest patisserie in Paris, along with shop after shop of some of the best purveyors in the city. Rotisserie chicken, cheese shops, baguettes, fantastic pastries, fishmongers and vegetable and fruit offerings can all be visited to create a wonderful picnic. This is more of a food street than a market, but worth a detour.
This is a very typical neighborhood market a bit off the tourist path, dating back to 1781. The market has two sections: Marché d'Aligre (outdoors) and the Beauvau Market (indoors). The outdoor market is more about the locals purchasing on a weekly shopping trip. Inside, you can find a great cheese shop, a homemade pasta purveyor, a variety of fresh oyster offerings and other more prepared food. This is worth seeking out if you are staying on the Right Bank. The covered market opens most evenings (closed Sundays), while the outdoor stalls are only open during the morning. The whole market is closed on Mondays.
Marché des Enfants
This market, located in the heart of the Marais, is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. This is the oldest covered marketplace in Paris, dating back to 1618. Twenty traders gather every Tuesday to Sunday to man their fresh produce stalls. This is again, a more curated offering, and well located in the middle of a fantastic selection of specialty food stores. Across from one entrance, be sure to visit Caractère de Cochon to see everything pig — including a fantastic sandwich you can enjoy for lunch. Afterwards, go around the block to Popelini and select one (or more) of the beautifully filled one bite pastries. This area of the Marais is a must for food lovers, and we have a wonderful food tour that makes many stops throughout the neighborhood.
6. Santa Caterina - Barcelona
While every tourist visiting Barcelona has La Boqueria on their list, I actually prefer another market. Don’t get me wrong, La Boqueria has the history and character, but with the frenzy of La Rambla it can be too much in peak tourist season.
I prefer Santa Caterina because it is less chaotic, and the market itself cleaner and a bit easier to navigate. It obviously lacks the history, so it depends on what you are looking for. I have just found that La Boqueria has become very crowded and touristy.
They have a wonderful restaurant with an open kitchen that serves up a menu constructed from the market offerings. If you would rather just purchase something from the market itself, there is a lovely area to eat outside as well.
Good to Know:
This is very close to the Picasso Museum and makes a great lunch spot.
Scale of Adventure: Two
While this is still a real functioning market for residents, the adjacent restaurant has its fair share of tourists. You might have a bit of a challenge with language in the market itself, but the restaurant offers translated menus and English-speaking staff.
7. Mercado San Juan de Dios - San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is one of those magical cities. The market in this town is a must. It has this interesting juxtaposition of locals who come daily to the market, keeping so many traditions alive, and the expats that call San Miguel home who are trying to learn the traditions anew.
The market is a wonderful spot to see so many food artisans and local farmers come together to sell their wares. Sample some of the traditional offerings like cactus juice or grilled corn. Another reason to go is for the hundreds of local crafts available. Consider the food market an introduction, continue on deeper into the market and see hundreds of local artisans with jewelry, ceramics, fabrics and weavings — San Miguel is a haven for artists!
Good to Know:
Many of our partners in San Miguel have tours that allow guests to visit the market with a local chef and then follow it with a cooking class. This will give you far more insight into the wonderful local traditions that the market uncovers.
Scale of Adventure: Two
San Miguel is a town that has attracted many expats from the United States, which means you see lots of other Americans and many locals who speak English. The town itself is a bit of an oasis.
8. Tsukiji Fish Market - Tokyo
One of the most famous fish markets in the world, The Tsukiji Fish Market just relocated the actual operations after many years of delays. Many were not sure what that would mean for this market, but while the auctions have moved, the outer market filled with all the vendors and restaurants has remained in the old location.
If you’re a foodie, this will be one of your best memories from your time in Tokyo. This market is filled with amazing experiences — street food vendors with fantastic offerings, small hole-in-the-wall ramen shops that are amazing, vendors that sell wonderful kitchen tools, and, not surprisingly, some of the best sushi restaurants in the city.
Explore the many vendors that surround the market. I purchased my favorite knife from one of the craftsmen there as well as some fun, inexpensive rice bowls. Be sure to try some of the food from vendors scattered around.
Good To Know:
We have a fantastic sushi-making session that allows you to purchase fish and then go back to a classroom for a 101 on which fish to enjoy, how to cut them, and other details that a sushi aficionado would capture.
Scale of Adventure: Three
The market has a bustling energy that can be a bit frenetic. You will feel very safe here, but pay attention to the etiquette of the market. Don’t take photos of the fish purveyors unless you have asked. I’m curious to see what has changed since the wholesale market has closed. It may be less hectic now.
9. La Bretxa - San Sebastian
The traditional food market of La Bretxa is visited daily by some of the most famous chefs in the city to personally select the meat and fish they later serve in their restaurants. The market continues to function in the traditional manner, with farmers and stalls offering produce directly sourced from the countryside.
The food culture of San Sebastian is not complete with just a tapas tour. Visiting the traditional market gives you another level of insight into how important food is here.
Be sure to get a selection of cured meats — these are some of the best anywhere in the world.
Good to know
If you really want to understand the food culture of San Sebastian, allow us to introduce you to one of the many Gastronomy clubs. Not only will you experience wonderful food, you will get real insight into the culture.
Scale of Adventure: Three
Many of the vendors don’t speak English and this is a functioning market frequented by locals daily. Purchasing products always helps the purveyors offer more of a welcome. As with many spots, if you stand out as a tourist, you become more of a target for pickpockets. Just stay aware of your surroundings.
10. Night Markets - Chiang Mai
Wualai Market in Chiang Mai is a wonderful outdoor market street that begins at dusk, located just south of the city walls. While crowded, it is a lovely experience to stroll and explore the offerings — there are many beautiful crafts and it’s a fantastic place for souvenirs. You can also find lots of snacks to sample as you walk.
Night markets in Thailand are a must. The Wualai Market is a bit less frenetic than some of the other markets and seemed less overwhelming. This is a good place to start, then you can head over to Sompet Market for a dinner of fantastic street food in a more touristy area. If you want more of a food-focused market, add Warorot Market to your list. It’s not a night market necessarily, but a wonderful food-focused market offering food stalls and wonderful Northern Thai specialties.
We can help you plan out which markets to visit while in Chiang Mai. This is one of my favorite destinations in all of Thailand. It’s a college town with fantastic energy, and is much less crazy than Bangkok — there will be more to see than you have time. If you want to prioritize food markets, visit Warorot; if you want handicrafts, visit the Wualai Market.
Good to Know
It is very easy to get around Chiang Mai, and depending on where you are staying, it may make more sense to prioritize one market over the other.
Scale of Adventure: Three
Wualai Market can get crowded right at dusk, but is a very pleasant experience. The food markets can be a bit more difficult to navigate due to language, but if you see something you like, you can point! Also, be prepared to haggle a bit on craft purchases — if they know you are a tourist, your price will be higher.
11. Mercado Central and La Vega - Santiago
Most visitors to Santiago will have heard the recommendation to visit Mercado Central, the famous seafood market. But I think to get a true picture of the local scene in Santiago, you need to combine it with a visit to La Vega, the produce market on the other side of the “river.” Mercado Central had its famous building deemed a national monument in 1984. Be sure to visit in the morning to see firsthand the bounty of the sea off the coast of Chile. From Mercado Central, cross over the bridge to explore La Vega, which focuses on fruits and vegetables.
This is another experience that is not so much about tasting as it is about seeing the bounty of crops and the local culture. There is a whole world that happens within these markets that is fascinating to observe.
Congrio is an essential part of the food scene in Chile, featured on many menus in the capital. Pablo Neruda, the famous poet, wrote poems about the classic Congrio soup. You will see this fish, which resembles an eel, in almost every stall in the market.
Good to Know:
In the center of Mercado Central, you will find a restaurant with servers encouraging you to join them — don’t do it. There are much better spots to enjoy seafood in Santiago. Take a cab over to Aqui Esta Coco for some outstanding traditional Chilean cuisine.
Scale of adventure: Five
This is the food market for so many of the residents of Santiago. It’s not necessarily a tourist destination, but that is why it is such a great place to visit. As in any city, you need to be thoughtful about your belongings, because pickpockets can spot tourists from a mile away.
12. Phsar Chas or Old Market - Siem Reap
While there is a larger (and most agree less-touristy) market just outside the city called Phsar Leu, the Old Market is located right in the heart of Siem Reap and is a wonderful way to explore local culture. The market opens very early in the morning, but you can arrive mid-morning to explore. I found this market super interesting, but only do it if you have a morning free.
If you are a market goer, you will want to see this. In reflecting on some of the most foreign markets I’ve experienced, this one ranks up there. It is a completely random collection of things (like a hair salon next to someone selling live chickens) that made me smile. Seeing all the unfamiliar vegetables, meat and seafood for sale was hugely educational for me.
I don’t think I would rank this market high for tastings, although it is surrounded by street food options. This is more of an experience to just walk through, observe and take it all in.
Good to Know
This market is very accessible and does attract a lot of tourists. Just pay attention to our surroundings and be thoughtful about etiquette.
Scale of Adventure: Eight
While I never felt unsafe here, the product offerings are super different and not things familiar to us.
13. Jemaa el-Fnaa, Marrakesh
Jemaa el-Fnaa is one of the “must-see” destinations in Marrakesh without a doubt, and is one of my all-time favorite markets anywhere in the world. The market is about so much more than just the wonderful food — it offers a great view into the history and traditions of Morocco. The market was named a “Masterpiece of World Heritage” by UNESCO in 2001 for bringing urban legends and oral history to life. Many of these wonderful traditions still exist today and are on full display nightly in the square.
Musicians, jugglers, snake charmers, storytellers and more circle the outside portion of the square. Push through that section and explore the wonderful local food scene of the market. Just beyond the food area, you’ll see young people who come to hang out at night, locals who come for dinner — there is so much to see. It is one of those unique experiences where tourists get a chance to still see a real slice of life and not a contrived version.
Be sure to arrive at dusk when the market begins to come alive with more than 100 food stalls. You can sample some of the country's best local fare for a very reasonable price, including Harira soup, sausages and stewed sheep brains.
Good to know:
The market can be overwhelming, so we typically recommend a guide who can help you navigate. It is a big tourist destination so be aware of your surroundings.
Scale of Adventure: Five
You will feel 100% safe with a guide and you will feel fine on your own, but it is a frenetic place with lots happening and some aggressive individuals vying for your attention. The only other point is making sure you can navigate your way back to your hotel if staying in the walled medina.
Let us help you plan your next adventure that includes exploring local markets! Reach out to us and let us know how we can help.