Alongside museums, churches, and palaces, food markets should be on your “must see” list when visiting a new place. Not only can you discover a lot about the local food culture and try local produce, but farmers markets are a real feast for the eyes. These nine spectacular farmers markets from around the world include cathedral-like buildings, fruit displays that could pass as art, and backdrops so iconic they could be theatre scenery.
1. La Boqueria — Barcelona, Spain
Located just off Las Ramblas, La Boqueria is arguably Spain’s most famous market and the self-proclaimed “beating heart of Barcelona.” Over 300 stalls of enticingly arranged local and international products serve residents and tourists alike, six days a week. The fruit and vegetable stalls are an explosion of color, with exotic fruits, rows of differently-colored chili peppers, and even an edible flowers section. You can also find sweets, meat, cheese, and fish. While you’re there, try one of Catalonia’s specialties — bacallà salat, which is salted cod.
When: Monday to Saturday from 8:00 AM — 8:30 PM
2. Cours Saleya — Nice, France
The Cours Saleya market in Nice is renowned for its pretty striped awnings that perfectly decorate the already picturesque pastel-colored buildings lining the streets. The stalls are a spectacular combination of vibrant fruit, vegetables, and flowers, which are grown on the hillsides around the city. Vendors offer free samples, which is a foolproof selling technique as after one succulent bite of melon or peach you can’t help but buy some to take home. If you’re feeling peckish, stop at a stall selling socca, a chickpea crepe that’s a specialty of the region.
When: Tuesday to Sunday from 6:00 AM — 1:00 PM
3. Edinburgh Farmer’s Market — Edinburgh, Scotland
Sitting in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, this award-winning farmer’s market is listed as one of the best in the world by UK food TV personality Loyd Grossman. Under the uniform blue-and-white-striped awnings, stallholders sell locally grown or reared products from venison and lobster to honey and gourmet chips. They even turn out when it’s snowing, so not only is it undeniably one of the best in the world based on location, it can also claim top marks for resilience.
When: Saturdays from 9:00 AM — 2:00 PM
4. Rialto Markets — Venice, Italy
Since the 11th century, the Rialto area of Venice has been home to markets, shops, and businesses. Set against the backdrop of the Grand Canal, gondolas, and gothic palaces, the fruit and vegetable stalls are with laden with brightly-colored products and strung with pretty bunches of garlic and chili peppers. Most of the produce comes from the nearby island of Sant’Erasmo, which is also known as the “vegetable garden of Venice.” It’s a market steeped in tradition, so you’ll only find produce that’s in season. With such a scenic backdrop and artistically stacked stalls, the process of selling and haggling makes you feel like you’re in an open-air theatre. Just around the corner, you can find the fish market, which boasts a special lagoon catch that is, naturally, as fresh as you can get.
When: Monday to Saturday from 7:30 AM — 1:00 PM
5. Markthal — Rotterdam, Netherlands
There’s a certain traditional image of a beautiful food market — striped awnings, wooden stalls, and iron and glass structures — all of which the Markthal in Rotterdam challenges wholeheartedly. The market is located inside an ultra-modern building, a big arched gallery that’s actually formed of luxury apartments. The interior ceiling of the gallery, soaring high over the stalls, is decorated by an impressive mural called “Horn of Plenty,” which blooms with flowers, corn, and gigantic fruits that seem to be tumbling down from a blue sky. Below it there are around 100 fresh food stalls, with produce just as colorful, if a little smaller, as that decorating the ceiling above.
When: Monday to Thursday and Saturdays from 10:00 AM — 8:00 PM, Fridays from 10:00 AM — 9:00 PM, and Sundays from 12:00 PM — 6:00 PM
6. Mercado Central — Valencia, Spain
So ornate is the metal and glass building housing the Mercado Central that it could aptly be dubbed a cathedral of food. The art nouveau ecclesiastical-style facade features big arched stained-glass windows, stone columns with capitals, and decorative tilework. Inside, iron columns support a wide arched roof, which is surmounted by magnificent domes. The stallholders have quite a task on their hands to get visitors to tear their eyes away from the architectural masterpiece and focus on the food, but they manage admirably. Row upon row of cured hams, bunches of bananas strung up like bunting and, of course, heaps of oranges are just some of the treats that await.
When: Monday to Saturday from 7:00 AM — 3:00 PM
7. Pike Place Farmer’s Market — Seattle, Washington, USA
Founded in 1907, Pike Place is the oldest continuously operating farmer’s market in the US. Beginning with a few farmers and their wagons, it now houses over 500 stalls, shops, and restaurants inside its retro-style buildings surmounted by the iconic neon sign and clock dating back to 1927. The stalls of fresh fruit, vegetables, and cuts of meat are all pretty photogenic, but challenge yourself to capture an action shot in the fish market where fresh catches often get flung around. If you’re looking to sample something particularly local, try Seattle favorite Beecher’s mac and cheese, or chocolate-covered Washington cherries.
When: June to November, Saturdays from 9:00 AM — 5:00 PM
8. Dane County Farmer’s Market — Madison, Wisconsin, USA
Four decades of selling have honed this market into one the best producers-only farmers markets, which was originally inspired by European open markets. Its location surrounding the State Capitol rotunda is one of the best setups in the country. The grand domed building provides the perfect backdrop to the colorful stalls of food and flowers, and often vegetables arranged so prettily in bunches that they look like flowers. On the market’s website, you can check what’s fresh each week, from vegetables to meat to cider.
When: April to November, Saturdays from 6:15 AM — 1:45 PM
9. Ver-o-Peso — Belém, Brazil
The powder-blue structure housing Belém’s market looks almost Disney-like, with arcaded white-framed windows around the outside, and four spires, one in each corner. It’s reminiscent of Victorian industrial architecture and, in fact, the building was made in England, transported to Brazil, and assembled in 1901. Inside is a riot of color, with exotic-looking fruit and vegetables, many of which you’ve probably never seen before. The market is renowned for its acai berry stalls, which actually have their own special area of the market. Other typical products to try are fried pescada amarela, a local fish, and maniçoba, which is made with leaves of the Manioc plant.
When: Every day from 6:00 AM — 9:30 PM