From herbs and spices to fresh seafood, rum cocktails and more, these fantastic food markets around the world are a treat for the senses. Wherever you're headed next, take a look at our list and see if there's a gourmet experience waiting for you at your destination. If you like trying local flavours, street markets also happen to be ripe for sampling weird food.
1. Kashgar Market, Kashgar, China
Once an important stop along the Silk Road, Kashgar’s Sunday market has been taking place for centuries. It's still famous for its size and the variety of goods on offer. To this day, merchants arrive by donkey, ox and cart, giving this bazaar a special, timeless quality. Pick up exquisite spices, nuts and fruits and be sure to stay for lunch – the lamb kebabs are incredible.
2. Viktualienmarkt, Munich, Germany
A great stop on a walking tour around picturesque Munich, the Viktualienmarkt or 'victuals market' takes place near Marienplatz. Bavarian specialities are the order of the day here. Don’t miss out on a warm pretzel, or a weißwurst sausage with sweet mustard, all washed down with a large glass of beer in the adjoining beer garden – just like the locals.
3. Castries Market, St Lucia
You’re in St Lucia, so expect incredible tropical fruits – like mangoes, bananas, avocados, breadfruit and yellow apples – along with pungent spices and potent rum cocktails. Castries market is a vibrant and busy place with stall owners haggling hard with locals and tourists alike.
4. Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne, Australia
In operation for 130 years, Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne is a beloved spot for locals, who come to pick up anything from juicy prawns and grapes to organic chicken and huge avocados. Sunday is the most relaxed, family-friendly day. If you’re planning on shopping, don’t forget your reusable bags – no plastic carriers allowed.
5. Mercato Coperto, Modena, Italy
A celebration of Italian cuisine takes place daily in Modena’s lovely market hall. The city is particularly famous for its balsamic vinegar, and you’re sure to find an array of flavours on display here. That's not all – shop for sweet figs and peaches, olive oils, wines and wonderful puddings and cheeses.
6. Union Square Greenmarket, New York, USA
Open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, Union Square Greenmarket is a collection of cute stalls that bring a taste of the countryside to New York. Farmers, bakers, grocers and fisherman sell their respective wares to chatty locals and tourists, who take serious pleasure in discussing the origin of their dinners.
7. St Lawrence Market, Toronto, Canada
All-Canadian treats like peach pies, blueberry jams and peameal bacon sarnies bring the crowds to this wonderful farmers’ market. It's open every Saturday from 5am until late afternoon. Many merchants have sold their goods here for generations, so you’re investing in heritage as well as quality when you take home that slice of strawberry tart or bag of freshly shucked oysters.
8. Kowloon City Wet Market, Hong Kong
The best way to start the day in Hong Kong is with brunch in Kowloon City Wet Market. Red bean coffee and satay beef slices with toast are local staples. The more adventurous traveller might try steamed hairy crabs on perilla leaves. Fancy a lie-in? Late afternoon is also a good time to hit up this bustling market. Late in the day market traders slash the prices of meats and fish – that’s dinner sorted, then.
9. Cai Rang Floating Market, Vietnam
Visiting the floating market in Cai Rang, southern Vietnam, is a must-do activity when in the Mekong Delta. A huge spread of produce is on sale from a fleet of brightly coloured boats. Most traders advertise their wares from the top of a long pole attached to their vessel. The market starts early – 5am – and finishes by midday, so go in good time to get the best choice.
10. La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain
Just off Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s La Boqueria market is surrounded by little tapas bars, where you can feast on tasty bites and throw back glasses of vermù. You’ll have a lively backdrop, too, as shoppers pick over piles of juicy fruit and crusty bread. Occasionally you might see a tourist drawing back, horrified, at the sight of skinned sheep and cows' eyeballs in the meat section.
11. Cours Saleya, Nice, France
Cheerful striped awnings line the length of chic Cours Saleya, Nice’s main shopping street, a quick walk from the sea. Along with flowers and lavender-scented soap, you’ll find a gorgeous spread of the very best produce from southern France. Think croissants, spicy saucisson, fresh fruit and earthy mushrooms.
12. Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan
Perhaps the most famous of the food markets around the world in this list, Japan's Tsukiji Fish Market has recently undergone renovation. The main market changed location, from Tsukiji to Toyosu just over a mile away. The world-famous tuna auction now takes place at Toyosu, but fresh fish and sushi are still on sale at the original location. To watch the auction you need to pick up a visitor's pass at the entrance. Whichever market you visit (or if you make time for both) a strong stomach to appreciate the pungent atmosphere, loaded with all sorts of marine beasties. One thing not to miss is a sushi breakfast – you’re in the right place, after all.
13. Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market, San Francisco, USA
The farmers’ market to end all farmers’ markets. Open three days a week in bustling San Francisco – the Ferry Plaza market is a must-visit. Saturday is the best and busiest day. All produce is locally produced and organic, with great emphasis placed on sustainable agriculture and artisan recipes. The crowds queue up for fresh peaches, incredible jams, homemade chocolates and beautiful breads. It's one of our favourite food markets around the world.
14. Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey
A warren of 60 streets and over 5000 shops selling leather, jewellery, lamps, rugs and slippers, as well as exquisite culinary treats. Don’t miss the sweetie stalls selling sticky Turkish delight flavoured with rosewater, lemon and pistachio, spice shops piled high with yellow saffron, cinnamon sticks and fragrant mint, and you’re bound to find that archetypal Turkish snack, the kebab.
15. Borough Market, London, UK
It may heave with tourists (go early if you want to avoid the crush), but London's Borough Market is popular for a reason. Housed beneath an attractive green building with open sides, the market is a who’s who of the best organic local suppliers and traders. Seasonal fruit and vegetables are sold alongside sweet pastries and strong coffee, while huge pots of steaming paella, hot pies and gallons of refreshing punch attract the lunchtime rush.
16. Mercado Central, Santiago, Chile
This place is most definitely for seafood lovers. Chile’s long coastline yields incredible numbers of delicious fish and shellfish, and most species are on sale here in Santiago’s main indoor market. Slippery conger eels, silver sea bass, spikey sea urchins, iridescent abalone…the list of fishy treats is endless.
17. Kreta Ayer Wet Market, Singapore
Squeamish buyers look away now. Singapore’s Kreta Ayer Wet Market in Chinatown doesn’t just do inanimate produce. Expect live eels, frogs and snakes among the melons and roasted pork. Upstairs, above the main stall area, is a hawker centre, where diners settle down over local delicacies – including those (now cooked) frogs and snakes.
18. English Market, Cork, Ireland
A venerable indoor market dating from 1788, Cork's English Market is undoubtedly a tough cookie. It has witnessed – and survived – famines, revolution, wars, fire and more recently economic decline. On offer today are handmade chocolates, delicious tangy Irish cheeses like Crozier Blue and Ardrahan, top-quality Irish meats and the finest Irish salmon and shellfish.
19. Kauppatori Market, Finland
Helsinki’s cobbled square on the waterside hosts a bustling market, with wooden stalls heaving with local fish specialities like smoked salmon and pickled herring. You'll also find fresh fruits including sweet blueberries and cloudberries, and the obligatory Finnish meat, reindeer. Just watch out for the seagulls, who keep a beady and somewhat menacing eye on tasty snacks clasped in your hands.
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Top image: Cai Rang floating market, Can Tho, Vietnam © filmlandscape/Shutterstock