From farmers’ market and pop-up restaurants, to haute cuisine and stand and stuff street food; there’s no better way to get to know a destination than to eat your way around it. We’re all for fine dining and great coffee consumed in quaint street corner cafes, but there’s something exhilarating about losing yourself amidst the stalls of a food market, produce of every colour, shape and size coming at you from all angles and begging to be tasted.
You’ll find food markets all around the world, from the streets of Beijing to the waters of Vietnam and inside some of the UK’s most historic buildings. Our list of the world’s best food markets focuses not just on the biggest or best known, but on those that we consider a little more unique. Whether it is down to their ability to convey the most authentic version of a destination, portray a historic past or just fill a wildly impressive building, these five food markets are guaranteed to leave a lasting impression long after you’ve indulged in their produce.
Markthall – Rotterdam
Standing centre of attention in Rotterdam’s Blaak Markt Square is a €175million horseshoe shaped development by renowned Dutch architects MVRDV. Markthall opened to huge acclaim in October 2014, a unique combination of market hall, retail space and residential building.
The Netherlands’ first covered market comprises 96 stalls and 20 retail units, with a 40-metre arched roof containing 228 apartments, each of them overlooking the food hall below. The market’s colourful produce is reflected in an epic one-hectare mural by artists Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam; titled ‘Cornucopia’, the spectacular image depicts a combination of fruit and vegetables, accented with flowers and insects inspired by the work of Dutch 17th century still life.
As much a foodie’s paradise as a photographer’s heaven, Markthall is filled with organic and artisan produce.
Borough Market – London
There’s been a market on Borough High Street since the 13th century and Borough Market itself is London’s oldest fruit and veg market, celebrating 1000 years in Southwark this year.
Many of the 100 traders that fill the hall grow, rear or make their own produce, making the destination a favourite with foodies, restauranteurs and locals who like to know where their foods come from. Alongside the usual cheese, meats, fruit and vegetables, you’ll find more exotic offerings including Turkish delis, Croatian fare, chocolatiers, organic breakfast cereals, gluten-free everything and anything, truffle connoisseurs and even a whole stall dedicated to tomatoes in every shape and size. Pop-up restaurants, theatrical kitchen demos and various wellbeing festivals keep visitors coming back to a London icon.
Chelsea Market – New York
With just over 35 vendors, Chelsea Market is by no means the biggest food hall on our list. However, what is lacks in size, this resident of New York’s Meatpacking District makes up for in character. One block long and one block wide, this former biscuit factory is catnip to photography buffs; bare brick, exposed steel girders, worn rafters, old signboards, walls covered in cascading waterfalls of fairy lights – the list of Instagram-worthy features goes on and on.
A combination of foodie locals and intrigued tourists make up the 6 million people who visit the indoor food hall each year, some lured by its reputation and others who keep coming back for the amazing food found on its stalls; lobster rolls, artisanal grilled cheese (yes, apparently cheese on toast is now a ‘thing’!), overflowing tacos, substantial Italian, big bold salads and new takes on noodles make up the savoury offering, whilst cupcakes, crepes and avant-garde bakes serve as desert.
Live music fills the venue once a month and shopaholics can get their fix from the traders pushing their handcrafted or carefully sourced wares in Brooklyn’s Artists & Fleas.
Image Credit: m01229
Cai Rang Floating Market – Vietnam
Visits to the Mekong are de rigeur at the moment, with more tourists exploring the region than ever. If you’re looking for an authentic experience, the Cai Rang Floating Market remains a local gathering rather than a tourist trap, with residents of the surrounding stilt houses shopping from the river traders. The market takes place between 5am and midday and is undoubtedly best appreciated by boat; tours depart from the riverbanks of Can Tho at 5am and take around 30 minutes to reach the market. Once there, you can establish exactly what each trader is selling from the sample hung from a long pole at the rear of their vessel.
Although the markets are bustling, activity on the water has lessened in recent years so catch the experience while you still can – we promise you won’t be disappointed.
Cours Saleya Market– Nice
Sitting in Nice’s Old Town, just one block away from golden Mediterranean beach, is Cours Saleya Market. Whilst the produce is similar to that you would find at any fruit and veg market, with the addition of sunflowers and lavender in spades, it is the market’s surroundings that earned its place in our list of the best food markets in the world. Pastel rendered 18th century buildings, candy striped awnings and buckets filled with fresh flowers in every colour make this French market a favourite with tourists, but you’ll still find the same Mediterranean ambience despite the crowds.
Art appreciators should head to the east end of the market, where you will find Place Charles Felix; home of renowned French artist Henri Matisse for over 15 years.
Image credit: Alberto Perdomo